Donald Trump Jr. exchanged email with his acquaintance Rob Goldstone in order to set up a meeting with a Russian government attorney on June 9th, 2016. Below are quotes from the email messages published by the NY Times (and preemptively tweeted by Trump Jr. in response to the imminent Times publication).
Goldstone: “This is obviously very high level and sensitive information but is part of Russia and its government’s support for Mr. Trump …”
Trump Jr.: “… if it’s what you say I love it …”
Goldstone went on to propose a meeting with “… The Russian government attorney who is flying over from Moscow for this Thursday. …” (Later in the exchange Goldstone referred to the Russian attorney as “she.”)
Trump Jr. and Goldstone then worked through the details of dates and times of the meeting and Trump Jr. invited Jared Kushner and Paul Manafort to that meeting.
That should be enough to establish not just a contact but collusion.
But beyond even that, Ryan Lizza of the New Yorker calls our attention to another thing that Goldstone said at the outset in Donald Trump, Jr.,’s E-Mails Have Fundamentally Changed the Russia Story. Goldstone wrote: “I can also send this info to your father via Rhona, but it is ultra sensitive so wanted to send to you first.”
… Did Donald Trump himself know about the meeting? He has been silent so far on the details of these latest developments, except to offer a pro-forma statement of support: “My son is a high-quality person and I applaud his transparency.” In the e-mails released Tuesday, there is a tantalizing detail. Goldstone notes, “I can also send this info to your father via Rhona”—Trump’s longtime assistant Rhona Graff— “but it is ultra sensitive so wanted to send to you first.”
It seems to me that the investigation of whether “this info” ever got communicated to Rhona Graff must reach well into the White House.
And that raises the questions looming over the whole Trump-Russia investigation.
What did the President know and when did he know it?
And that may be why Trump Jr. might be taking the fall, a question raised by New Yorker’s John Cassidy in Is Donald Trump, Jr., Taking the Fall for the White House?
… it isn’t normal practice for the potential subject of a criminal inquiry to release likely incriminating documents before he has even been interviewed by the authorities.
To be sure, it remains to be seen (and proved) whether Trump, Jr., broke any laws in agreeing to meet with Natalia Veselnitskaya, the Russian lawyer, after Goldstone dangled the prospect of “very high level and sensitive information” that was “part of Russia and its government’s support for Mr. Trump.” But while “collusion” is not a term that appears in the relevant criminal codes, there are at least two felony charges that the Feds could potentially hit Trump, Jr., with, some legal experts said on Tuesday: conspiracy to commit election fraud, and conspiracy to obtain information from a foreign adversary.
“It’s a shocking admission of a criminal conspiracy,” Jens David Ohlin, the associate dean of Cornell Law School, told the Washington Post. “The conversation will now turn to whether President Trump was personally involved or not. But the question of the campaign’s involvement appears settled now. The answer is yes.”
Apart from reading out the statement from Trump, the one piece of information that Huckabee Sanders conveyed was that the White House was still standing by what she had said on Monday: “Our position is that no one within the Trump campaign colluded in order to influence the election.”
Donald Trump Jr. was not officially part of the campaign. But Kushner and Manafort were and likely will be subjects of investigation regardless of what happens to Junior. See Cassidy for more.
And what did the President do about it?
Greg Sargent (Washington Post/Plum Line) answers in How Trump may have helped Donald Jr. lie about his explosive Russia meeting.
… the New York Times reports that Trump personally signed off on a statement that Trump Jr. released over the weekend, as reports of the meeting first surfaced, that told a very misleading story about what happened at it:
As Air Force One jetted back from Europe on Saturday … participants on the plane and back in the United States debated how transparent to be in the statement, according to people familiar with the discussions.
Ultimately, the people said, the president signed off on a statement from Donald Trump Jr. for The Times that was so incomplete that it required day after day of follow-up statements, each more revealing than the last.
The statement from Trump Jr. that the president signed off on only said that the meeting was primarily about “a program about the adoption of Russian children.” This was before the Times disclosed that according to sources who had seen the email chain, it revealed that the meeting was really about sharing material about Hillary Clinton that came from the Russian government. That forced another statement from Trump Jr., in which he conceded that he had been offered information about Clinton but suggested he had no idea what the source of the information was. That last suggestion, of course, was blown up by the emails themselves.
The point here, though, is that, if the president signed off on Trump Jr.’s original statement, he had to have known as he did so that the real purpose of the meeting was to get this information from (as Trump Jr. had been told) the Russian government. This has basically now been confirmed by Trump’s own lawyer. Sekulow says the president was told of the emails days ago. It is extremely likely that this means the president was told about them as his inner circle debated its initial response to the breaking story. It’s hard to imagine the president’s lawyers not telling him of the existence of these emails at that point.