Donald Trump Jr. and other White House allies on Monday defended his meeting with a Russian lawyer last year who said she had damaging information on Donald Trump’s presidential opponent, former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton.
Trump Jr. met with Natalia Veselnitskaya, a lawyer who is linked to the Kremlin, just weeks before his father clinched the GOP presidential nomination in June 2016. Initially, he claimed the purpose of the meeting was “primarily” to discuss an adoption program. A day later, however ― after The New York Times reported that he had been promised information about Clinton before attending the meeting ― Trump Jr. confirmed the nature of the sit-down and said he ended it after Veselnitskaya provided no “meaningful information” about Clinton.
The meeting was also attended by Trump’s then-campaign chairman Paul Manafort and his son-in-law Jared Kushner, who is now a senior White House adviser.
Trump Jr. and other media allies of the president are now attempting to depict the meeting as a normal campaign exercise ― as if every presidential campaign were willing to accept help from a foreign agent in the form of potentially damaging information about an opponent.
Implicit in that line of argument, however, is an admission that the Trump campaign was at least willing to conspire with a foreign agent in order to damage Clinton’s campaign.
Trump’s campaign wouldn’t be the first to receive such an offer of aid from Russia. According to Moscow’s former longtime ambassador in Washington, Anatoly Dobrynin, the Kremlin in 1968 offered Richard Nixon’s Democratic opponent Hubert Humphrey Jr. “any conceivable help in his election campaign — including financial aid.”
Humphrey politely declined.
“He knew at once what was going on,” Dobrynin recalled in his 1995 memoir.