The New York Times has again published a supposedly damning story about members of the Trump team and Russians with little to no factual basis, a lot of insinuation, and paragraphs of irrelevant connections.
Saturday's story claims:
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.
The article doesn't contain any statements about what was supposedly discussed at the meeting or an allegation of impropriety. Apparently the fact that the woman, Natalia Veselnitskaya, is a Russian lawyer with connections to the Kremlin is proof enough. A source told ABC News, though, that the campaign was not discussed.
Veselnitskaya is known as for her work opposing the Magnitsky Act, which President Obama signed in 2012. It blacklists individuals suspected of being involved in the murder or cover-up of the murder of Russian whistleblower Sergei Magnitsky from entering the United States or using its banking system. In response, Vladimir Putin stopped allowing American families to adopt Russian children.
The rest of the New York Times' article is essentially background on various players and a reiteration of events in the ongoing "scandal."
On Saturday, Donald Trump Jr. issued a statement saying that indeed, the meeting revolved around adoptions and the Magnitsky Act.
"It was a short introductory meeting," Trump Jr. said in a statement. "I asked Jared and Paul to stop by. We primarily discussed a program about the adoption of Russian children that was active and popular with American families years ago and was since ended by the Russian government, but it was not a campaign issue at that time and there was no follow up.
"I was asked to attend the meeting by an acquaintance, but was not told the name of the person I would be meeting with beforehand.”
So the Times' claim that Donald Trump Jr. "arranged" the meeting is false? I'm shocked.
On Sunday he clarified the statement, saying he was lured to the meeting.
“After pleasantries were exchanged, the woman stated that she had information that individuals connected to Russia were funding the Democratic National Committee and supporting Ms. Clinton. Her statements were vague, ambiguous and made no sense. No details or supporting information was provided or even offered. It quickly became clear that she had no meaningful information.
“It became clear to me that this [the adoption issue] was the true agenda all along and that the claims of potentially helpful information were a pretext for the meeting."
In the Washington Post report on the above statement, the analysis is:
"Donald Trump Jr. has made a potentially damaging New York Times report much, much worse."
Not at all. If he didn't know the name of the person he was meeting with, just that an acquaintance told him that someone might have some information about Hillary Clinton that would be helpful for Trump, and that he cut off the meeting when it was clear that was a pretext, he did nothing wrong at all. Such meetings are standard procedure in political campaigns and in gathering an opposition file.
And, if the Trump campaign had been given information that Russian-connected individuals were funding the DNC and Clinton, wouldn't they have had a duty to find out more and, if it were true, let authorities know?
Mark Corallo, part of President Trump's legal team, said that Veselnitskaya and her translator “misrepresented who they were,” and that the meeting was a setup, possibly by the Clinton team or the DNC.
“Specifically, we have learned that the person [Ms. Veselnitskaya] who sought the meeting is associated with Fusion GPS, a firm which according to public reports, was retained by Democratic operatives to develop opposition research on the President and which commissioned the phony Steele dossier. "
Fusion GPS denies any involvement. Interestingly, the Wall Street Journal cites a Clinton campaign official saying this raises more collusion questions.
Brian Fallon, who served as press secretary for the Clinton campaign, said the younger Mr. Trump’s decision to take a meeting with a Russian individual who promised helpful campaign information raised further questions about potential collusion.
Sure, Brian. It does nothing of the sort.
Unless the information provided changes significantly, there is nothing to this story except someone who wanted to push their own agenda lied to get a meeting with people related to a campaign, their true motive was unmasked, and there was no further contact.
For political operatives, in other words, it was a day that ends in Y.