President Trump has cast doubt upon the US intelligence community’s consensus conclusion that Russia interfered in the election on his behalf on numerous occasions, variously characterizing the story as “phony,” “a big Dem HOAX!” and “a big Dem scam and excuse for losing the election!” But this week, smoking gun evidence emerged that his campaign was at least eager to collude with Russian intelligence.
On Tuesday, Donald Trump Jr. released emails detailing the correspondence leading up to a June 2016 meeting he and Trump campaign officials had with a Russian lawyer, who, through an intermediary, promised 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,” the message continued. Within 20 minutes, Trump Jr. replied, “If it’s what you say I love it especially later in the summer.” The meeting occurred a few days later.
This isn’t “fake news” — the new evidence came directly from Trump Jr. and also implicates Paul Manafort, who at the time served as Trump’s campaign chairman, and Trump’s son-in-law Jared Kushner, who continues to serve as a senior White House adviser despite submitting an incomplete security clearance application and reportedly seeking to set up an unusual secret backchannel to the Kremlin shortly after the election.
But the president is still in denial. On Saturday, Trump took to Twitter and declared the Russia story to be a “hoax” for the first time since the email revelation.
Stock Market hit another all-time high yesterday – despite the Russian hoax story! Also, jobs numbers are starting to look very good!
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) July 15, 2017
This represents a departure from what Trump said during a news conference in Paris on Thursday, when he seemed to acknowledge the June 2016 meeting occurred, but blamed the Obama administration for letting the Russian lawyer into the country in the first place.
Trump’s tweet also suggests he accepts the denial Putin offered him about Russian meddling in the 2016 United States election. Speaking to Reuters earlier this week, Trump said that during a recent meeting in Germany, Putin denied Russian involvement. Pressed by his interviewer as to whether he believed him, Trump said, “Look. Something happened and we have to find out what it is, because we can’t allow a thing like that to happen to our election process. So something happened and we have to find out what it is.”
During a news conference ahead of his meeting with Putin, Trump indicated that he doesn’t accept overwhelming evidence of Russian interference, saying “it could have been other people in other countries” in response to a question about Russian meddling. The revelation of Trump Jr.’s emails apparently hasn’t changed his mind.
The president has said conflicting things regarding what he knew and when about the June 2016 meeting between his campaign and the Russian lawyer. Campaign finance documents released Saturday indicate the Trump campaign started paying Trump Jr.’s legal fees about two weeks before the email revelations. Trump Jr., who along with Eric Trump is handling day-to-day operations of the business his father still owns, previously promised to stay out of administration affairs.