WASHINGTON — That quaking beneath your feet is from shock waves in Washington where tipping points are merging with other tipping points to create the Mother of All Tipping Points.
Not only did Donald Trump Jr. meet with a Russian attorney who, he was told, had damaging information about Hillary Clinton, but there are emails indicating that he knew in advance that the opposition research was part of the Kremlin’s effort to help Donald Trump become president.
It that’s not collusion, it seems at least “collusioney,” a newly minted term surely destined to erase all memory of Monday’s exhaustively used “nothing-burger.”
Smoking guns don’t need to be nearly this hot to capture Washington’s attention, but these latest revelations should be enough to make every American take a deep breath. Whether Trump Jr. is merely stupid is yet to be determined, but he wasn’t alone in that meeting. Joining him were his brother-in-law Jared Kushner and Paul Manafort, then Trump Sr.’s campaign manager, who is known to have had business dealings in Russia for a number of years.
The New York Times broke the story over the weekend, reporting that three (unnamed) individuals had corroborated the existence of the damning emails, which clearly establish intent to “something.” Tuesday afternoon, Trump Jr. released the email thread between him and some guy - — named Rob Goldstone — a music publicist who knew some guy who knew Donald Trump vis-a-vis the Trump-owned Miss Universe contest. Got that?
Goldstone arranged the meeting, which took place in Trump Tower in June 2016 — just before the Republican primary season had ended — to talk about dirt on the presumptive nominee’s general-election opponent. After Goldstone said that the Russian lawyer, Natalia Veselnitskaya, had information that would incriminate Clinton, Trump Jr. replied that he’d “love it.” Who wouldn’t? You’re the namesake son of the man on track to become the Republican nominee and possibly president — and Russia wants to help him win? Hell da!
The fact that the alleged opposition research was part of Russia’s war on Clinton, as indicated in one of the emails, would have raised flags for most people — no, make that for all but these people. I’m confident that, if the nice Ace Hardware man who recently helped me select a mailbox were to receive such an email, he’d contact the FBI as soon as possible.
Which, obviously, is what Junior, Manafort and Kushner should have done.
Thus, we can presume that all three knew better than to attend such a meeting. After all, it could well have been a trap — and I’m not sure it wasn’t. But to the inexperienced minds of Kushner and Trump Jr., the calculation may have been as simple (and feeble) as: Why not? Defeating Clinton was in the national interest, wasn’t it? And the Trumps have (or had) no pique with Russia.
Trump Jr.’s claim that he didn’t tell his father about the meeting rather strains credulity, don’t you think? Ditto Veselnitskaya’s claim that she has never worked for the Kremlin and has no idea what all the fuss is about. She was here to lobby against American legislation that her client finds objectionable.
In an exclusive interview Tuesday with NBC News, Veselnitskaya said she never had any “damaging or sensitive information about Hillary Clinton. It was never my intention to have that.” Asked where Trump Jr. could have gotten that idea, she responded, “It is quite possible that maybe they were longing for such an information. They wanted it so badly that they could only hear the thought that they wanted.”
So, apparently, the future of the Trump presidency is in the hands of Goldstone. He set up the meeting; he brought Trump Jr. into a damning email exchange; he promised dirt. Wait, who is this guy again?
Well, that’s a very good question. He’s an intermediary for Veselnitskaya, who either (a) works for the Kremlin and possibly even Vladimir Putin; or (b) is just a lawyer/lobbyist interested in U.S. policy. Wouldn’t we like to know? Also possible is that President Trump knew all along about the meeting, which may be why he acts like a cocker spaniel at a Doberman rally whenever the name Putin comes up. What did Veselnitskaya really come to say? For whom?
More shock waves are doubtless coming. Meanwhile, we know for certain: When a Russian lawyer meets privately with the future president’s son, his son-in-law and his campaign manager on a third-party promise of Clinton-disabling intel, it’s hard to say the Trump campaign had nothing to do with Russia. For now: Collusioney.
Kathleen Parker is a columnist for the Washington Post. Reach her at email@example.com.