AS DONALD Trump’s son confronts the fallout from his meeting with a lawyer connected to the Russian government, one big, obvious question remains unanswered.
Why would the president’s son repeatedly omit key information about the meeting if he had nothing to hide?
Donald Trump Jr’s explanation for last year’s meeting with Russian lawyer Vatalia Veselnitskaya, where he expected to be offered damaging information about Hillary Clinton, has changed repeatedly as the media has uncovered more information about it.
Today he publicly posted emails from the lead-up to the meeting after learning the New York Times was about to publish their contents. They reveal Trump Jr was told ahead of time that the potential dirt on Ms Clinton was coming from the Russian government as “part of” its “support for Donald Trump”.
Strikingly, the president’s son had failed to mention that detail in his previous statements on the matter.
The meeting, which was also attended by Donald Trump’s son-in-law Jared Kushner and then-campaign manager Paul Manafort, took place on June 9, 2016. Soon afterwards, information stolen from the Democratic National Committee started to appear online.
US intelligence agencies have since concluded Russia was responsible for the hack, and used the information in an effort to undermine the presidential election.
But as the media, Democrats and cyber security experts pointed the finger at Russia during the campaign, Trump Jr pushed back hard.
Asked about the allegation, levelled by Clinton campaign manager Robby Mook, of a Russian plot to help his father win the election, Trump Jr was blunt.
“It’s disgusting. It’s so phony,” he said on July 24, more than a month after the meeting with Ms Veselnitskaya.
“It just goes to show you their exact moral compass. They’ll say anything to be able to win this,” he said of Mr Trump’s opponents.
“I don’t mind a fair fight, but these lies and the perpetuating of that kind of nonsense to try to gain some political capital, it’s outrageous, and he should be ashamed of himself. If a Republican did that, they’d be calling for people to bring out the electric chair.”
As recently as March of this year, Trump Jr told the New York Times he didn’t participate in any campaign-related meetings with Russians.
“Did I meet with people that were Russian? I’m sure, I’m sure I did. But none that were set up. None that I can think of at the moment. And certainly none that I was representing the campaign in any way, shape or form,” he said.
But that narrative was blown out of the water on Saturday, when the New York Timesfirst reported on his meeting with Ms Veselnitskaya. Trump Jr responded by claiming he had discussed adoption policy with her.
“It was a short introductory meeting. I asked Jared and Paul to stop by. We primarily discussed a program about the adoption of Russian children that was active and popular with American families years ago and was since ended by the Russian government, but it was not a campaign issue at the time and there was no follow-up,” he said.
“I was asked to attend the meeting by an acquaintance, but was not told the name of the person I would be meeting beforehand.”
A day later, when the Times reported Trump Jr had known the meeting would involve potentially damaging information about Ms Clinton, he provided a little more information.
“The woman stated that she had information that individuals connected to Russia were funding the Democratic National Committee and supporting Ms Clinton. 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,” he elaborated.
Trump Jr implied he had no idea Ms Veselnitskaya was connected to the Russian government.
Finally, when he learnt the Times was about to publish the contents of his emails, Trump Jr decided to pre-empt the story and post them online himself. Those emails revealed he had known ahead of time that the supposed information about Ms Clinton came from the Russian government.
Trump Jr and his father both subsequently said he was publishing the emails himself to be “transparent”. That explanation was met with scepticism.
“His transparency came minutes after he had been made aware that the New York Times would be publishing the same emails he released,” said Fox News anchor Shepard Smith.
“Normally that word (transparency) wouldn’t be used in this circumstance,” he added. “Each change in explanation happened after the New York Times brought out more of this information.”
So, the question remains: why didn’t Trump Jr reveal the full truth about his meeting when the story first broke? And why did he so vociferously deny Russia’s involvement in the election when he knew all along it had tried to feed him information about Ms Clinton?
We might finally be on the verge of some answers.
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