Donald Trump Jr. releases emails showing Trump campaign was eager to collude with Russia

The smoking gun.

CREDIT: AP Photo/Kathy Willens
CREDIT: AP Photo/Kathy Willens

On Tuesday, Donald Trump Jr. released emails showing that the Trump campaign was eager to collude with individuals connected to the Russian government in an effort to bring down Hillary Clinton.

The emails pertain to a June 9, 2016 meeting involving Trump Jr., then-Trump campaign chairman Paul Manafort, current White House adviser Jared Kushner, and a Kremlin-connected Russian lawyer named Natalia Veselnitskaya. Trump Jr. confirmed over the weekend that he took the meeting on the expectation that Veselnitskaya “might have information helpful in the campaign” — information damaging to Clinton.

The emails make clear that Trump Jr. and other campaign officials believed the information was coming directly from the Russian government. On June 3, the person who set up the meeting — a Russia-connected music publicist named Rob Goldstone — wrote Trump Jr. and said, “The crown prosecutor of Russia met with his father Aras this morning and in their meeting offered to provide the Trump campaign with some official documents and information 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,” Goldstone continued, adding that “I can also send this info to your father via Rhona, but it is ultra sensitive so wanted to send to you first.” (Trump, through his lawyer, has denied any knowledge of the meeting.)

Within 20 minutes of Goldstone sending his email, Trump Jr. wrote back and said, “Thanks Rob I appreciate that… if it’s what you say I love it especially later in the summer.”

In a June 7 message, Goldstone describes Veselnitskaya as “The Russian government attorney.” The next day, Trump Jr. forwarded the whole email thread to Manafort and Kushner — a revelation indicating the claim Trump Jr. made in a statement released over the weekend about how he “asked Jared and Paul to attend, but told them nothing of the substance” is a lie.

In another statement released along with the emails, Trump Jr. claims he thought he was simply engaging in “Political Opposition Research.”

Despite Goldstone repeatedly characterizing Veselnitskaya as a Russian official possessing information from the Russian government, in his statement, Trump Jr. claims she “was not a government official.” He also restates a claim he first made over the weekend that Veselnitskaya “wanted to talk about adoption policy” during the meeting, but the email thread provides no support for that.

Less than a week after Trump Tower get-together, Guccifer 2.0 — a Twitter account the intelligence community believes was used as a front by Russian hackers — published emails stolen from the Democratic National Committee.

Though Trump Jr. claims that he released the emails on Monday “in order to be totally transparent,” a New York Times editor said he published the thread after he was informed that the Times was working on a story about it.

Donald Trump has repeatedly cast doubt upon the US intelligence community’s consensus conclusion that Russia interfered in the election on his behalf, characterizing the story as “phony,” “a big Dem HOAX!” and “a big Dem scam and excuse for losing the election!”

While Trump and other administration officials have twisted the words of intelligence officials to try and persuade the public that there’s no evidence of collusion, former CIA Director John Brennan told Congress in May that he “encountered and am aware of information and intelligence that revealed contacts and interactions between Russian officials and U.S. persons involved in the Trump campaign that I was concerned about because of known Russian efforts to suborn such individuals, and it raised questions in my mind whether or not the Russians were able to gain the cooperation of those individuals.”