Trump-a-day

As is its weekly tradition, the White House is facing yet another grave crisis in the wake of the publication of emails between the president’s son, Donald Trump Jr., and a go-between for a Russian lawyer. The emails from June 2016 call into question the main pillars of the White House’s defence against allegations of Russian involvement in the 2016 election. 


Picture: www.sickchirpse.com
In one of the messages, music publicist Rob Goldstone, who acted as an intermediary in setting up the meeting, said Russian government sources were offering information and documents that “would incriminate Hillary and her dealings with Russia and would be very useful to your father. This is obviously very high level and sensitive information but is part of Russia and its government’s support for Mr. Trump.”

“If it’s what you say I love it especially later in the summer,” Trump Jr. told Goldstone in an email six days before the meeting occurred.

Trump Jr. published the emails on Twitter moments before The New York Times released them. In an accompanying statement, the president’s son said he was releasing the emails “in order to be totally transparent.” Why wait so long (and until the Times was about to publish) if Trump Jr. is genuinely concerned about transparency? Also this somewhat voluntarily revelation contradicts Team Trump’s repeated statement that while Russia may indeed have meddled in the election, there was no coordination or communication between Moscow and their campaign. Where was Trump Jr. in the last year? Why was a music publicist involved in this? So many questions. All in all, a classic example of inexperienced people jumping above their heads…

The atmosphere of crisis was apparent at the White House and in the broader Trump orbit, where hatches were battened down amid the storm. At a press briefing that was conducted off camera and lasted 22 minutes, White House spokeswoman Sarah Huckabee Sanders repeatedly parried reporters’ questions on the emails by saying their queries should be directed to the personal lawyers of the people involved. Sanders read a brief statement from the president during the briefing. “My son is a high-quality person and I applaud his transparency,” the statement read in full. Well, very predictable and Twitter-friendly (under 140 characters).

The president’s Twitter feed remained free of any mention of the controversy enveloping his son, though he did tweet about his efforts to bring the Olympics to the U.S. and about “big wins against ISIS!”

Joe Sandler, an attorney who specialises in election law and who represents Democratic and progressive clients, said that the email from Trump to Goldstone was “direct evidence that [Trump Jr.] solicited something of value, which counts as a contribution from a foreign national” — a potential violation of campaign law. That interpretation is a source of dispute among legal experts. Sandler also poured scorn on the idea that the kind of exchange represented in the emails is commonplace on political campaigns. “It is very common for people on campaigns and people on committees to talk to people who claim to have damaging information about the opponent. But that is not foreign governments,” he said. “That is the key.”


Picture: Huffington Post 

Trump Jr. said Tuesday he would be willing to testify under oath about his election-year meeting with a Russian lawyer Natalia Veselnitskaya who offered compromising information about Hillary Clinton.

“And you have nothing to hide,” Fox News host Sean Hannity told Trump Jr. during an interview that aired Tuesday night. “That means you’ll testify under oath, all of that?”

“All of it,” Trump Jr. responded. He also said the meeting “went nowhere and it was apparent that that wasn’t what the meeting was actually about. I wouldn’t have even remembered it until you started scouring through this stuff. It was literally just a wasted 20 minutes, which was a shame,” he said. Trump Jr. did not rule out the possibility that he spoke about the campaign with other Russians. “I don’t even know. I’ve probably met with other people from Russia but certainly not in the context of actual formalised meetings or anything,” he said. If he is asked to testify, he’ll need to get his story straight, that’s for sure.

In a Tuesday interview with NBC News, Veselnitskaya offered a different account of the meeting. She said she never had any damaging information on Clinton and it was never her intention to secure the meeting under the impression that she did. “It is quite possible that maybe they were longing for such an information. They wanted it so badly that they could only hear the thought that they wanted,” Veselnitskaya said. Veselnitskaya also denied any connection to the Russian government. The Kremlin has said it does not know anything about the meeting.

Although it is not clear what happened in that meeting, contrary to Goldstone’s assurances, there is nothing to say that Hillary Clinton had any incriminating dealings with Russia. Not a statement the Trump family can use anymore.  
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Notable tweet

Trump-a-day

U.S. and Russian officials indicated on Friday — after a meeting between President Donald Trump and Russian President Vladimir Putin — that the two countries would work together in a number of areas, including cybersecurity.


In Trump’s own words:
Putin & I discussed forming an impenetrable Cyber Security unit so that election hacking, & many other negative things, will be guarded..

— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) July 9, 2017


Predictably, that was met with mixed reaction, given the U.S. intelligence community’s conclusion that Russia attempted to interfere with the 2016 presidential election to favour Trump – a conclusion the president has not said he 100 percent agrees with.

I strongly pressed President Putin twice about Russian meddling in our election. He vehemently denied it. I’ve already given my opinion…..

— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) July 9, 2017

To recap, on 6 January 2017, the CIA, FBI and NSA released a joint intelligence report which found that an intelligence operation was personally ordered by Putin with the purpose of “denying Hillary Clinton the presidency” and “installing Donald Trump in the Oval Office.” Putin held a grudge against Clinton since 2011, the report stated, blaming her for inciting mass protests against his regime. In addition to email hacking, Russian intelligence used state-funded broadcasts, third-party intermediaries and paid social media trolls to spread false information.


Bearing this in mind, we definitely agree with Republican Senator Lindsey Graham, who said President Trump’s plan to work with Russia on cybersecurity is “pretty close” to the “dumbest idea I’ve ever heard.” Graham stressed that there is no evidence the Russian meddling influenced the vote, but he said that by denying the conclusion of U.S. intelligence agencies, Trump “throws our intelligence communities under the bus.” “This whole idea about moving forward without punishing Russia is undermining his entire presidency,” he said. Graham is pushing for increased sanctions on Russia. The Senate passed such a bill, but it is currently delayed in the House. Reports have indicated the White House wants to soften the language.

Trump tweeted Sunday evening that he has low hopes for his proposed U.S.-Russia cyber security unit.

“The fact that President Putin and I discussed a Cyber Security unit doesn’t mean I think it can happen. It can’t-but a ceasefire can,& did!” Trump tweeted about three hours after tweeting about a ceasefire in Syria. 

Notable tweet:

Trump is basically admitting his own attempts at diplomacy are useless? 

— Olivia Nuzzi (@Olivianuzzi) July 10, 2017

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The New York Times reported on Sunday that Donald Trump Jr. had a meeting with the Russian lawyer with ties to the Kremlin who promised damaging information about Clinton. Trump Jr. attended the meeting with the expectation that he would receive compromising information about Clinton, three advisers to the White House briefed on the meeting and two other sources with knowledge of the matter told the Times.

Trump Jr. said in a statement to the paper that he had met with Natalia Veselnitskaya at the request of an acquaintance and denied that he received any information on Clinton.

An ethics lawyer under former President George W. Bush, Richard Painter, said the meeting “borders on treason, if it is not itself treason. This was an effort to get opposition research on an opponent in an American political campaign from the Russians, who were known to be engaged in spying inside the United States. We do not get our opposition research from spies, we do not collaborate with Russian spies, unless we want to be accused of treason.”