Last night, the Times published a story saying Don, Jr. had gotten an email saying the meeting was part of a Russian government effort to aid his father’s candidacy, and today, with the Times about to publish a story quoting from the emails, Don Jr. posted the entire email chain on Twitter.
It’s not evidence of the strong theory of collusion — some sort of quid pro quo over the hacked emails — but by any reasonable standard it’s still shocking and wrong. To welcome assurances of support from a hostile government and agree to meet someone billed as a Russian government lawyer for dirt on your opponent is wildly out of bounds.
Is it more than that? Let’s wait and see. The defense here will surely be that the Russian go-between is a Trump family friend who was exaggerating and talking loosely and the lawyer didn’t have the goods, or any goods whatsoever, and that was the end of it. That may even be true. But can anyone really have a great deal of confidence in that now?
I have believed that 1) Trump’s weird defensiveness over Russia had to do with his reflex to reject anything undermining the legitimacy of his election and 2) the forgetfulness of people around him about Russia contacts was normal Washington evasion — it’s never a good time to be forthcoming if it’s going to create a negative news-cycle in an incredibly hostile news environment. But the way this story has unfolded, with Don. Jr.’s highly misleading accounts, raises the prospect that it’s something worse.