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Yet Another Russia Meeting from the Campaign

Trump RussiaVia the NYT:  Trump Team Met With Lawyer Linked to Kremlin During Campaign

Two weeks after Donald J. Trump clinched the Republican presidential nomination last year, his eldest son arranged a meeting at Trump Tower in Manhattan with a Russian lawyer who has connections to the Kremlin, according to confidential government records described to The New York Times.

The previously unreported meeting was also attended by Mr. Trump’s campaign chairman at the time, Paul J. Manafort, as well as the president’s son-in-law, Jared Kushner, according to interviews and the documents, which were outlined by people familiar with them.

While President Trump has been dogged by revelations of undisclosed meetings between his associates and Russians, this episode at Trump Tower on June 9, 2016, is the first confirmed private meeting between a Russian national and members of Mr. Trump’s inner circle during the campaign. It is also the first time that his son Donald Trump Jr. is known to have been involved in such a meeting.

Representatives of Donald Trump Jr. and Mr. Kushner confirmed the meeting after The Times approached them with information about it. In a statement, Donald Jr. described the meeting as primarily about an adoption program. The statement did not address whether the presidential campaign was discussed.

So, here we have a meeting with three members of the Trump inner circle during the campaign.  The purpose of the meeting was ostensibly adoption policy, although even if that was the case, it is less innocent than it sounds:

The Russian lawyer invited to the Trump Tower meeting, Natalia Veselnitskaya, is best known for mounting a multipronged attack against the Magnitsky Act, an American law that blacklists suspected Russian human rights abusers. The law so enraged Mr. Putin that he retaliated by halting American adoptions of Russian children.

The adoption impasse is a frequently used talking point for opponents of the Magnitsky Act. Ms. Veselnitskaya’s campaign against the law has also included attempts to discredit its namesake, Sergei L. Magnitsky, a lawyer and auditor who died in mysterious circumstances in a Russian prison in 2009 after exposing one of the biggest corruption scandals during Mr. Putin’s rule.

In other words, at a minimum the Russian in question was likely lobbying against a law aimed at stopping human trafficking.

A spokesperson for Trump’s attorney suggests that the meeting was a setup:

Late Saturday, Mark Corallo, a spokesman for the president’s lawyer, issued a statement implying that the meeting was a setup. Ms. Veselnitskaya and the translator who accompanied her to the meeting “misrepresented who they were,” it said.

This may well have been the case, although I would note that it would not have been difficult for the Trump campaign to determine who Ms. Veselnitskaya was and what her past record had been.  At a minimum, taking the meeting was not a very good idea from a PR point of view.  Or, worse, it would show a lack of regard for serious human rights issues.  Even if a Trump administration wanted to address the adoption issue (which is unlikely, as that suggest thinking about public policy), this would not be the way to do it.

The fact of this meeting is also evidence that it is extremely hard (yes, an understatement) to trust any statements made by Team Trump regarding Russian contacts, since this revelation contradicts previous statements made by Donald Trump, Jr.:

Donald Trump Jr. had denied participating in any campaign-related meetings with Russian nationals when he was interviewed by The Times in March. “Did I meet with people that were Russian? I’m sure, I’m sure I did,” he said. “But none that were set up. None that I can think of at the moment. And certainly none that I was representing the campaign in any way, shape or form.”

I suppose the weasel-words “campaign related” could be seen as coverage, but, quite frankly, any meeting with foreign officials that had even a tinge of policy to it was a “campaign related” meeting.  Really, any meeting of any kind with a team of persons linked to the presumptive nominee of one of the major parties is, pretty much by definition, “campaign related.”  Beyond that, this was clearly a meeting that was “set up.”  The collective amnesia (see, e.g., AG Sessions) of members of the Trump team on the matter of Russia-linked meetings is pretty astounding.

At this point I think that it is wholly possible that no one on the Trump team engaged in conscious collusion with the Russian (although it seems also quite plausible that they did). However, at a minimum it is clear to me that members of the Trump team were, at best, “useful idiots” beguiled into unconscious collusion by Russian contacts  who were able to exploit these political amateurs who were likely easily beguiled by having their egos stroked.

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About Steven L. Taylor
Steven L. Taylor is Professor of Political Science and Dean of the College of Arts and Sciences at Troy University. His main areas of expertise include parties, elections, and the institutional design of democracies. His most recent book is the co-authored A Different Democracy: American Government in a 31-Country Perspective. He earned his Ph.D. from the University of Texas and his BA from the University of California, Irvine. He has been blogging since 2003 (originally at the now defunct Poliblog). Follow Steven on Twitter

Comments

  1. Mark Ivey says:

    “Donald Jr. described the meeting as primarily about an adoption program.”

    Yeah. . . . . . :))

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 4 Thumb down 0

  2. @Mark Ivey: Indeed.

    I just saw this rather amusing Twitter rant on this subject from Michael Ian Black via LGM.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 3 Thumb down 0

  3. Scott says:

    Bear in mind, that all these players have filled out SF-86s detailing any foreign contacts and foreign financial dealings. I’m sure they were absolutely truthful and are not at risk of perjury.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 7 Thumb down 0

  4. MBunge says:

    Who can be trusted on the subject of Trump and Russia? How many stories on the subject in both the liberal media and the mainstream media have now been proven false? And what in the world is this “unconscious collusion” business? What did anyone in the Trump campaign or Trump Administration do, try to do or plan to do as a result of any contact with anyone from Russia?

    I don’t want to be too harsh but this looks like as naked a bit of goal-post moving as anything I’ve seen. “Collusion” in this story has to this point had a specific meeting, that the Trump campaign and the Russians colluded to influence the election. There is so far ZERO evidence to support that allegation. There is also, I believe, ZERO evidence that anything the Russians did or are accused of doing having any actual effect on the election. Are you now just going to apply the term to anything involving Trump and Russia and flush all of that down the memory hole?

    And though there isn’t much evidence to support it, believing Donald Trump and people in his inner circle are more kindly disposed toward Russia than is wise or just is not unreasonable. There is, however, no difference between that and believing that our political establishment is too kindly disposed toward Saudi Arabia or China or Israel. Did George W. Bush “collude” with the Saudis on their promotion of radical Islamic theology? Did George H. W. Bush “collude” with China to help it diminish the significance of the Tienamen massacre? Did Barack Obama “collude” with Israel on the continued construction of Jewish settlements in disputed territory?

    Mike

    Poorly-rated. Helpful or Unhelpful: Thumb up 1 Thumb down 22

  5. wr says:

    @MBunge: Dude, you were better off when you were pretending you weren’t going to vote for Trump. Now you have a long history of backing not only the most corrupt president in our history, but one who quite possibly has committed treason to gain the office. And he is yours. This is your choice for president. You’re the guy who backed the traitor. And you can keep trying to blame that on Clinton or Obama or mean liberals, but it’s a plain fact that you have demonstrated terrible judgment and a complete inability to understand the world around you.

    So at the very least, maybe knock off the “I’m so much smarter than everyone else” tone. You’re just making yourself look more foolish.

    Highly-rated. Helpful or Unhelpful: Thumb up 23 Thumb down 0

  6. Mister Bluster says:

    In a statement, Donald Jr. described the meeting as primarily about an adoption program.

    They are on a Mission from God!

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 4 Thumb down 0

  7. Mister Bluster says:

    @MBunge: Who can be trusted on the subject of Trump and sexual perversion?

    Stand by your man!

    I did try and fvck her. She was married…I moved on her like a bitch…she’s now got the big phony tits and everything…And when you’re a star, they let you do it. You can do anything…Grab ’em by the pvssy. You can do anything.
    Republican President Pork Chop Pud

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 13 Thumb down 0

  8. Mister Bluster says:

    Republicans deride Trump’s idea for cyber security unit with Russia
    Reuters

    “Putin & I discussed forming an impenetrable Cyber Security unit so that election hacking, & many other negative things, will be guarded and safe,” (Trump) said following their talks at a summit of the Group of 20 nations in Hamburg, Germany.

    Three Republican senators – Lindsey Graham of South Carolina, John McCain of Arizona and Mario Rubio of Florida – blasted the idea.

    “It’s not the dumbest idea I have ever heard but it’s pretty close,” Graham told NBC’s “Meet the Press” program, saying that Trump’s apparent willingness to “forgive and forget” stiffened his resolve to pass legislation imposing sanctions on Russia.

    “There has been no penalty,” McCain, who chairs the Senate armed services committee, told CBS’ “Face the Nation” program according to a CBS transcript. “Vladimir Putin … got away with literally trying to change the outcome … of our election.”

    “Yes, it’s time to move forward. But there has to be a price to pay,” he added.

    Rubio, on Twitter, said: “Partnering with Putin on a ‘Cyber Security Unit’ is akin to partnering with (Syrian President Bashar al) Assad on a ‘Chemical Weapons Unit’.”

    Mikhail Bungeovich, what say you?

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 14 Thumb down 0

  9. Gustopher says:

    @MBunge: I’m sure it is perfectly normal for political campaigns to meet with Russian officials and spies on a regular basis and then reflexively lie about it. Happens all the time.

    Trump is clearly being held to a higher standard. Barrack Hussein Obama never even admitted to his campaigns many contacts with Russian officials, OR al Quaeda… and who can forget when Jimmy Carter had the Peruvians hack Gerald Ford’s mailbox? But mostly, Bill Clinton. Just Bill Clinton.

    Highly-rated. Helpful or Unhelpful: Thumb up 16 Thumb down 0

  10. gVOR08 says:

    @MBunge:

    What did anyone in the Trump campaign or Trump Administration do, try to do or plan to do as a result of any contact with anyone from Russia?

    Someone, and we don’t seem to have names yet, rewrote the Republican platform plank on Ukraine. Stone seemed to know in advance of a Wikileaks release. It sure smells like Flynn assured the Russians that Trump would lift sanctions if elected and Russia refrained from the usual tit-for-tat reaction.

    Republicans are really the ones moving the goal posts with “collusion”. They’re trying to make a case that anything short of direct Trump and Putin advance planning is just “being kindly disposed” toward Putin.

    I had been unaware until recently of just how much of a thing allying with Russia as white Christians against the brown hordes was on the alt-right. Trump is probably a useful idiot dependent on loans from questionable Russian sources. Bannon, however, is likely driven by ideology.

    How do you stand, M, on us and Russia joining as a bastion defending Western culture?

    During the Cold War there was always a question as to whether Russia was hostile because they were godless commies or because that’s the way Russia has always been. Hint – communism went away, they’re still hostile to us.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 10 Thumb down 0

  11. Mister Bluster says:

    @Mikhail Bungeovich:..goal-post moving, healthcare edition…

    Republican leaders in Congress had embraced the repeal-now-replace-later mantra after Mr. Trump’s election, envisioning legislation that would end the Affordable Care Act in a few years as they worked on a replacement. But that plan was blown up quickly in January when Mr. Trump publicly demanded that a replacement be adopted simultaneously.
    (more recently) Mr. Trump wrote on Twitter, “If Republican Senators are unable to pass what they are working on now, they should immediately REPEAL, and then REPLACE at a later date!”
    NYT 6/30/2017

    I know it’s hard to stand by your man when Republican President Pork Chop Pud keeps moving the goal posts.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 7 Thumb down 0

  12. Gustopher says:

    @gVOR08: There’s also the possibility that the Russians were meeting with Trump associates to find out if they were really the incompetent idiots that they appeared to be. A weak America is in the Russian interests.

    If the Trump campaign would just come clean about contacts, they could be quickly investigated, and presumably cleared. But they do everything they can to appear guilty. “Here’s a comprehensive list of contacts” “we have evidence of another” “oh, you caught that did you… well, HERE’s a comprehensive list of contacts”.

    And, everyone tries to create an unmonitored, backchannel way of talking to the Russians.

    And the Russians weren’t sending their best people to meet with the Trumpkins. These are spies, money launderers, murderers, and rapists. Bad hombres.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 9 Thumb down 0

  13. An Interested Party says:

    And what’s this!? Apparently this whole mess was a Democratic setup! This idiot in the White House and his people are beyond pathetic…it’ll take a very long time to remove the stain these idiots have placed on our country…

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 6 Thumb down 0

  14. Just 'nutha ig'nint cracker says:

    @Mister Bluster:

    …so that election hacking, & many other negative things, will be guarded and safe

    It may be just me, but I’m not sure that I want “election hacking & many other negative things” to be guarded and safe, I’d rather keep them illegal and punish those who do them severely–maybe even more severely than the law currently allows.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 4 Thumb down 0

  15. CSK says:

    @An Interested Party:

    Well, that linked article was interesting.

    I especially enjoyed the final sentence: that Kushner only met with Veselnitskaya “at the request of his brother-in-law.”

    “It was Donny Junior’s fault! I didn’t want to do it! He made me! Don’t blame me!”

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 3 Thumb down 0

  16. Smooth Jazz says:

    “Yet Another Russia Meeting from the Campaign”

    Good grief. RUSSIA. RUSSIA. RUSSIA. And according to the latest fake NY Times poll, Hillary is up by 15% and has a 99% chance of winning.

    How many meetings did the Obama Admin have with the Russians during the period when Obama was telling then Russian President Medvedev on a hot mike that Obama would have more flexibility with “Vlad” after the 2012 election??

    Hillary lost; And she didn’t lost because of the Russians. She lost because was terrible, corrupt candidate who didn’t visit WI, PA & MI enough. You far left cranks really need to get over the 2016 election.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 12

  17. Mister Bluster says:

    Holy Hot Microphones!
    Smoothy supports our sexual pervert pvssy grabbing
    Republican President Pork Chop Pud!
    Who would have guessed?

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 7 Thumb down 0

  18. @Smooth Jazz: I have never said that Hillary lost because of Russia. Nevertheless, it should matter if a foreign government actively tried to influence our democratic processes.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 9 Thumb down 0

  19. gVOR08 says:

    @Smooth Jazz: I really wish people would drop the “Hillary would have lost anyway” argument. Even if true, does that somehow make Russian meddling in our election OK?

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 12 Thumb down 0

  20. @gVOR08: It is utterly stunning to me that so many people seem to want to dismiss the significance of a foreign government inserting itself into our domestic politics in the fashions alleged.

    Highly-rated. Helpful or Unhelpful: Thumb up 15 Thumb down 0

  21. Mister Bluster says:

    …does that somehow make Russian meddling in our election OK?
    I’m glad you asked.

    Protesters Chant ‘Russia Is Our Friend’ During Pro-Confederate Statue Rally (WATCH)

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 5 Thumb down 0

  22. An Interested Party says:

    It is utterly stunning to me that so many people seem to want to dismiss the significance of a foreign government inserting itself into our domestic politics in the fashions alleged.

    Especially considering that if there was the slightest hint that a foreign government was inserting itself into our politics to help a Democratic candidate, Republicans would scream “Treason!!!” and would start investigations and impeachment proceedings immediately…

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 8 Thumb down 0

  23. Joe says:

    @Steven L. Taylor:

    And a campaign running to ask, how can you help?

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0

  24. wr says:

    @Smooth Jazz: Shorter Smoovie: “Treason is okay if it’s a Republican selling out his country for power and money.”

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 6 Thumb down 0

  25. wr says:

    @Smooth Jazz: “How many meetings did the Obama Admin have with the Russians during the period when Obama was telling then Russian President Medvedev on a hot mike that Obama would have more flexibility with “Vlad” after the 2012 election??”

    Charles Manson met with Dennis Wilson and tried to get him to record some of his songs with the Beach Boys.

    Charles Manson met with Tex Watson and sent him out to murder Sharon Tate and a houseful of people.

    According to your reasoning, either Wilson should be in jail with Watson, or they should both be free, because they both committed the same crime of meeting with Manson.

    Does it hurt to make such stupid arguments in public, or does it come naturally to you?

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 6 Thumb down 0

  26. @wr: Never mind the difference between a sitting administraion having meetings with a foreign government versus clandestine meetings set up by go-betweens.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 9 Thumb down 0

  27. Neil Hudelson says:

    @Mister Bluster: \

    Mikhail Bungeovich

    You’ve been on a roll lately.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 6 Thumb down 0

  28. gVOR08 says:

    @wr:

    Shorter Smoovie: “Treason is okay if it’s a Republican selling out his country for power and money.”

    There’s a thing in Catch 22 where the Germans contract with Milo for the US Bomb Group to bomb their own airfield, which they do very effectively and with casualties. Congress investigates, but drops it when they see how how much profit Milo made on the deal. I used to think that was satire.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 5 Thumb down 0

  29. de stijl says:

    The alt-right views the Russians under Putin as allies and as a role-model in the war against the “wogs”.

    It is an open secret. They don’t really hide it very well. Sometimes they don’t even try to hide it. (See Mr. Bluster’s comment.)

    Unlike Western Europe, Russia, under Putin, is quite willing to use force and the threat of force to kill, beat, or intimidate Muslims, gays, feminists, journalists, The Other.

    The old Europe is weak, flaccid, decrepite, degenerate (now there’s an interesting word in this context). They cannot, or more meaningfully, will not assert their natural power over their subjects. Equal rights are granted to brown and black immigrants.

    White Europeans are viewed as complicit in their inevitable demise whereas Russia is strong and unapologetic.

    This is why Steve Bannon in the West Wing matters. Trump is too self-absorbed to get that he is being used by a neo-Nazi movement within his own camp. Trump is a willing idiot who was born to be used. If they praise him, he likes and trusts them. Being played is his fate.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 4 Thumb down 0

  30. Mister Bluster says:

    @Neil Hudelson:..I am humbled by your remarks.
    I try to work with the material in front of me.
    These words of one of my counter culture heroes, George Carlin, are always in the back of my mind.

    Think of how stupid the average person is, and realize half of them are stupider than that.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 2 Thumb down 0

  31. al-Alameda says:

    @Smooth Jazz:

    Hillary lost; And she didn’t lost because of the Russians. She lost because was terrible, corrupt candidate who didn’t visit WI, PA & MI enough. You far left cranks really need to get over the 2016 election.

    To be fair (and balanced), Trump lost the popular vote by 3 million.

    And, as you know, Republicans (ostensibly a majority dominated party of far right cranks, never “got over” the 2008 and 2012 elections.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 2 Thumb down 0

  32. Mister Bluster says:

    @al-Alameda:..The Republican Party has never gotten over the resignation of Tricky Dick 43 years ago. They failed to settle the score when they tried to remove Bill Clinton. They are so craven that they CAN NOT let President Pud, the slime bag that THEY ARE RESPONSIBLE FOR AND THEY KNOW IT, be removed from office.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0