With the revelation that Donald Trump, Jr. leaped at the opportunity to find some dirt on Hillary Clinton, we have our first clear idea of what his father is hiding concerning the Russia connection.
The invitation to meet a “Russian government attorney,” which took place June 9, 2016, came from the son of a real estate magnate, Aras Agalarov, whose construction projects won a major award from Vladimir Putin—and whose invitation to Trump Sr. to bring the Miss Universe contest to Moscow in 2013 began a close family relationship between the Trumps and the Agalarovs.
So what is shaping up is a deal that no Trump could resist: Trump gets information described by the Russian contact in a June 3, 2016 email as “very high level and sensitive” that “would incriminate Hillary” as part of the Russian “government’s support for Mr. Trump.” Trump also gets a leg up on the Russian real estate market, which he has been trying to break into for years, including a Moscow hotel deal in partnership with Agalarov. In return the Russians gain leverage on the Trump family and an opportunity to reduce or eliminate US sanctions imposed by the Obama administration.
The revelations concerning the June 9 meeting fit neatly with what we already know about Trump-Russian collusion, including Michael Flynn’s effort to set up a back-channel communications link with Moscow and Jared Kushner’s meeting with the well-connected Russian executive of a sanctioned state bank that might be a conduit for loans to Trump via Deutsche Bank.
The June 3 email, which the New York Times acquired, is devastating from a legal as well as political standpoint. It tells us, contrary to the narrative that Don Jr. and the White House have been spinning, that Trump’s campaign had direct contact with officially connected Russians; that the top Trump campaign officials—Don Jr., Kushner, and then-campaign head Paul Manafort—took the offer of Russian help seriously, which may constitute a crime; and that the future president, who was in his Trump Tower office on the day the meeting with the Russian attorney was held one flight below, probably knew of and approved it.
Further investigation of the June 9 meeting will want to focus on details of the conversation: What, if anything, was promised? Is there a connection between that conversation and Russian hacking of the Democratic National Committee’s and Hillary Clinton’s emails that followed within days? But one thing is already clear: the Trump campaign was ready and willing to collude with officially connected Russians in order to promote making America “great again,” and the Russians were only too happy to oblige.
(Mel Gurtov, syndicated by PeaceVoice, is Professor Emeritus of Political Science at Portland State University.)