“…If the president put Russian salad dressing on his salad tonight, somehow that’s a Russian connection,” White House spokesperson Sean Spicer once quipped. Yes, “this Russia thing” seems to be all about food of one kind of another. With this in mind, the latest White House scandal involving Donald Trump Jr. and his contact with Natalia Veselnitskaya, a Russian lawyer with links to the Kremlin, is not the “nothing burger” the Republicans would have many believe.
In June of 2016, Donald Trump Jr. was notified by email that a person with “official documents and information that would incriminate” then political rival to his father, Hillary Clinton, was willing to meet with Trump Jr. to share this information. The information was touted as “part of Russia and its government’s support for Mr. Trump.” Trump Jr.’s reply? “I love it”. Trump Jr., attended the meeting in Trump Tower along with the highest members of Trump’s campaign team.
But this is back story, the appetizer that most right wing media outlets would have us believe is the main course, but it’s not. Yes, that is the nothing burger. The meat of the matter is the fact that Trump’s son-in-law, Jared Kushner, was not only copied on the emails, but attended the meeting as well. This is relevant as Kushner continues his role in the administration as Trump’s senior adviser. He also found himself to be the only member of Trump’s immediate circle whose finances and business dealings are being investigated by special counsel Robert Mueller.
“The meat of the matter is the fact that Trump’s son-in-law, Jared Kushner, was not only copied on the emails, but attended the meeting as well.”
Earlier this year Kushner amended his security clearance application adding no less than a list of 100 foreign contacts to his original application, and yet at the time failed to list the meeting with Russian lawyer Veselnitskaya. Mr. Kushner is not alone as most everyone associated with the Trump administration who has met with Russians have suffered from amnesia bouts, at least long enough to omit such meetings from their security forms.
Past victims of this “Russian amnesia” include Attorney General Jeff Sessions and of course, patient zero, former United States National Security Advisor Michael Flynn. Recently, Democrats have asked that Ivanka Trump’s security form be reviewed for perhaps the same memory lapses.
Memory issues aside, Mr. Kushner showed up with an appetite for “dirt”, along side Donald Trump Jr., and Trump’s campaign chairman Paul Manafort. Recently, it was reported that Rinat Akhmetshin, a reputed ex-Russian counter-intelligence operative was also in attendance. This tidbit of information was overlooked by Trump Jr. who had previously extolled his transparency, proof of which was his having released his emails to the general public, albeit shortly before the story was released. This brings the number of attendees of the meeting to at least eight, including the interpreter and a figure yet to be identified. All told, hardly a forgettable event.
“This is obviously very high level and sensitive information but is part of Russia and its government’s support for Mr. Trump…”
In spite of the pronouncements by the president and right wing media, one can hardly imagine there was anything morally or ethically correct about attending this meeting. Plainly put, members of the Trump campaign attempted to collude with a foreign adversarial power in an effort to win an election at the expense of America’s democracy. Yes, we are speaking of the torch bearing lady on Liberty Island, the freedom marches, and justice for all. At what point do those tenets of equality, liberty, and freedom get kicked to the curbside?
The fact that Trump Jr. alleges that no meaningful information was forthcoming does not change Kushner’s mens rea behind the act, as clearly he intended to collude with a foreign adversarial government. While at the very least this may be a lapse of sound judgment, perhaps even a total obliteration of one’s moral compass, it seems Kushner, and by extension Donald Trump, was willing to win at all costs, even if it meant compromising the Constitution and the integrity and sovereignty of the very country and its people Trump had vowed to stand up for.
Did Donald Trump know? The request for the meeting occurred on June 3, 2016, and four days later during a speech, then candidate Trump promised “probably Monday of next week” to deliver a major speech in regard to Hillary Clinton. The speech never materialized, presumably because the Kushner meeting with the Russian lawyer et al. did not prove fruitful. Nonetheless, this suggests that Mr. Trump knew of the meeting, adding to the allegations of collusion.
We do not know whether or not Mr. Trump puts Russian dressing on his salads, but I suspect that Mr. Kushner, perhaps alongside his father-in-law, the president, and Mr. Mueller will all be sitting at the same table. I have no doubt that the “nothing burger” will be the last thing on their collective minds.