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SCOT LEHIGH

A big shoe drops on Team Trump

Donald Trump Jr. eagerly accepted help from what was described to him as a Russian government effort to aid his father’s campaign with damaging information about Hillary Clinton, according to emails he released publicly on Tuesday.
Donald Trump Jr. eagerly accepted help from what was described to him as a Russian government effort to aid his father’s campaign with damaging information about Hillary Clinton, according to emails he released publicly on Tuesday.

Donald Trump Jr. is now the not-so-proud owner of the most Pinocchio-esque proboscis in all of Trumpland. And now that his lies have been revealed for what they are, we are one big step closer to dispelling the fog that has long hung over the 2016 presidential campaign.

Thanks to The New York Times, we know that in June of 2016, the president’s eldest son, along with Trump campaign chairman Paul Manafort and Trump son-in-law Jared Kushner, met with Russian attorney Natalia Veselnitskaya, who Donald Jr. was told had information from the Russian government meant to help Donald Trump’s presidential campaign.

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No, this is not an impeachment-precipitating, administration-ending revelation. In and of itself, it doesn’t prove collusion between the Trump campaign and the Russian government.

But it certainly demonstrates a willingness to collude. Further, it shows that the many denials, offered by people from Trump himself to Mike Pence to any number of lesser lights that there were no contacts between the Trump inner circle and Russians were not true.

Are they lies? Well, to redeploy a well-known phrase from Watergate, that depends on what Trump and Pence knew and when they knew it. It is not a lie to say something false if, at the time, you believe it to be true.

Nor, frankly, is it a crime to lie to reporters or voters. Dishonesty is only a legal problem when you are under oath and thus sworn to tell the truth — a reality for which the president and his underlings should daily be thankful. Still, it’s obviously a mark of shame and dishonor to be revealed as a liar. Or it used to be, anyway.

On that front, among the things that strain credulity is the White House’s assertion that President Trump only learned about the meeting in the last few days. This, after all, wasn’t a meeting involving a couple of low-level campaign flunkies. It was the president’s eldest son, his son-in-law (now a key White House aide), and his then-campaign chairman. And the outreach came from a British public-relations specialist known to both Donald Jr. and his father.

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A second: Donald Trump Jr.’s initial assertion to The New York Times that he hadn’t told Manafort and Kushner the purpose of the meeting. He apparently did forward the entire e-mail thread to them. It’s possible they didn’t read it, but if not, why did they attend?

In his meeting-arranging e-mail to Donald Jr., publicist Rob Goldstone wrote that Emin, a Russian pop star whose father has close ties to Russian President Vladimir Putin, “just called and asked me to contact you with something very interesting. The Crown prosecutor of Russia met with his father Aras this morning and in their meeting offered to provide the Trump campaign with some official documents and information that would incriminate Hillary and her dealings with Russia and would be very useful to your father.”

The e-mail continues: “This is obviously very high level and sensitive information but is part of Russia and its government support for Mr. Trump — helped along by Aras and Emin.”

Now, someone more ethical or prudent would have rejected out of hand the notion of meeting with a lawyer supposedly tied to the Kremlin and ready to deliver dirt on an opponent.

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Donald Trump Jr.’s response? “If it’s what you say, I love it especially later in the summer.”

For all but the most pugnacious and purblind of Trump partisans, that should put the administration’s complaints about a so-called witch hunt and accusations about fake news in proper perspective. That’s manufactured outrage designed to deflect — and to discredit — the mainstream media, which is steadily ferreting out a story that Team Trump doesn’t want known.

Let’s be thankful, again, that we have a special counsel investigating all this.


Scot Lehigh can be reached at lehigh@globe.com. Follow him on Twitter @GlobeScotLehigh.