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.
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.”
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.
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.
— 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.
Trump is basically admitting his own attempts at diplomacy are useless?
— Olivia Nuzzi (@Olivianuzzi) July 10, 2017
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.”
President Trump and Russian President Vladimir Putin have concluded their first, highly anticipated in-person meeting since the U.S. presidential election. The meeting, which was expected to last just 30 minutes, lasted two hours and 16 minutes, according to a senior adviser to U.S. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson.
“It’s an honor to be with you,” Trump said to President Putin at the beginning of their meeting. Awwwww!
“President Putin and I have been discussing various things. I think it’s going very well, we’ve had some very, very good talks,” Trump told reporters who were allowed into the room briefly. Trump added, “We look forward to a lot of very positive things happening for Russia, for the United States, and for everybody concerned.” Should everybody concerned be concerned or not just yet? Because with these two involved, we are talking the planet Earth level of concern.
Putin said beforehand that he was “delighted” to meet with Trump personally and hoped their meeting would “yield positive results.” The Russian president said while he and Trump have spoken over the phone – three times since Trump took office – such calls are “never enough.” That depends…
Before their high-stakes sit-down, the two leaders had a casual run-in this morning where they exchanged a handshake.
Handshakes in the Trumpworld deserve a separate paragraph or two.
The Guardian reports that Putin had intended it to be the briefest of handshakes, forgetting there is no such thing as a quick handshake with Donald Trump. The US president had thrust out a clammy right paw, grabbed hold of his arm with his left hand and then pumped it enthusiastically for rather longer than was comfortable.
By the time the two world leaders met for their bilateral meeting in the afternoon, Putin was better prepared. For the obligatory photo opportunity at the beginning of the talks, he and Trump were seated in adjacent armchairs with translators and officials to one side. Their body language could hardly have been worse. Trump was perched on the edge of his chair, trying to appear in control though just looking a bit needy. Putin sat back in his, determined to make little or no eye contact. The American president stuck out a hand, which Putin accepted. This time Trump kept his other hand by his side. There was not doubt in the room who the real boss was.
As US is celebrating the Independence Day (from Britain), today’s Trump-a-day selection is just a handful of reasons why the upcoming 1984 film should be renamed into 2017.
North Korea has just launched another missile. Does this guy have anything better to do with his life? Hard to believe that South Korea…..
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) July 4, 2017
….and Japan will put up with this much longer. Perhaps China will put a heavy move on North Korea and end this nonsense once and for all!
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) July 4, 2017
The missile test and Trump’s tweets come shortly before Trump is expected to meet with Xi and other world leaders (including Putin) at the upcoming Group of 20 Summit in Hamburg, Germany, next week.
Trump again sent the media into a fury over the weekend when he tweeted a doctored video showing him at a fake wrestling match body-slamming the CNN logo superimposed over the face of WWE president Vince McMahon from a few years ago during a Trump cameo. Reporters accused Trump of encouraging violence against the press. According to a running tally maintained by the Upshot, the president has insulted CNN more than 100 times on Twitter alone.
The relationship between the White House and the media is in shambles, with the daily press briefings devolving into shouting matches and airing of grievances. Both sides engage in stunts, grandstanding and political theatre meant to undermine or embarrass the other. The nasty turn has also been a boon to the media and the individual reporters who register acts of protest against the administration. “Ratings are part of it, but the media’s open contempt for this administration is part of it, too,” said Tim Graham, the director of media analysis at the conservative Media Research Center. “I imagine it will continue as long as the ratings keep going up.”
Trump isn’t changing. This is how he’s going to act in his spare time and he’ll attack the media at least a few times per week for the rest of his time in office. From Friday morning until Sunday night, eight of Trump’s 14 tweets were about the Fourth Estate.
Does Trump’s anti-CNN tweet violate Twitter’s terms? This is the “hateful conduct” policy https://t.co/1oCoXPNNulhttps://t.co/AhEu7Hwn12
— Brian Stelter (@brianstelter) July 2, 2017
The Presidential Advisory Commission on Election Integrity — formed by President Trump to investigate his widely debunked claim that millions of illegal votes cost him the popular vote in November’s election — sent letters last week to the 50 secretaries of state across the country requesting information about voters. The letter asked for names, addresses, birth dates and party affiliations of registered voters in each state. It also sought felony convictions, military statuses, the last four digits of Social Security numbers and voting records dating back to 2006. Scary what they can do with this information…
Multiple FBI staffers reportedly sported T-shirts that read “Comey is my homey” to a Family Day event on Monday, offering support for ousted FBI Director James Comey, whom President Trump fired earlier this year. The back of the shirts featured a quote attributed to Comey: “We choose to do good for a living.”
An FBI spokesperson said the annual Family Day event can showcase divisions in the agency, as well as giving families of agency employees a chance to visit the bureau.
A top Justice Department official who serves as a corporate compliance watchdog has left her job, saying she felt she could no longer force companies to comply with the government’s ethics laws when members of the administration she works for have conducted themselves in a manner that she claims would not be not tolerated.
Hui Chen had served in the department’s compliance counsel office from November 2015 until she resigned in June, breaking her silence in a LinkedIn post last week highlighted by The International Business Times, which points to the Trump administration’s behaviour as the reason for her job change. “To sit across the table from companies and question how committed they were to ethics and compliance felt not only hypocritical, but very much like shuffling the deck chair on the Titanic,” Chen wrote.
Before her resignation, Chen had posted tweets or retweeted articles that were considered critical of Trump. ”For those who truly care about #ethics, ignoring our current #conductatthetop requires abandonment of conscience,” she tweeted last month.
Chen said management in her office tried to silence her from publicly speaking out against the White House.
The purge of government employees that have scientific expertise continues. Last Friday, the last three members of the White House’s Office of Science and Technology Policy (OSTP) closed the door to their office for the final time. “Science division out. Mic drop,” one of the employees tweeted. All three staff members were holdovers from the Obama administration. Under his leadership, the OSTP had nine employees that were the executive branch’s brain trust on issues like STEM education, biotechnology, and crisis response. According to CBS News, there is no one working in that division of the OSTP now and no clear indication that replacements will be chosen. One hallmark of this administration’s term has been to leave thousands of federal government positions empty. Areas that Trump isn’t particularly interested in have been left to atrophy. He has no interest in getting along with other countries or using soft power, so the State Department is languishing. He has no interest in science or protecting the environment so the EPA is avoiding staffing and eliminating over 1,200 jobs. The EPAs Board of Scientific Counsellors will be down to 11 members by 1 September. Just a few months ago there were 68 members on the board.
Iran is holding a weeklong “Trumpism” cartoon contest and exhibition to mock the U.S. president.
The first-prize winner, who received a $1,500 award, depicted President Trump drooling on books while sporting a jacket made of dollar bills, The Associated Press reported Monday. Hadi Asad said he wanted his cartoon to point out the “money-mindedness and war monger nature” of the president. “I wanted to show Trump while trampling symbols of culture,” Asadi told the AP.
Individuals from 74 countries participated in the exhibit that opened on Monday, including 1,614 Iranian cartoons and four American works. That is a lot of Trumpisms. Hopefully, they will publish a book and buying it will not be a sanctions violation.