“The June 3, 2016, email sent to Donald Trump Jr. could hardly have been more explicit: One of his father’s former Russian business partners had been contacted by a senior Russian government official and was offering to provide the Trump campaign with dirt on Hillary Clinton,” the New York Times reports.
The promised documents “would incriminate Hillary and her dealings with Russia and would be very useful to your father,” read the email, written by a trusted intermediary, who added, “This is obviously very high level and sensitive information but is part of Russia and its government’s support for Mr. Trump.”
Trump replied: “If it’s what you say I love it.”
Four days later, after a flurry of emails, the intermediary wrote back, proposing a meeting in New York with a “Russian government attorney.”
Here's my statement and the full email chain pic.twitter.com/x050r5n5LQ
— Donald Trump Jr. (@DonaldJTrumpJr) July 11, 2017
This is also Donald Trump Jr. pulling Kushner and Manafort under the bus with him. He forwarded them the entire email chain. HUGE development.
We re-formatted all those Trump Jr. emails to make them easier to read — chronologically.
— Aaron Blake (@AaronBlake) July 11, 2017
This is much more than a “smoking gun.” This is a bazooka in the process of continuous firing. We now have indisputable proof that the president’s inner circle was not just aware of but encouraging and approving of a Russian government effort to help Trump win the presidency, or, at the very least, to damage Hillary Clinton. White House sources “aren’t even pretending it’s O.K.,” reports Jonathan Swan. Said a White House official to the Daily Beast: “This is sum of all fears stuff. It’s what we’ve all been dreading.”
The White House is now “scrambling to find ways to deflect it and to turn this back against Hillary Clinton or the media. One line that’s been thrown around internally is that this is just normal campaign opposition research, the kind that gets thrown around in a dirty hard campaign, especially one against the Clintons.” Yeah, the problem with that line is that no other campaign in all history has received aide and opposition material from a hostile foreign government.
And to be clear, Donald Trump, Jr., Donald Trump, Sr., Jared Kushner and Paul Manafort are all in legal trouble now.
Rick Hasen: “Just to recap where we are: It is illegal for a person to solicit a contribution to a campaign from a foreign individual or entity.”
“Looking at the emails, it seems pretty serious…. Hard to see how there is not a serious case here of solicitation. Trump Jr. appears to have knowledge of the foreign source and is asking to see it.”
“It is also possible other laws were broken, such as the laws against coordinating with a foreign entity on an expenditure. There could also be related obstruction, racketeering, or conspiracy charges, but these are really outside my area of specialization and I cannot say. But there’s a lot for prosecutors to sink their teeth into.”
We are past the point of innocent explanations on Trump and Russia https://t.co/fx0p1yiVyr
— Ezra Klein (@ezraklein) July 11, 2017
Ezra Klein: “The best defense of Trump’s associates, at this point, is they were too dumb to know what they’re doing — a defense that doesn’t work when it includes experienced international operators like campaign manager Paul Manafort and ex-Defense Intelligence Agency Director Michael Flynn. Donald Trump Jr.’s own defense of himself is that he attempted to collude with Russian agents but they didn’t have any useful information and so he didn’t. This is, as my colleague Zack Beauchamp notes, no defense at all — even if it is true, Trump Jr. may well have committed a crime.”
“What’s more, we know for a fact that the Russian hacking of Democratic files happened, that it was successful, and that Trump has stubbornly resisted efforts to admit or investigate Russia’s intervention into the campaign while repeatedly praising Putin. We also know Trump has, since taking office, undermined the NATO alliance while cozying up to Vladimir Putin — the two of them joked about their shared dislike for the American media at the G20 last week and pledged to work together on cybersecurity.”
“This isn’t just smoke. We can see the damage done by the fire. We are watching our president pal around with the suspected arsonists. And so we are past the point where innocent explanations on Trump and Russia remain credible.”
There’s a bigger picture of Trump/Russia weirdness beyond collusion https://t.co/zImBK0D5EO
— Matthew Yglesias (@mattyglesias) July 11, 2017
Matthew Yglesias: “Trump has been willing to reverse himself on other policy issues, gets no political benefit from pursuing such a pro-Russian course in the face of bipartisan opposition, and could score easy points by doing a little formulaic Putin-bashing. The fact that he refuses to tells you a lot about why Trump’s presidency remains mired in scandal — and why the worst may still be to come.”
Mike Allen: “Top West Wing aides acknowledge that the three consecutive days of baffling, brutal disclosures about Donald Trump Jr.’s Russia meeting during the campaign is a story that will stick, with potentially momentous political and legal consequences.”
“A consequence of these stories is that no blanket denial of anything by this White House will be believable. So the President and his team can expect to be nibbled by ducks as long as they’re in office.”
“Thought for the day: If the New York Times knows all this, imagine what Bob Mueller knows.”
Rick Klein: “Look for scrutiny next on Kushner, the only one in the meeting who now holds a government job, and who did not disclose the encounter on government forms.”
Trump accused Comey of committing a crime on the basis of Fox News report that Fox News has corrected but he has not https://t.co/kljkpJvufv
— John Harwood (@JohnJHarwood) July 11, 2017
David Nather on what’s next if the Trumpcare bill fails: “Conservatives will push for a repeal-only bill next. Unlike Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, conservative groups were thrilled when President Trump tweeted that the Senate should try the repeal-first strategy. Vice President Mike Pence backed up that view on Rush Limbaugh’s show yesterday: ‘We ought to just repeal only’ if the Senate bill fails.”
“In the conservative groups’ view, nearly all congressional Republicans already voted for a 2015 budget bill that repeals most of the Affordable Care Act — so they should just pass that again. (In reality, the only way McConnell is likely to put that vote on the floor is to end the issue, even if it fails.)”
“If that vote doesn’t happen, they’ll hammer GOP leaders for not living up to their repeal promises — and if moderate Republicans don’t vote for it, they’ll get an earful, too.”
“Tensions are rising between Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell’s leadership team and his party’s ideological factions, with a renewed sense of pessimism creeping into the Senate GOP’s efforts to repeal Obamacare,” Politico reports.
“An amendment written by Sens. Ted Cruz (R-TX) and Mike Lee (R-UT) is fracturing the conference, with the measure taking center stage at the party’s first caucus lunch in nearly two weeks on Tuesday. Though the proposal to allow the sale of cheap, deregulated insurance plans is championed by the right, disagreements over the drafting of the amendment could delay or torpedo altogether the GOP’s healthcare bill.”
Said Sen. Charles Grassley (R-IA): “We should not be surprised if people are irritated with the Republican majority when we have been promising, and we do not deliver. I am very pessimistic.”
Playbook: “There are 13 legislative days scheduled until the August recess. Obamacare repeal is in a tough spot. Congress is extremely unlikely to lift the debt ceiling before the August recess. And we can’t see any agreement on the horizon on tax reform.”
And that is why Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) will keep the Senate in session the first two weeks of August, as Republicans face a daunting to-do list that includes repealing Obamacare and raising the debt limit, Politico reports.
New York Times: “President Trump’s advisers recruited two businessmen who profited from military contracting to devise alternatives to the Pentagon’s plan to send thousands of additional troops to Afghanistan, reflecting the Trump administration’s struggle to define its strategy for dealing with a war now 16 years old.”
“Erik D. Prince, a founder of the private security firm Blackwater Worldwide, and Stephen A. Feinberg, a billionaire financier who owns the giant military contractor DynCorp International, have developed proposals to rely on contractors instead of American troops in Afghanistan at the behest of Stephen K. Bannon, Mr. Trump’s chief strategist, and Jared Kushner, his senior adviser and son-in-law.”
It's impossible to read Don Jr's email exchange and conclude anything other than he knew EXACTLY what he was doinghttps://t.co/yZsbWEHbZy
— Chris Cillizza (@CillizzaCNN) July 11, 2017
Amy Zegart: “The key word in The New York Times piece is ‘flurry.’ There isn’t one email exchange. There are many. Trump Jr.’s email ‘dump’ will not be the end of the story. Instead, as Churchill once said, it’s just the end of the beginning. Investigators and journalists will be following the email trail.”
Just Security: “Vesilnitskaya may have had her own agenda in requesting a meeting with Trump. That part could be legitimate. But Russian intelligence practice is to co-opt such a person by arming them with secret intelligence information and tasking them to pass it to Trump’s people and get their reaction. Did Trump’s associates like it? Do they want more? Did they report it to U.S. authorities? The key point is that essentially no Russian citizen or lawyer has compromising material on Hillary Clinton which has not been supplied to them from Russian intelligence. The simple assertion that she had such information is tantamount to declaring that Vesilnitskaya was acting as agent of Russian government in this particular role.”
“Couple that with the specific text of the email messages sent to Donald Trump Jr. to set up the meeting which described the material as coming from the Russian government. All the alarm bells should have been going off in Trump Tower when they received an email offering to provide ‘very high level and sensitive information but is part of Russia and it’s government’s support for Mr. Trump.’ A later email refers to the ‘Russian government attorney who is flying over from Moscow.’ Donald Trump Jr.’s response: he would include Manafort and Kushner in the meeting.”
“In sum, Vesilnitskaya’s advocacy of other causes is irrelevant to her mission on behalf of the Russian government. Based on what we now know, this interaction had all the hallmarks of an overture by Russian intelligence to the campaign, and it is utterly damning that Trump Jr. took the meeting, brought in Manafort and Kushner to the meeting, and none of them reported the events immediately to the FBI nor to U.S. authorities until very recently.”
Lawfare: “Was this really a one-off meeting that didn’t go anywhere, or was it an effort to sound out the people around the candidate to determine their willingness to accept Russian help before taking further steps?”
Jonathan Chait: “Not long ago, it was fashionable for pundits to assert there was no evidence that the Trump campaign colluded with Russia. That line was shaky at the time, and has been quickly blown to smithereens. We have gone from evidence of collusion to proof, with emails establishing the campaign’s clear interest in accepting Moscow’s help to win the election.”
“This is the scope of the unresolved question now. How much collusion happened?”
“How far the collusion went, and what elements will be provable, is hard to say. But a few larger realities are suggestive. Trump has, and many of his close advisers have, lied repeatedly about their contacts with Russia. Many of his norm-breaking actions — from the refusal to disclose the tax returns that would reveal the extent of his ties to, or dependence upon, Moscow, to his firing of Preet Bharara and James Comey — can be most rationally explained as a desire to cover the story up.”
Politico: “Donald Trump is less than six months into his presidency, yet one of the organizing principles of his political operation is already becoming clear: Payback.”
“In private, Trump has spoken of spending $10 million out of his own pocket to defeat an incumbent senator of his own party, Jeff Flake of Arizona, according to two sources familiar with the conversation last fall. More recently, the president celebrated the attacks orchestrated by a White House-sanctioned outside group against another Republican senator, Dean Heller of Nevada, who has also been openly critical of him.”
“Fear of Trump reprisals has led one Republican congresswoman, Martha Roby of Alabama, to launch an intense campaign to win over a president who remembers every political slight — and especially those who abandoned him following the October release of the 2005 Access Hollywood tape in which he bragged about sexually assaulting women.”