Assume Nothing

August 5, 2018 6:26 p.m.

TPM Reader JB makes a very good point in this email. It’s still generally assumed that even if the Trump Tower meeting shows intense desire to collude, it was a bust. Nothing actually came of it. They tried to collude. But they couldn’t make it happen. Literally everything else that the Trump Team has told us about this meeting – including that it happened – has been a lie. It seems almost absurd to assume this one critical claim is true.

As it becomes more and more obvious that Donald Trump knew about the 2016 meeting between Don, Jr., Kusher, Manafort, and Veselnitskaya, we keep hearing again even in the mainstream media that the meeting was a bust, because Veselnitskaya produced no dirt on Clinton, which somehow figures into the exoneration story. Maybe the Trump team was trying to collude, but they didn’t actually collude.

But especially given what we know about the timeline of the release of the hacked emails, I don’t see why nobody’s making the obvious counter to that: what constitutes being a success vs. a bust? Why does everyone assume that the meeting was only successful if information was transferred at the meeting itself? Was Veselnitskaya going to walk in with a big fat dossier and hand it over? How 1971. Was she supposed to walk in with a USB stick? How 2007. DCLeaks was set up something like the day before the meeting, and wikileaks began its leaking shortly after. All she had to do to was tell the Trump team that they had hacked DNC servers and would start releasing the emails through online leak channels, and offer to coordinate on the timing of releases during the rest of the campaign to maximize the political trouble it caused (or maybe she didn’t even have to say that). Otherwise, hold tight and watch, Trump team. Now, with that out of the way, let’s talk about easing sanctions on Russia, Magnitsky, and setting up some money laundering should all of this work. Unless Don, Jr., immediately stood up and said, “Hacked emails? My god, that’s illegal! We’re calling the FBI!” he actually colluded, like colluded colluded, not attempted to collude.

But nobody’s framing it that way in the media. The meeting is presented as one in which no information passed hands. Why doesn’t anyone question whether that’s what really constitutes collusion in this case?

Probably this is obvious to you guys at TPM and maybe you’ve pointed it out before. But in most reporting I see on this topic nobody’s looking at it this way, and so the Trump team is not getting some of the heat it should be getting.

As I told JB, I take it as basically a given that this claim is a lie. Why wouldn’t it be? They’ve lied about everything else. The question is what’s the truth. That’s less clear. The reason this claim still garners some credence is that we don’t have specific evidence to the contrary. Was it just a “dangle”? Were there other messages delivered? To borrow the cliches of the business world, were there “next steps” discussed? All of this remains unclear.

Masthead Masthead
Founder & Editor-in-Chief:
Executive Editor:
Managing Editor:
Senior Editor:
Special Projects Editor:
Investigations Desk:
Senior Newswriter:
Editor at Large:
General Manager & General Counsel:
Head of Product:
Director of Technology:
Publishing Associate:
Front-End Developer:
Senior Designer: