We Have an Answer to the Question of Collusion

As everyone has noted, Donald Trump Jr.’s story about his meeting with Russian lawyer Natalia Veselnitskaya “evolved” over the last few days. But yesterday the New York Times added a bombshell report on how it came about.

Before arranging a meeting with a Kremlin-connected Russian lawyer he believed would offer him compromising information about Hillary Clinton, Donald Trump Jr. was informed in an email that the material was part of a Russian government effort to aid his father’s candidacy, according to three people with knowledge of the email.

The president’s son was told that the Russian government wanted to help elect his father, and he agreed to meet with a representative to get their “dirt” on his opponent. The evidence that this happened is in writing. That pretty much answers the question of whether or not a member of Trump’s campaign was willing to collude with the Russians. They were.

Yesterday I noted the timeline of events surrounding this meeting that was put together by the folks at First Read, who noted that, even without this latest bombshell, it provided circumstantial evidence of a relationship between the Trump campaign and Russia. It’s worth taking a look at a portion of it more closely in light of this additional information.

June 7: The 2016 primary season essentially concludes, with both Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton as the presumptive party nominees
June 9: Donald Trump Jr. — along with Jared Kushner and former campaign chair Paul Manafort — meets with Kremlin-connected lawyer Natalia Veselnitskaya.
June 9: Trump tweets about Clinton’s missing 33,000 emails
July 18: Washington Post reports, on the first day of the GOP convention, that the Trump campaign changed the Republican platform to ensure that it didn’t call for giving weapons to Ukraine to fight Russian and rebel forces
July 21: GOP convention concludes with Trump giving his speech accepting the Republican nomination
July 22: WikiLeaks releases stolen emails from the Democratic National Committee
July 25: Democratic convention begins
July 27: In final news conference of his 2016 campaign, Trump asks Russia: “If you’re listening, I hope you’re able to find the 30,000 emails that are missing”

The first thing that jumps out is that the meeting with Veselnitskaya happened two days after Trump officially became the Republican nominee. It’s also worth noting that the meeting included Kushner and Manafort. At that point, these were Trump’s top three campaign officials: his son, his son-in-law, and his campaign manager. Anyone want to hazard a guess about whether or not a meeting of those three for the purposes outlined in that email would be something the candidate himself wouldn’t know about? If you still harbor any doubts about that, Trump tweeted this that same day.

Josh Marshall points out the significance of that reference to Clinton’s emails.

…I’ve learned more recently about how much people in the RNC and GOP operative world, far back into 2015, were transfixed with the idea that her personal server had been hacked and that somebody somewhere had those emails. Again, we don’t know anything came of this. But it seems clear that those 30,000 emails – not Podesta’s or garden variety emails from the DNC – were the real holy grail that all these folks were looking for or at least hoping would turn up.

Almost a week and a half later, Paul Manafort’s staff is involved in changing the Republican platform in order to ease up on the language in support of Ukraine. Two weeks later, Wikileaks dumps the first cache of DNC emails a couple of days before the Democratic convention. Last night Rachel Maddow and Rep. Adam Schiff discuss the importance of that timing.

The magnitude of lies is important to notice as well.

Finally, there are the critical people who were fired. We now know that Trump asked Comey to drop the Flynn investigation and when he refused to do so, he was fired. Sally Yates was fired immediately after she informed the White House that Flynn was compromised with the Russians because of his lies. And as Martin noted yesterday, Preet Bharara was fired in the midst of investigating the Russian mafia’s money laundering case that involved Natalia Veselnitskaya.

I suspect that there is a lot more to this case than this evidence. I also suspect that Robert Mueller and his team know a lot more than we’re hearing via these leaks. But based on what we already know, the question about collusion has been answered and we’ll eventually learn just how substantial it was in depth.

Nancy LeTourneau

Nancy LeTourneau is a contributing writer for the Washington Monthly.