Trump Admits Purpose Of Trump Tower Meeting Was To Get “Dirt” On Hillary Clinton

The noose around the Trump Administration just keeps getting tighter.

Yesterday in a pre-golf Twitterstorm, President Trump seems to have admitted that the purpose of the June 2016 Trump Tower meeting that has become a focus of Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation was to obtain information about Hillary Clinton from people linked to the Russian government:

WASHINGTON — President Trump said on Sunday that a Trump Tower meeting between top campaign aides and a Kremlin-connected lawyer was designed to “get information on an opponent” — the starkest acknowledgment yet that a statement he dictated last year about the encounter was misleading.

Mr. Trump made the comment in a tweet on Sunday morning that was intended to be a defense of the June 2016 meeting and the role his son Donald Trump Jr. played in hosting it. The president claimed that it was “totally legal” and of the sort “done all the time in politics.”

But the tweet also served as an admission that the Trump team had not been forthright when Donald Trump Jr. issued a statement in July 2017 saying that the meeting had been primarily about the adoption of Russian children.

That statement is being scrutinized by the special counsel, Robert S. Mueller III, who is examining a broad array of Mr. Trump’s tweets and public statements to determine whether he made them as part of an effort to deceive investigators.

People close to the president believe that he may be increasing his legal jeopardy by continuing to speak publicly about sensitive matters even as his campaign is under investigation for possible collusion with Russia and he himself is under scrutiny for possible obstruction of justice. Just last week, Mr. Trump said in a tweet that Attorney General Jeff Sessions should shut down the special counsel investigation.

While the president tried again on Sunday to portray the Trump Tower meeting as routine, it is being examined as part of Mr. Mueller’s investigation into whether Mr. Trump’s campaign conspired with the Russians to undermine Hillary Clinton’s campaign.

It is illegal for a campaign to accept help from a foreign individual or government. The president and his son have maintained that the campaign did not ultimately receive any damaging materials about Mrs. Clinton as a result of the meeting. But some legal experts contend that by simply sitting for the meeting, Donald Trump Jr. broke the law.

Here are the President’s tweets from yesterday:

These tweets appear to have been in response to a report in The Washington Post that dropped on Saturday evening that reported that Trump was growing increasingly worried that his son may have legal exposure due to his involvement in the June 2016 meeting:

Trump has confided to friends and advisers that he is worried the Mueller probe could destroy the lives of what he calls “innocent and decent people” — namely Trump Jr., who is under scrutiny by Mueller for his role organizing a June 2016 meeting at Trump Tower with Russians promising dirt on Hillary Clinton. As one adviser described the president’s thinking, he does not believe his son purposefully broke the law, but is fearful nonetheless that Trump Jr. inadvertently may have wandered into legal ­jeopardy.

In a tweet early Sunday, Trump called it “a complete fabrication” that he was worried about his eldest son. “This was a meeting to get information on an opponent, totally legal and done all the time in politics — and it went nowhere,” the president wrote. “I did not know about it.”

This all began more than a year ago, of course when The New York Times first reported about a heretofore secret meeting in June 2016 that included Donald Trump Jt., Jared Kushner, and Paul Manafort, who was Trump’s campaign manager at the time, and a Russian lawyer named Natalia  Veselnitskaya, a Russian attorney who had previously been linked to the Russian government and who has since admitted to being an informant for the Russian Government. As we learned several days later when Trump Jr. made the emails he had exchanged with campaign officials prior to the meeting public, the meeting was scheduled after Trump Jr. and others in the campaign were told that  Veselnitskaya had access to damaging information about Hillary Clinton. In one of those emails, Trump Jr. responded “That’s great” when informed that the lawyer had access to damaging information about Clinton and the Democrats. Later, Veselnitskaya said in interviews that Trump Jr. offered a quid pro quo in exchange for information about Clinton.

When the meeting was first reported, though, both Trump Jr. and the White House claimed that the meeting’s purpose was to discuss issues such as the adoption of Russian orphans by Americans as well as sanctions imposed by Russia in the wake of its seizure of the Crimean Peninsula from Ukraine. That claim was made most prominently in a statement released by the White House while the President was returning from a visit to Europe. It soon became apparent, though, that this claim was false. This is significant because we learned soon after news of the meeting broke that the President himself participated in drafting that initial statement on the way home from a trip to Europe on Air Force One. On its surface, that statement seemed questionable since it didn’t make sense that three of Trump’s closest campaign advisers would take a meeting on such an esoteric topic. The fact that we now know it was false makes the President’s involvement in what may constitute an attempted cover-up extremely significant.  It is worth noting that Trump had previously stated that the meeting’s initial purpose was “opposition research,” however that admission came before we knew about the President’s role in drafting the White House statement that attempted to cover-up the motivation for the meeting.

There were also questions raised about the meeting and the subsequent effort to apparently cover-up the initial purpose for scheduling it raised by Trump Jr.’s closed-door testimony before Senate Intelligence Committee which raised more questions than it answered. For example, the President’s oldest son stated that he could not recall if he ever communicated with his father regarding the Trump Tower meeting. However, phone records apparently show that Trump Jr. spoke at length to someone on a blocked number both immediately and immediately following the meeting. It is well-known that Trump Sr. typically uses a phone with a blocked number for privacy reasons so this raises the rather obvious questions of who, other than his father, Trump Jr. would have been talking to so close to the meeting itself. Additionally, it’s been widely reported that Trump Jr. was in frequent contact with his father regarding what was going on during the campaign and that it would have been unusual for him to not discuss a matter such as this meeting with his father either before or after it took place. This is especially notable given the fact that, in a speech just days before the meeting, Trump said in a stump speech that there would be some damaging information about Clinton released within days. Most recently, of course, is has been reported that Trump’s personal attorney and “fixer” Michael Cohen is prepared to tell investigators that President Trump knew about the meeting, and its purported purpose, prior to the time that it actually took place. This final revelation, along with the recent release of a report on that meeting released by the Senate Intelligence Committee, leads to several interesting conclusions and potentially points to significant evidence that could implicate Trump directly in a cover-up and could cause even more serious legal liability for his son.

First, it tells us that the Trump campaign was so eager to get “dirt” on Hillary Clinton that it was willing to send three of its senior representatives, including the Campaign Manager, the President’s son, and the President’s son-in-law to meet with a lawyer with connections to the Russian government. While the Trump Administration and its supporters are quick to dismiss this particular revelation on the ground that “opposition research” is a standard part of any campaign. While this is true, it’s also the case that Federal law prohibits foreign nationals or officials of foreign governments from making any kind of donation, whether monetary or otherwise, to a campaign for Federal office and forbids campaigns from soliciting such donations. Without question, the kind of “opposition research” spoken of here would be included in the kind of donations that foreign nationals or officials are forbidden from making. Additionally, Federal law also prohibits persons from conspiring to violate Federal law or to defraud the United States. Arguably, that’s exactly what was going on here notwithstanding the fact that, apparently, nothing of value came of the meeting.

Adam Davidson in The New Yorker argues that the President has, via these most recent tweets, admitted that there was collusion (i.e., a conspiracy) with Russia or Russian officials:

The tweet contains several crucial pieces of information. First, it is a clear admission that Donald Trump, Jr.,’s original statement about the case was inaccurate enough to be considered a lie. He had said the meeting was with an unknown person who “might have information helpful to the campaign,” and that this person “primarily discussed a program about the adoption of Russian children.” This false statement was, according to his legal team, dictated by the President himself. There was good reason to mislead the American people about that meeting. Based on reporting—at the time and now—of the President’s admission, it was a conscious effort by the President’s son and two of his closest advisers to work with affiliates of the Russian government to obtain information that might sway the U.S. election in Trump’s favor. In short, it was, at minimum, a case of attempted collusion. The tweet indicates that Trump’s defense will continue to be that this attempt at collusion failed—“it went nowhere”—and that, even if it had succeeded, it would have been “totally legal and done all the time.” It is unclear why, if the meeting was entirely proper, it was important for the President to declare “I did not know about it!” or to tell the Attorney General, Jeff Sessions, to “stop this Rigged Witch Hunt right now.”

(…)

It was possible, just days ago, to believe—with an abundance of generosity toward the President and his team—that the meeting was about adoption, went nowhere, and was overblown by the Administration’s enemies. No longer. The open questions are now far more narrow: Was this a case of successful or only attempted collusion? Is attempted collusion a crime? What legal and moral responsibilities did the President and his team have when they realized that the proposed collusion was underway when the D.N.C. e-mails were leaked and published? And, crucially, what did the President know before the election, after it, and when he instructed his son to lie?

As Davidson notes, there’s no small degree of historical irony in the fact that Trump’s tweet came on August 5th. It was on another August 5th, back in 1974, when President Nixon made public the most damning parts of the Oval Office tapes that clearly implicated him in a conspiracy to cover-up the motivation for and participants in the break-in at the headquarters of the Democratic National Committee. Three days later, Nixon met with a group of Republican Senators who told him that support for his Administration had collapsed and that impeachment and removal from office were inevitable. That evening, Nixon announced his resignation and President Ford took office the next day. We’re still a long way from the point where that’s a realistic possibility for President Trump, but this admission guarantees that Special Counsel Mueller’s investigation will move forward and that things are only going to get messier for the President and those around him.

FILED UNDER: Donald Trump, Law and the Courts, National Security, Politicians, Russia, Russia Investigation, US Politics, , , , ,
Doug Mataconis
About Doug Mataconis
Doug holds a B.A. in Political Science from Rutgers University and J.D. from George Mason University School of Law. He joined the staff of OTB in May 2010. Before joining OTB, he wrote at Below The BeltwayThe Liberty Papers, and United Liberty Follow Doug on Twitter | Facebook

Comments

  1. Hal_10000 says:

    I’ve been saying for a while this is headed toward “Of course he colluded! Hillary had to stopped! That’s real patriotism! MAGA!” I may have been a bit optimistic about how long it would take us to get there.

    Trumpism: when your hated of Democrats is stronger than your love of country.

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  2. Argon says:

    Sadly, nothing will happen if the GOP retains control of the House and Senate. Machiavellians and Ayn Randians run the party.

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  3. gVOR08 says:

    From Rob Goldstone’s email initiating this meeting.

    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.

    Is there any element necessary to establish a federal crime missing from this? If they didn’t “collude”, it wasn’t for lack of trying. And IANAL but I believe completion of a plot is not necessary to charge conspiracy.

    That said, small potatoes. I think it’s 80/20 that Kushner’s data operation and/or the Mercers shared voter data with the troll farm. If it comes out that Cohen went to Prague*, Trump is toast.

    Vote Blue so that if Pence is also implicated, the Presidency devolves onto a Dem Speaker.
    _______
    * If Cohen paid trolls, it would resolve a mystery. This was an awfully risky thing for Putin to do. If, as seemed likely, Hillary was elected, Putin’s standing there red handed. If Trump was paying the trolls, the whole thing may have gotten ahead of Putin. Note both that Putin and the Russians had the same dog that caught the car look as Trump’s people after the election and that Giuliani, out of the blue, specifically denied that Trump, personally, had paid the trolls. So who did?

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  4. Daryl and his brother Darryl says:

    These tweets appear to have been in response to a report in The Washington Post that dropped on Saturday evening that reported that Trump was growing increasingly worried that his son may have legal exposure due to his involvement in the June 2016 meeting

    Also perjury…based upon his testimony to Congress…but with a supine Congress nothing will come of that.
    @Hal_10000:

    Trumpism: when your hated of Democrats is stronger than your love of country.

    Did you see this???
    https://twitter.com/charles_gaba/status/1026148505046401024/photo/1?ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw%7Ctwcamp%5Etweetembed%7Ctwterm%5E1026148505046401024&ref_url=https%3A%2F%2Fsplinternews.com%2Fajax%2Finset%2Fiframe%3Fid%3Dtwitter-1026148505046401024%26autosize%3D1

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  5. Facebones says:

    This is unsurprising and should come as a shock to no one.

    Remember, he admitted to Lester Holt that he fired Comey because he wouldn’t back off on the Russia investigation. (Which is pretty much textbook Obstruction of Justice)

    Now, of course he knew about a meeting his son and campaign manager arranged in the building where he worked and lived.

    Awful lot of witches around these parts.

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  6. Scott F. says:

    Three days later, Nixon met with a group of Republican Senators who told him that support for his Administration had collapsed and that impeachment and removal from office were inevitable.

    That’s the heart of the difference between what finally transpired with Watergate and where we are today. As Charlie Pierce put it in his post this morning…

    (Trump) has admitted lying to the country on a profound issue of national security. He is doing next to nothing to prevent a similar attack this fall, and in 2020. He is clearly in league with—or, more likely, in hock to—an authoritarian goon presiding over an economic basket case complete with its own huge and threadbare nuclear arsenal. He is daring the institutions of democracy to do something about him. He is daring the system to work the way it’s supposed to work. Waiting until after the midterms is not the way the system is supposed to work. Waiting for the special counsel to do the job for you is not the way the system is supposed to work. God knows, the supine behavior of the Republican congressional majorities is not the way the system is supposed to work. The process of dealing with a lawless president* who admits to his own lawlessness should be easy, if the system works the way it’s supposed to work.

    I don’t hold out much hope that a meaningful number of Republican Senators will do what’s called for when the evidence is so clear, but we all know what is supposed to happen now. Talking about Trump’s latest actions is remiss without pointedly calling out his GOP enablers.

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  7. Just Another Ex-Republican says:

    It’s always the cover-up, never the crime…The stupidest thing about this is that if they’d just said when it first came up: “Sorry, yes, we took the meeting because we are not political insiders and swamp dwellers and didn’t realize it was illegal. Now we know and it won’t happen again” the whole thing would have blown over and been done with. As a nation we are very forgiving of admitted sinners. Hell, they didn’t even have to MEAN it about saying sorry and it wouldn’t happen again. But instead they lied and lied and lied and lied, over something most Americans would have been willing to shrug off because most Americans wouldn’t have realized themselves it was illegal to get research on opponents from foreign governments.

    As if we needed more proof that the Trumps are nothing more than grifters and con artists without a long term plan. Lying is as natural as breathing to them, even when, in the long run, honesty would serve them better. Stupid.

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  8. Daryl and his brother Darryl says:

    @Just Another Ex-Republican:
    The FBI had warned them that the Russians were likely to approach them, and if they did they should report it. Instead they went ahead and took the meeting. and had 81 other contacts with Russians. There was nothing innocent or naive in their actions, and taking the approach you outline would simply be a different cover-up.
    From another angle…it’s hard to claim ignorance, when you also claim to be the smartest guy in the entire world.

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  9. Daryl and his brother Darryl says:

    OT…but I wonder if you are planning to post on the LeBron James tweets from Dennison over the weekend?
    https://twitter.com/realDonaldTrump/status/1025586524782559232
    The irony is delicious…Dennison bashes James, who uses his foundation to put kids thru school. Dennison, on the other hand, puts kids in cages, and uses his foundation to finance portraits of himself.

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  10. CSK says:

    @Daryl and his brother Darryl:

    The best part is that Melania sided with James!!!!

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  11. gVOR08 says:

    @Daryl and his brother Darryl:
    Someone tweeted to the effect:
    You coastal elites may think LeBron James is a sports hero and role model, but out in the heartland they think differently, like where we’re about to have a critical special election in, let me see… Ohio.

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  12. Not the IT Dept. says:

    So Trump finally confessed. About time. I’m sure Mueller will have a whole bunch of new questions to ask him sometime soon.

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  13. Mikey says:

    @CSK:

    The best part is that Melania sided with James!!!!

    You’re supposed to think that. More likely she only pretended to take that position as a way of conferring humanity on her husband by proxy.

    Ivanka does this, too, and more frequently.

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  14. Just Another Ex-Republican says:

    @Daryl and his brother Darryl: How many of those other 81 would we have found out about it people weren’t digging away at the original lie?

    I’m not condoning or in agreement with what they did, nor do I think they were actually innocent or naive (far from it). Just noting that, from a purely political messaging & tactical point of view, it was incredibly stupid. You know, like firing Comey and telling the world you did it because of Russia, thereby guaranteeing a special prosecutor would be appointed.

    And, as unpopular as it might be to point out, it doesn’t speak very highly of the American voter or Clinton campaign that this sort of stupid actually won (*in the Electoral College, and still got 60 million votes).

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  15. Just nutha ignint cracker says:

    @Argon: I would settle for Machiavellians running the country. At least they’d be competent.

    “…’totally legal’ and of the sort ‘done all the time in politics’” simply means I approve when it’s done BY me and disapprove when it’s done TO me. Always has, always will.

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  16. PJ says:

    Trump’s Supreme Court picks are fruit from a treasonous tree, they should be given the opportunity to resign and if they refuse to do so, the Democrats should pack the court.

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  17. Kathy says:

    I get it. Because every time I do something completely legal that everyone does all the time, I lie about it and claim to have been doing something else.

    On a developing story: Fire is still hot.

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  18. gVOR08 says:

    @Just nutha ignint cracker:

    I would settle for Machiavellians running the country. At least they’d be competent.

    Yeah. Part of this is just rank amateurism. If Hillary were elected and wanted to quietly get word to Putin about, say, cancelling some of Obama’s sanctions, how many people do you suppose there are in her “Rolodex”, one or two removes from Putin, that could discretely and securely pass it on?

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  19. gVOR08 says:

    @Kathy: My sports club has a fireplace. I get a chuckle every time I see the sign that says “Fireplace is hot”. I expect signs over the water fountains next.

    And at the end of his tweet, he adds that he didn’t know about the meeting. If it’s so damn innocent, what difference does it make if he knew? After Trump’s tweet someone tweeted a pretend Mueller tweet, ‘I spend a year investigating, then he tweets out the whole thing.’

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  20. CSK says:

    @Mikey:

    It’s impossible to confer humanity on Trump, by proxy or otherwise. In any case, she despises him–but likes the money. It’s obvious from her demeanor; she cringes away from him. And this is far from the first instance in which she’s trolled him. She probably enjoys tormenting him, knowing there’s nothing he can do about it as long as they’re in the WH.

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  21. Michael Reynolds says:

    @Just Another Ex-Republican:
    I disagree. In this case it is the crimes. Thank God for the incompetent cover-up because it revealed said crimes, but the underlying crimes are quite real, and they are in many cases, felonies.

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  22. MBunge says:

    So, the noose is tighter than when Trump said this during a press conference with French President Macron on JULY, 2017?

    I do think this: I think from a practical standpoint, most people would have taken that meeting. It’s called opposition research, or even research into your opponent. I’ve had many people — I have only been in politics for two years, but I’ve had many people call up — “Oh, gee, we have information on this factor or this person, or, frankly, Hillary.” That’s very standard in politics. Politics is not the nicest business in the world, but it’s very standard where they have information and you take the information.

    Man, that’s one tight noose.

    Mike

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  23. Michael Reynolds says:

    @MBunge:
    Let’s see now. So far the Bung has fervently believed:

    a) That the TT meeting was about adoption.
    b) That Trump didn’t know.
    c) That he did know, but it was about adoption.
    d) That it was maybe a little tiny bit about something other than Russia.
    e) That it was about a bunch of issues, and Trump wrote his kid’s cover letter.
    f) And now that it was absolutely EXACTLY WHAT THE ENTIRE MSM AND EVERYONE HERE SAID.

    Like I said: Cult.

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  24. Kathy says:

    @gVOR08:

    My sports club has a fireplace. I get a chuckle every time I see the sign that says “Fireplace is hot”. I expect signs over the water fountains next.

    If I had a nickel for every time I told someone “careful, the oven is hot,”and then they touched it immediately for some reason, I’d have about $2.50 🙂

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  25. de stijl says:

    Trump cannot understand that this is not a Page Six PR problem that he can bluster his way out of.

    Or one of those pesky contract disputes where he stiffs the contractors / tradesmen and just simply makes it too expensive for them to sue him.

    Or, if it’s clear he will lose, he declares bankruptcy and walks away.

    In his brain, these are the three responses to any issue that makes the papers or the courts. He is not irrational: these three responses have worked very well for him his entire adult life.

    He either does not understand his peril now (hence the confession), or he is pathologically avoidant.

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  26. de stijl says:

    @PJ:

    Trump’s Supreme Court picks are fruit from a treasonous tree, they should be given the opportunity to resign and if they refuse to do so

    I appreciate your moxie and your can-do spirit, but that’s not how it works.

    Gorsuch is, and will remain, a SC justice; Kavanaugh will be appointed before November.

    No backsies in this situation. We can’t wish this away. Can’t be undone.

    Being stuck in the denial phase prevents one from taking action that will have actual, tangible results.

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  27. Gustopher says:

    I think we have moved from “it’s not a lie if you believe it” to ”Was that wrong?”

    Even the Trumpiest of the Trumpeters have been pushing things like “Obama should have warned them that treason was frowned upon”.

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  28. PJ says:

    @de stijl:
    I’ve never been in the denial phase regarding the importance of the Supreme Court in the last election.

    Let say Jeb Bush had won without any support from Russia, that would have been different.

    But that didn’t happen. So, depending on the outcome of the Mueller investigation, etc, this would be the justification for Democrats to pack the court, if they get the chance to do so. Trump’s Justices would be the fruit of a treasonous tree, and Democrats should strive to fix that as soon as possible and not in twenty or thirty years.

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  29. MarkedMan says:

    @CSK:

    She probably enjoys tormenting him, knowing there’s nothing he can do about it as long as they’re in the WH.

    I normally try not to be a gossip but Melania’s trolling is absolutely fascinating to me. I suspect, thought, that it is something a bit more calculated. I’m sure she has had legal advice on just what her pre-nup agreement allows and I would be astounded if she wasn’t entitled to much, much more if he divorces her than if she divorces him. I think she is trying to push him over the edge.

    She’s in a tough spot though. There is some legitimate reasons to suspect that Barron is on the spectrum and may have other challenges. That makes him damaged goods to Trump (interesting way to kill 10 minutes: check out Trump’s schedule on Barron’s birthday or Mothers Day). But Melania knows she would use him against her in a divorce battle in a heartbeat if he thought it could make her take $1 less. I suspect she is doing everything she can to get out of the nightmare without having it destroy her son.

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  30. Daryl and his brother Darryl says:

    @CSK:
    @MarkedMan:

    I normally try not to be a gossip but Melania’s trolling is absolutely fascinating to me.

    I’m left wondering about Hope Hicks and this Ohio trip.

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  31. CSK says:

    @Daryl and his brother Darryl:

    I wonder if she tweeted about Lebron James to exact a little vengeance for Trump taking Hope to Ohio.

    @MarkedMan:

    I agree, but she’s probably stuck till he’s booted out of office.

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  32. Mikey says:

    @CSK: I’d be more inclined to agree with you if she hadn’t worn the “I Don’t Really Care, Do U?” jacket to visit the kids Trump’s ICE had imprisoned. That makes me believe she’s in agreement with him. She may not like him personally, but she knows what part she plays in this whole business, and that includes trying to humanize him.

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  33. CSK says:

    @Mikey:

    The jacket was weird, I agree, but I don’t think the message was directed at the children; she put it on to leave D.C., took it off when she got to Texas, and then put it back on when she disembarked from the plane back in D.C. (Where the temp was well into the eighties, so she hardly needed a coat.) I think it was an f.u. of some sort to Trump, just like the hand-swatting, the Lebron James tweet, and the other occasions on which she’s shown her disdain for him.

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  34. Mikey says:

    @CSK: Honestly, I hope you’re right. I just think the whole lot of them are so base and venal that my hypothesis is the best explanation for her behavior.

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  35. CSK says:

    @Mikey:

    Oh, Ivanka’s as loathsome as her father and her reptilian hubby. She’s definitely just trying to save her own surgically-enhanced skin. I don’t care much for Melania, but she knows Trump is a creep. And she does seem to have some fondness and concern for children. The only times I’ve seen her with a genuine smile and not a rictus is when she visits schools or hospitals.

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  36. Daryl and his brother Darryl says:

    @MBunge:

    So, the noose is tighter than when Trump said this during a press conference with French President Macron on JULY, 2017?

    And then he said there was no collusion (really conspiracy) about 50 million times.
    And now he has just admited to conspiracy…again.

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