In a revelation certain to further expand the seemingly never-ending investigations into so-called collusion between Donald Trump and Russia, Donald Trump Jr. on Tuesday released the text of his email exchanges with a representative for a Russian lawyer in June of 2016 in which he welcomed the prospect of receiving damaging information on Hillary Clinton.
The most damning aspect of this for young Mr. Trump is likely the clear representation by the man making the offer, publicist Rob Goldstone, that this was part of a broader effort by the Russian government to help Trump. “This is obviously very high level and sensitive information but is part of Russia and its government’s support for Mr. Trump,” wrote Goldstone.
Trump Jr.’s release of these emails came minutes before their scheduled publication by the New York Times. And already, one of the flagships for the leftist media, Slate.com, has headlined this revelation “the smoking gun” which proves that the Trump campaign was, in fact, colluding with dark forces in the Russian government. Hillary Clinton’s running mate, Senator Tim Kaine (D-VA), stated on CNN, “We are now beyond obstruction of justice…This is moving into perjury, false statements and even potentially treason.” And Sen. John McCain (R-AZ), a persistent thorn in the President’s side, said, “Another shoe just dropped. There’ll be many more shoes that drop.”
Here is what Trump Jr. released:
Here's my statement and the full email chain pic.twitter.com/x050r5n5LQ
— Donald Trump Jr. (@DonaldJTrumpJr) July 11, 2017
So now that collusion is back in the headlines let us consider the relevant questions that will flow from this revelation.
Were any laws broken by Trump Jr., or Jared Kushner or then-campaign chairman Paul Manafort, who also attended the meeting for a short while? Not that we know of, for collusion by itself is no crime, unless such collusion results in criminal activity by one or more individuals involved in such collusion.
What actually constitutes collusion? Here is how Dictionary.com defines the word: “a secret agreement, especially for fraudulent or treacherous purposes; conspiracy.” In the law, they define it as “a secret understanding between two or more persons to gain something illegally, to defraud another of his or her rights, or to appear as adversaries though in agreement.”
What will be the political fallout from this? While there does not appear to be any illegal activity revealed by these emails, the political consequences could be considerable for an administration already weighed down by this issue from the day President Trump was inaugurated. We do not know whether Special Counsel Robert Mueller or the congressional committees investigating Russian interference in the 2016 election were already aware of this information.
While we do know that virtually all politicians engage in opposition research and generally welcome any offers of damaging information on their opponents, the fact that this meeting was taken by the highest officials in the Trump campaign before the situation was vetted by low-level operatives was a classic rookie mistake. And lest we forget, Trump had never before held political office before winning the presidency. To ignore the clear representation that this information was part of a broader effort by the Russian government to help Trump – and take the meeting anyway – was a dramatic miscalculation on the part of Trump Jr., Kushner and particularly Manafort, who as a veteran political operative should have known better.
At the same time, the central question which was relevant on Monday, when we first learned of this meeting, is still relevant today: If someone from the Hillary Clinton campaign had been presented with a chance to obtain damning information from a Russian – or anyone – on Donald Trump, would he or she have passed on the opportunity? Would any politician?
In the end, perhaps the best way to place the revelations from these emails by Donald Trump Jr. in their proper context is in Clintonian terms: it depends on the meaning of collusion. And it will be up to the American people – and those they have elected to represent them – to reach their own conclusions. Will the American people care a lot or a little is anyone’s guess. Certainly, The Swamp and their minions in the establishment media will milk this for all it’s worth and then some. But the essential question remains, just what is it ultimately worth?