Still more sticky questions for the Trump clan
The Washington Post broke another blockbuster story Monday evening:
"On the sidelines of the Group of 20 summit in Germany last month, President Trump's advisers discussed how to respond to a new revelationthat Trump's oldest son had met with a Russian lawyer during the 2016 campaign — a disclosure the advisers knew carried political and potentially legal peril ... .
"Flying home from Germany on July 8 aboard Air Force One, Trump personally dictated a statement in which [Donald] Trump Jr. said that he and the Russian lawyer had "primarily discussed a program about the adoption of Russian children" when they met in June 2016, according to multiple people with knowledge of the deliberations. The statement, issued to the New York Times as it prepared an article, emphasized that the subject of the meeting was "not a campaign issue at the time."
That was not true. In the days that followed, multiple statements were issued from Trump's son until he was forced to release the email chain in which he disclosed that the purpose was to obtain opposition research from Russians and in which he expressed glee at the prospect of getting Russian help. ("If it's what you say, I love it, especially later in the summer.")
The notion that the president was personally drafting a false cover story — just as his administration came up with a false cover story to justify the firing of former FBI director James Comey — to explain away a previously unreported meeting with multiple Russians promising to provide dirt on Hillary Clinton reflects not only the high degree of anxiety that now seems to infuse the president's every tweet but also a shocking level of stupidity. Why would the president involve himself in creating a false story about anything, let alone the Russians?
The bombshell raises a host of uncomfortable questions for the entire Trump clan:
Is the president incapable of grasping the legal peril he is in, or has he become self-destructive? (He seems to be acting out in great detail what obstruction of justice might entail in a case like this. Fire the investigator? Check! Lie about meetings? Yup! Create a paper trail of lies? Got it!
Whoever leaked the story apparently was attempting to lay blame for the false narrative at the president's feet, thereby lessening Jared Kushner's and Donald Trump Jr.'s responsibility for the untruthful telling. (Are we entering "King Lear" territory as the monarch's children abandon and manipulate him?)
Will Trump Jr. and Kushner be compelled to tell the special counsel about Trump's role? (There is no father-son or father-son-in-law privilege.)
What is Trump so desperately afraid will come out? The Post reports, "Because Trump believes he is innocent, some advisers explained, he therefore does not think he is at any legal risk for a cover-up. In his mind, they said, there is nothing to conceal." Then why conceal or try to conceal the purpose of the meeting?
If Trump knew after the fact about the meeting, did he know about it beforehand or contemporaneously?
It's not clear whether the special counsel knew about Trump's creative-writing contribution previously. In any case, he has one more nugget of evidence of Trump's personal involvement in efforts to throw the public and investigators off the Russia trail. Whether this amounts to a crime or the basis for impeachment remains to be seen. However, no one not on the Trump payroll can seriously argue that Trump has clean hands in this messy affair.
— Jennifer Rubin writes the Right Turn blog for The Post, offering reported opinion from a conservative perspective.