It doesn't add up. At all. Mind you, there are many questions raised by the emails Donald Trump Jr. released, only after the press had already gotten wind of them, relating to the June 2016 meeting between top members of the Trump campaign and a Russian attorney with ties to that nation's government, but the central premise of Trump Jr.'s story is that the meeting came out of nowhere, and went nowhere, and nobody ever thought anything about the matter again. But the circumstantial evidence doesn't support that. And the texts of the emails themselves suggest a different story.
Here's the key part of the first message from meeting facilitator Rob Goldstone to Donald Trump Jr., a message offering information about "Hillary" that Goldstone asserted was "part of Russia and its government's support for Mr. Trump."
The Crown prosecutor of Russia met with his father Aras this morning and in their meeting offered to provide the Trump campaign with some official documents and information that would incriminate Hillary and her dealings with Russia and would be very useful to your father.
This is obviously very high level and sensitive information but is part of Russia and its government’s support for Mr Trump – helped along by Aras and Emin.
What do you think is the best way to handle this information and would you be able to speak to Emin about it directly?
Now, Goldstone was well-known by the Trump family, as was the "Aras" being spoken of. But he's not just offering gossip on Trump's opponent out of nowhere; he (rather astonishingly) puts in the email that the very high level information is: "part of Russia and its government's support for Mr. Trump." He appears to add that in order to add credibility to his own claims, in fact; perhaps Trump Jr. might blow off news from Rob Goldstone about Hillary Clinton, but this is news from the Russian government's efforts to support Trump, not just Rob Goldstone talking.
The news that a foreign government has launched an effort to "support" his father ought to be, at the least, surprising news to Trump the younger. The sentence certainly would stand out even without our helpful bolding here: It's an assertion that the government of a not-entirely friendly foreign power is ready and willing to aid the Republican presidential campaign, and it comes along with a specific form of aid: Secret, "very high level and sensitive" information about his American opponent.
Here's Donald Trump Jr.'s complete, same-day response:
Thanks Rob I appreciate that. I am on the road at the moment but perhaps I just speak to Emin first. Seems we have some time and if it’s what you say I love it especially later in the summer. Could we do a call first thing next week when I am back?
He's apparently not the slightest bit surprised by Goldstone's claim that the information is "part of" a Russian effort to "support" Trump. He doesn't even acknowledge the statement, but instead offers a thanks, says I love it and is already apparently musing about its use later in the summer.
That's an odd, odd reaction to the news that a foreign nation has just inserted itself into your presidential campaign. But Junior doesn't appear to find it odd at all.
The "Russia and its government's support for Mr. Trump" assertion is both presented as already-known information, and is accepted as that. The two sides instead get down to discussing how to hand over the information to be handed over.
This isn't just a revelation of some one-time collusion between Russian government intelligence efforts and the Trump presidential campaign. This seems to be a revelation that as of the June meeting, a relationship between the Trump campaign and the Russian government had already been established.
Further evidence for that interpretation, of course, is that delicate little word that many bystanders are gravitating toward: part. Goldstone doesn't say that this information is the total of the Russian government's support for Trump. He says that this information is "part of" the Russian government's support for Trump. What other "parts" were there?
There's been talk of Russian financial support for campaign efforts here and, of course, a host of Russia-sponsored "fake news" sites providing pro-Trump slants on any story you might think of, but the most obvious known "part" of Russian government support for Trump, of course, is the Russian intelligence operations against Trump's opponents. Leaks of the information obtained by state-sponsored Russian operatives, in fact, began just one week after the Trump Tower meeting.
Donald Trump Jr.'s story is that the June 2016 meeting came out of nowhere, nothing substantive was discussed other than facilitating more Russian "adoption," which he found uninteresting, and nothing more came of it. There's very strong evidence that all three of those parts are untrue. The emails released show that Trump Jr. was unsurprised, in June, to hear that the Russian government was taking specific actions to assist the Trump campaign; the meeting was immediately followed by the release of documents previously stolen from the Democratic National Committee by Russian government-sponsored hackers.
This version of Trump's story doesn't hold up any better under scrutiny than the last three. We need to know why the Trump campaign was so unsurprised by the news that the Russian government would now be assisting them.