The media was buzzing this week with the revelation that Donald Trump Jr., Jared Kushner, and Paul Manafort met with Russian lawyer Natalia Veselnitskaya on June 9 of last year, shortly before the Republican National Convention. The meeting was first reported by The New York Times on Saturday and confirmed by the president’s son, who said it was primarily about a U.S. law known as the Magnitsky act, signed by Barack Obama in 2012. Passed to punish Russian officials for their involvement in a money laundering scheme, it was rejected forcefully by Moscow. Vladimir Putin retaliated by banning U.S. citizens from adopting Russian children, and the lawyer in question has been a strong advocate against the law. According to the Trump team, this was Veselnitskaya’s overarching agenda in calling the meeting.
Unfortunately for Don Jr., the New York Times didn’t reveal everything they knew all at once, giving him the opportunity to fall into a carefully-laid trap. Once they pounced on Sunday with additional information that the Trump team was promised damaging information on Hillary Clinton, the president’s son had to revise his characterization of the meeting.
“After pleasantries were exchanged, the woman stated that she had information that individuals connected to Russia were funding the Democratic National Committee and supporting Ms. Clinton,” he said in a statement on Sunday. “Her statements were vague, ambiguous and made no sense. No details or supporting information was provided or even offered. It quickly became clear that she had no meaningful information. She then changed subjects and began discussing the adoption of Russian children and mentioned the Magnitsky Act. It became clear to me that this was the true agenda all along and that the claims of potentially helpful information were a pretext for the meeting.”
Granted, this doesn’t look great. However, it is not the “confession” that some in the liberal media have called it. Trump Jr. clearly states that Veselnitskaya did not bring up her supposed information regarding Hillary until AFTER they were all gathered at the meeting. Is that plausible? You be the judge. But even if the Trump team was told beforehand – as a subsequent Times story indicates – that they would be given some form of opposition material, they did not have any serious indication that they were speaking with a representative of the Russian government. It’s not even exactly clear if Veselnitskaya IS a representative of the Kremlin, although she seems to have a relationship of some kind. Furthermore, there is no evidence from any involved party that she actually gave the Trump team anything at all.
Here’s the interesting part, though. According to a Circa story published shortly after the Times report, an oppo research outfit called Fusion GPS – the same outfit that funded the Trump “dossier” that made all the waves last December – was instrumental in setting up this meeting between the Trump team and the Russian lawyer:
“We have learned from both our own investigation and public reports that the participants in the meeting misrepresented who they were and who they worked for,” said Mark Corallo, a spokesman for President Trump’s legal team. “Specifically, we have learned that the person who sought the meeting is associated with Fusion GPS, a firm which according to public reports, was retained by Democratic operatives to develop opposition research on the President and which commissioned the phony Steele dossier. ”
“These developments raise serious issues as to exactly who authorized and participated in any effort by Russian nationals to influence our election in any manner,” Corallo said.
By June 9 of last year, the Democratic National Committee already knew, via the private company CrowdStrike, that Russian hackers were behind the invasion into their servers. However, it was not until the following month that this news was publicly known. In other words, there was no reason for the Trump team to get any particularly “fishy” vibes from the prospect of a meeting with a Russian national. There WAS, however, a tremendous incentive on the part of Trump’s opponents to connect him – however tenuously – with the Russians, whom they already knew to be involved in international espionage regarding the election.
This brings up the obvious question: Was all of this a set-up from the very beginning? Is the Trump team facing allegations of collusion because a down-and-dirty Hillary Clinton campaign went to great lengths to put them in compromising positions? We certainly hope Robert Mueller and his team of Clinton donors won’t forget to investigate this side of the story while getting to “the truth” of what happened last year.