On Saturday afternoon the New York Times posted the story that Donald Trump, Jr. had met with a Russian lawyer in June 2016 along with Jared Kushner and Paul Manafort. Trump issued a statement that the meeting was “primarily about” issues of adoption. Trump explained: “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.” I wrote about the Times story here.
On Sunday the Times returned to the story with the addition that Trump attended the meeting on the expectation that he would receive damaging information about Hillary Clinton.
The Times is taking baby steps. It can’t get too far. It pains the Times to concede: “It is unclear whether the Russian lawyer, Natalia Veselnitskaya, actually produced the promised compromising information about Mrs. Clinton. But the people interviewed by The Times about the meeting said the expectation was that she would do so.”
If it’s unclear to the six Times reporters and one researcher working the story, I conclude Trump came away with nothing.
Donald Trump, Jr. nevertheless takes the opportunity to revise and extend his remarks regarding the meeting:
In a statement, he said he had met with the Russian lawyer at the request of an acquaintance from the 2013 Miss Universe pageant [later identified in the story as Rob Goldstone], which his father took to Moscow. “After pleasantries were exchanged,” he said, “the woman stated that she had information that individuals connected to Russia were funding the Democratic National Committee and supporting Mrs. 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.”
He said she then turned the conversation to adoption of Russian children and the Magnitsky Act, an American law that blacklists suspected Russian human rights abusers. The 2012 law so enraged President Vladimir V. Putin of Russia that he halted American adoptions of Russian children.
“It became clear to me that this was the true agenda all along and that the claims of potentially helpful information were a pretext for the meeting,” Mr. Trump said.
I take it that Trump Jr. was suckered into calling the meeting on the suggestion that he would acquire helpful information, but the suggestion turned out to be a pretext. By his latest account, anyway, he was suckered.
Michael Walsh comments on the Times story in the New York Post column “The Times ‘exposé’ on Donald Trump Jr. is a big yawn.” You may recall that we are in search of “collusion.” Walsh renders this judgment: “Just as the ‘Russian collusion’ fantasy – a resentful smear cooked up in the immediate aftermath of Hillary Clinton’s stunning defeat last fall – was finally fading from the fever swamps of the ‘resistance’ and its media mouthpieces, along comes the Times with a pair of journalistic nothingburgers.”