The not ready for prime-time players

>> Wednesday, July 12, 2017

I was asked to have a meeting by an acquaintance I knew from the 2013 Miss Universe pageant with an individual who I was told might have information helpful to the campaign. I was not told her name prior to the meeting. I asked Jared and Paul to attend, but told them nothing of the substance. We had a meeting in June 2016. After pleasantries were exchanged, the woman stated that she had information that individuals connected to Russia were funding the Democratic National Committee and supporting Ms. 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. She then changed subjects and began discussing the adoption of Russian children and mentioned the Magnitsky Act. 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. I interrupted and advised her that my father was not an elected official, but rather a private citizen, and that her comments and concerns were better addressed if and when he held public office. The meeting lasted approximately 20 to 30 minutes. As it ended, my acquaintance apologized for taking up our time. That was the end of it and there was no further contact or follow-up of any kind. My father knew nothing of the meeting or these events.
- Donald J. Trump, Jr., July 9th, 2017.

Of course, it seems a bit obvious that this statement is nearly certainly a through-and-through lie considering it's (a) at least the third version of Trump, Jr.'s meeting with Natalia Veselnitskaya (the first being that there was no meeting at all, and the second being that there was maybe a meeting but no campaign issues were discussed at all), and (b) this version is contradicted by Trump, Jr.'s e-mails, released by the man himself in an apparent attempt to achieve transparency by shooting himself and thereby making himself a window.

But never mind that for a moment.  Consider this: one of Trump, Jr.'s petulant responses to the blow-back from his self-administered fatal wounds was to tweet, "Obviously I'm the first person on a campaign to ever take a meeting to hear info about an opponent... went nowhere but had to listen," as if this resolved anything, as if he was obligated to take the meeting and to do nothing but lie about it afterwards.

If only, oh if only, we had any kind of example to look to for an instance of a political campaign being offered potentially damaging material under the table and what they ought to do about it.  Say, oh, just for an entirely hypothetical example, suppose that a campaign was offered a video and strategy book from their opponent's debate prep prior to a televised debate, just to cite a what if something that really happened happened?

Here's what Gore's campaign did: they contacted the FBI, and the Bush campaign, and there was an investigation and an indictment and a mail fraud conviction that came out of the whole affair.

All of which, of course, were options for Mr. Trump, Jr., before, after, or during his meeting that he denied for months and months and then apparently mischaracterized.  Had he reported Veselnitskaya's contacts with the campaign to the FBI and or FEC and wanted to not-comment on them, he certainly could have so; "I cannot comment on Russian attempts to contact my father's campaign because of certain ongoing investigations I'm not at liberty to discuss," is only 137 characters in length and fits easily into a tweet (substituted the comma inside the quotes with a period and see for yourself, ye doubters and cynics).  And if the New York Times dug deeply and discovered Trump, Jr., was an honest broker and law-abiding citizen, who would be the hero of that tale, hm?

We're talking about this at all, in short, because whatever the President's eponymous son did re: the didn't-have-it-no-wait-you-meant-that-meeting-I-guess-we-did-but-it-isn't-what-you-think-okay-maybe-it-totally-is magical meeting was not ethical, nor prudent, nor legal.

And there's one more point about all of this that is the real reason I decided to write this ("Finally, VanNewkirk, and about goddamn time!"), if you're still with me and haven't nodded off.  It's very much worth mentioning that the Gore campaign, back in 2000, wasn't only motivated by Boy Scoutism, Fair Playness, and Legal Asscoverism:

[Texas Democratic Party chair Molly Beth] Malcolm and other Democrats suggest the materials were leaked as part of a political sting operation aimed at trapping Gore in possession of confidential information. The two presidential candidates will meet in the first of three high-stakes debates on Tuesday.

Gore's team, in short, considered the possibility they were being played.

Which, if the Trumps were as smart as they keep telling us they are, surely might be something that would have occurred to them if an angel--or a "government attorney" coming directly from Moscow--was due to arrive "with some official documents and information that would incriminate Hillary and her dealings with Russia and would be very useful to your father."  A reasonable person might wonder, "Are we being compromised by the Russians?  Or by the Clintons?  Or by Sacha Baron Cohen?!"  In the era of bumbling provocateurs like James O'Keefe, gotcha filmmakers like Michael Moore, and "We'll just keep the cameras running until you look stupid" late night television like The Daily Show, might you respond to an e-mail offering a meeting with a mysterious Russian lawyer by ringing up the local FBI field office and asking if you should take this meeting, or if you should take it in a room packed with more bugs than a Fourth of July cookout in Southern swamp country?

You might, you know.  You just might.

This is the thing, and the point of this whole bit: there's no reason to take Donald J. Trump, Jr., at his word when his word has been changing for months and months now.  But if you do, if for some reason (no good reason at all) you decide to, the man is an idiot and a fool by his own admission.  The man lacks the minimal common sense and sense of self-preservation and sense of caution we expect of those in public service and that is the natural habit, for better and worse, of the political class in any democracy... well, in any government, ever, actually.  The natural state of the politician is to reasonably expect to be stabbed in the back by the people standing to his front and back, which can be irritating to the general public when it leads the politician to be mealy-mouthed and eight-faced and noncommittal about what he had for breakfast much less where he stands on an issue, but has the virtue of allowing the public to generally feel safe that its secrets and trust can be kept by one who assumes every motive is ulterior.

The Trumps, perversely, lack this basic quality.  And rather than this lack making them more honest, or more transparent, it merely makes them more stupid, and more dangerous.  As when the President blabbed--again to the damned Russians--about secret intelligence in a way that was, while not particularly specific (apparently), nevertheless specific enough for the Russians to be able to deduce where we got it from and how and from whom in a way that most likely burned sources, jeopardized lives, and made our allies less wont to share future secrets with an unreliable and loose-lipped partner.  

Junior's admission, should you take it at face value (and, really, honestly, even if you don't, even if you correctly assume he's a lying liar who lies), is only proof that he (and his family, and their advisors, and circle) are in far over their heads, kiddies who have strayed from the relative safety of the shallow end into deep waters that, admittedly unusual in a neighborhood pool, are notoriously shark-infested and poisoned.  (Shark-infested?  Try Xothian-infested, the secret squamous spawn of Cthulhu itsself reaching up from the depths with their unholy tentacles to grab the legs of incautious swimmers and drowning babes like Jared Kushner and Donald J. Trump, Jr..)

What kind of idiot takes a meeting with someone he doesn't know, represented as a foreign government's lawyer who is eager to discuss information stolen from an American citizen on behalf of nefarious hinted-at interests, but who could be anyone at all from said skullduggering foreign agent to an actress hired by a struggling YouTuber to show up in a Natasha Fatale getup with an accent stolen from Walter Koenig and a lipstick camera tucked in her cleavage?  Well, it turns out that Donald J. Trump, Jr., wants you to think he's just that kind of idiot.

Probably because he doesn't want you to think he's a felon.


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