Trump’s “smoking gun”?

Donald Trump has often dismissed the search for links between Moscow and his election campaign as a witch hunt, says David Lynch in the Financial Times. But new “explosive emails” show that his son welcomed a purported Russian government effort to help his father’s presidential campaign. Donald Trump Jr. and son-in-law Jared Kushner met Russian lawyer Natalia Veselnitskaya in June 2016.

This happened after Rob Goldstone, a British publicist, emailed Trump Jr. to say the lawyer would deliver “high level and sensitive information” from the Russian government on Hillary Clinton’s dealings with the Kremlin. Trump Jr.’s response to Goldstone was: “If it’s what you say, I love it.”

Even if Team Trump did try to collude with the Russians, they didn’t get much out of it, according to James Robbins in USA Today. “When the meeting happened, no anti-Hillary information was forthcoming.” Far from being a Kremlin agent, the Russian contact “comes off more as someone who wormed her way onto Trump Jr.’s schedule by dangling a vague promise of tantalising information, then denied she ever promised anything”.

In any case, there’s an element of hypocrisy given “the firm evidence of actual collusion between the Clinton campaign and Ukraine, particularly targeting one-time Trump campaign manager Paul Manafort”.

Oh please, says Michelle Goldberg on Slate. “Whether Veselnitskaya provided them with useful information at that meeting is immaterial.” The exchange shows that the Trump campaign wanted help from Russia.

Later, Russia provided it, releasing the Clinton campaign’s hacked emails. That came three days after the Trump campaign changed the Republican platform so that it no longer supported arming Ukraine in its conflict with Russia. We now have “the smoking gun in the Trump-Russia scandal”. The upshot is that “the Trump campaign welcomed –enthusiastically and in writing – help from a hostile foreign power”. 

The evidence of intended collusion means we can now retire the notion that the Russia investigation is merely “frivolous partisan harassment”, agrees National Review. It also “casts in an entirely different light the president’s fury and frustration at its continued progress”. We should have “zero confidence” that “Trump’s frustration is entirely due to his feeling like an innocent man” fending off “crazed conspiracy theorists”. The Russia enquiry “isn’t a witch hunt anymore, if it ever was”; it’s “a national necessity”.