by Elton Gomes
US President Donald Trump, on Sunday, admitted that his son – Donald Trump Junior – had met with the Russians in 2016 in an attempt to obtain information on his election opponent Hillary Clinton, as per a Reuters report. Trump however thought that there was nothing wrong with the meeting, and said that it was “totally legal” and is “done all the time in politics.”
Fake News reporting, a complete fabrication, that I am concerned about the meeting my wonderful son, Donald, had in Trump Tower. This was a meeting to get information on an opponent, totally legal and done all the time in politics – and it went nowhere. I did not know about it!
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) August 5, 2018
The current explanation given by President Trump is completely different from the one he gave about 13 months ago, when a statement was released under the name of Donald Trump Jr, but was dictated by the president. The statement read: “We primarily discussed a program about the adoption of Russian children that was active and popular with American families years ago,” the Guardian reported.
Although Trump and his legal team insist that there was “no collusion” and nothing illegal in the meeting, the President’s admission seems to be nothing new. The Russian meddling probe has been constantly making headlines, after Trump’s initial claims that the meeting was just about adoption seemed to be on shaky grounds.
In July 2017, when Trump was asked as to why his son would consent to the meeting rather than inform the FBI, Trump said, “I think from a practical standpoint most people would’ve taken that meeting. It’s called opposition research, or even research into your opponent,” according to NPR. Trump added that such a practice is routine in politics: “That’s very standard in politics. Politics is not the nicest business in the world, but it’s very standard where they have information and you take the information.”
Trump has made several statements on his son’s meeting with the Russians, but has offered little clarification. The current statement on Twitter is till date Trump’s most direct statement on the matter, though several people claimed that the meeting was an attempt to acquire potentially damaging information on Clinton.
The meeting has been intensely scrutinised by Special Counsel Robert Mueller, who is investigating whether members involved in the Trump campaign assisted Russia in an attempt to give Trump an upper hand.
According to an AFP report, the 2016 meeting was held at the Trump Tower and was arranged by British music promoter Rob Goldstone, who told Trump Jr that he had “information that would incriminate Hillary and her dealings with Russia and would be very useful to your father.” Upon hearing this, Trump Jr said, “I love it” when initially offered dangerous information on Clinton.
The meeting was also attended by Trump’s son-in-law Jared Kushner and top campaign official Paul Manafort, who has been indicted of obstruction charges. News of the meeting broke out in July 2017. On July 9, 2017, the New York Times reported that Trump Jr indeed met with Russian officials after being promised damaging information on Clinton.
As per the article, it was unclear whether Russian lawyer, Natalia Veselnitskaya, actually handed any information about Clinton, but sources interviewed by the Times said that Veselnitskaya was expected to do so. When questioned about the meeting, Trump Jr said that it was “primarily about adoptions”, but he never mentioned anything about Clinton.
Was there collusion?
Trump and his allies are constantly trying to discredit Mueller’s probe, and a new talking point seems to have emerged – even though the meeting was held to obtain damaging information, none was provided and collusion never seem to have occurred. However, legal experts have indicated several possible charges, including conspiracy against the United States and aiding and abetting a conspiracy.
With his stringent policies towards migrants and his protectionist trade policies, Trump has already been on the receiving end. And it seems that the Russia probe will loom large over his presidency. The US President’s responses have been questionable if not clear, and it will be difficult for Trump to evade Mueller’s probe.
Elton Gomes is a staff writer at Qrius