Day 174: Five Burning Questions in Light of Donald Jr.’s Meeting

Junior’s emails open up Pandora’s box for Senior’s administration.

It’s been a busy week and it got a whole lot crazier yesterday. Donald Trump Jr. emailed with a trusted intermediary and set up a meeting with a Russian lawyer to receive “very high level and sensitive information but is part of Russia and its government’s support for Mr. Trump.”

Russia and its government’s support for Mr. Trump.

The whole “there’s never been any collusion” defense is gone. Just like that.

Junior was so excited about the prospect of solid dirt from Russia with love that he copied Senior’s son-in-law and trusted confidant Jared Kushner, as well as then-campaign chair Paul Manafort, in a response to his pal. Both Kushner and Manafort later attended the meeting.

The emails were only released by Junior when the The New York Times reached out for a request for comment and informed him that they were going to publish said emails.

Lawyers and former justice officials acknowledged that Trump had basically made a prima facie case for criminal conspiracy based on the content in the emails and confirming the meeting occurred. The fact that he retweeted support from members of the right and appeared on buddy Sean Hannity’s show for a softball interview, believe it or not, are not valid defenses to those allegations. Even if no information was exchanged at the meeting (which, by the way, is a mere assertion from Junior, and has not been verified by any means), that is not a defense to conspiracy. For example, one does not have to commit murder to be found guilty of conspiracy to commit murder.

With that in mind, here are five questions that will be most crucial moving forward.

  1. Who else knew about the meeting?

Senior and his lawyers claim that he just learned about the meeting this week, but that seems particularly far-fetched considering that three of his most trusted cronies were in the room for the meeting at Trump Tower. It seems highly unlikely that the only people who knew about that meeting were in the room. Did Michael Flynn know? Mike Pence’s statement was that all of this was before he was the VP nominee, but that doesn’t change the fact that he could have subsequently learned about the meeting. Lying or covering up the existence of a meeting could easily implicate others in a conspiracy or conspiracy after the fact charge.

2. Were there other meetings?

Obviously, the existence of other meetings obliterates the “there was nothing there and the whole meeting was a waste of time” defense. Even if there was no other meeting between these individuals, that does not mean that other methods of coordination did not occur. Surely evidence of an additional meeting of this ilk would be more damning to the Trump team desperate to spin this as an isolated event that went nowhere and produced nothing.

3. If this meeting was no big deal, why lie about it?

Junior’s story was continually amended as the Times published and revealed more information. Initially, he never met with Russians and the entire thing was a hoax. Then, he met with one, but it was primarily about adoptions. That shifted to he didn’t know she was Russian ahead of time, but took the meeting as a courtesy to a friend. Now, when we see the emails, the words “Russia” and “attorney” and “government” are plastered throughout the chain. The subject line is literally: “Russia-Clinton-Private and Confidential”. If these are as innocuous as the Trump team is now trying to spin, why conceal the meeting for a year? Why lie so often in the last week? Why only reveal the contents of the emails when the Times says they’re going to publish them? Why tell Hannity that you “literally wouldn’t have remembered the meeting,” when you remembered enough to change your story daily and remember being annoyed that it was “a waste of time”?

4. What does special prosecutor Robert Mueller have?

This is maybe the most important question of all. It’s fair to think that whatever the public has and knows, Mueller has and knows more. The former FBI director he has virtually limitless reach and he’s working on exactly one task. His investigation will likely span into 2018 — at the very least — but does he have a smoking gun bigger than this? How long has he known about Junior’s emails, if at all? Was this meeting truly a one-off or was a pattern of meeting with shady characters under odd circumstances?

5. Why does Kushner still have security clearance?

Forget the potential for a conspiracy charge for a moment. Kushner did not initially disclose this meeting and numerous others with foreign dignitaries — including Russian nationals — on his SF-86 form. The SF-86 is a questionnaire for national security positions. Upon receiving the form, background checks begin. Lying or purposely omitting information on the SF-86 isn’t just a big deal, it’s grounds for a perjury count for each and every lie and omission. The danger is that anything less than full candor gives the person filling out the form a substantially higher chance of being successfully blackmailed. Kushner’s material misrepresentations should immediately cause him to lose his security clearance, which allows him to see the most vital documents every day. Furthermore, he later tried to set up back-channel communications with the Russians through their embassy, so that American spy agencies wouldn’t be able to track their communication. There’s no way this guy should be continuously privy to the closest held American secrets.

174 days in, 1288 to go

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