For months, there has been smoke; thick, black smoke that cannot be seen through. It certainly seemed like the Trump campaign colluded with Russia, something seemed suspicious, but there was never any proof. But no smoking gun.
For weeks, there has been a very warm gun. Meetings between Flynn, Sessions, Page, Kushner, etc…with Russian officials that had conveniently been forgotten. But no smoking gun.
Yesterday, on July 9th, the New York Times found out that gun was hotter than had previously been known. According to reporting by the New York Times on July 9th, in June of 2016 members of the Trump campaign met with a lawyer that had Kremlin ties to try to obtain information that would be damaging to the Clinton campaign. These “members of the Trump campaign” were not low-level staffers or aides, they were people at the highest levels. Donald Trump Jr., who is, as you might guess, the son of Donald Trump. Jared Kushner, the boy-wonder who has never truly accomplished anything yet he has been placed in charge of seemingly everything. Paul Manafort, one-time Trump campaign manager and the only person who is more pro-Putin than Trump. The Trump administration and the three aforementioned individuals have tried to play this meeting off by saying that they had no idea who this person was, what they wanted to talk about, or whether it was important. All of those lines are worthy of rebuttal, but it is worth taking a look at the timeline of denials that has accompanied this now infamous meeting.
In the beginning, all members of the Trump campaign and administration denied ever meeting with Russians, blanket denial. Then when it came out that they had indeed met with this Kremlin connected lawyer, Natalia Veselnitskaya, the story shifted to saying that they were only discussing the Magnitsky Act. Then on July 9th, after reporting from the New York Times saying that he met with Ms. Veselnitskaya to obtain information to use against the Clinton campaign, Donald Trump Jr. finally admitted the real reason why he went to the meeting. It is also worth noting that at first the Trump team downplayed the importance of this meeting, they tried to make it seem almost trivial. However, one must ask themselves if the son, son-in-law, and campaign manager, would all attend a meeting less than 6 months before the election if they truly did not believe that said meeting would be important.
This meeting seems to play into a theme of selective amnesia among Trump campaign, transition, and administration officials when it comes to Russia. They always seem to deny any meetings, at any time, and they deny them vehemently. Then, the New York Times, Washington Post, or Wall Street Journal will break a story saying that they did in fact meet with a certain Russian linked official and they will confess to it. Jared Kushner is perhaps the best example of this. He has now, on three separate occasions, forgotten to mention meeting with Russian officials on his SF-86 disclosure form. It is truly such a shame that someone so young seems to be facing something akin to an early onset of Dementia. The same can be said for Michael Flynn and Jeff Sessions, both officials who held or still hold high office in the government. J.D. Gordon and Carter Page, two campaign officials never appointed to anything in government, have also been caught in this lie. The line of defense has always been that they simply forgot, however, at some point a pattern emerges and it ceases to be accidental and starts to take on a malevolent, intentional edge.
This meeting between Trump Jr., Manafort, and Kushner was already substantively damaging, optically atrocious, and morally abhorrent. A shoe had already dropped; these three individuals were willing to take information from a lawyer that was linked to the Kremlin in order to hurt Clinton. On the evening of July 10th the New York Times dropped the other shoe: “Donald Trump Jr. was informed in an email that the material was part of a Russian government effort to aid his father’s candidacy…” Rob Goldstone, one of the people who helped set up this meeting, is the author of said email.
Donald Trump Jr. knew that the information he was about to receive was from Russian efforts to help swing the election. Upon learning that the Russian government was the source of this information and that they were now actively interfering in our election, what was his response? Did he do what anyone with a sense of patriotism would have done and report it? No. Did he do what anyone with a sense of morality have done and decline. No? Did he just not respond? No. He still attended the meeting. In fact, he enthusiastically attended the meeting, excited about the possibility of gaining information harmful to his American opponent from a Russian attack operation. This is the clearest evidence presented yet that shows collusion. He was aware that the information he was about to receive, or hoped to receive, was from the Kremlin and their attempt to elect his father. Senior Trump officials colluded with Russia. The Trump campaign colluded with a government that kills journalists. The President of the United States of America colluded with an entity that has been involved in the assassination of countless political opponents and dissidents.
Donald Trump cannot survive this; he will become too politically toxic for Congressional Republicans to continue to defend. When he is impeached, this will be at the heart of it. The importance of these two stories cannot be overstated. The New York Times has just dropped the two heaviest shoes since the breaking of Watergate and their impact will make history and bring down a presidency.
We have the smoking gun.