Reports were blistering Tuesday as a flurry of seemingly damning evidence linked the Trump campaign to Russian officlals looking to collude and influence the 2016 election.
This week, none other than Maine GOP Senator (and possible 2018 gubernatorial candidate) Susan Collins has called on Donald Trump Jr. to testify before the Senate Intelligence Committee in light of ongoing reports that the President's eldest son met with a Russian lawyer with close ties to the Kremlin in June of 2016, with the understanding that he would be receiving compromising information on Secretary Hillary Clinton during the election.
According to reports, the June 3 email to Donald Trump Jr. came from Rob Goldstone, one of his father's former business contacts in Russia, who had been been contacted by a Russian government official and was offering compromising material.
The documents offered by the Russian officials “would incriminate Hillary and her dealings with Russia and would be very useful to your father,” read the email from Trump's business associate Rob Goldstone, according to a report in the New York Times. It added, “This is obviously very high level and sensitive information but is part of Russia and its government’s support for Mr. Trump.”
Donald Trump Jr.'s reply came within minutes, reading: "If it's what you say I love it especially later in the summer."
Additional reports from the Times went on to report that a meeting occurred on June 9 between Trump Jr., Jared Kushner, and campaign chair Paul Manafort in the Trump Tower office of Donald Trump Jr.
In an article published Tuesday by the media site Vox, Matthew Yglesias writes that the most alarming line of the email exchange referred to the Russian government's support for Mr. Trump. "Trump Jr. does not even seem slightly confused by this reference," writes Yglesias. "Goldstone says he wants to set up a meeting that is part of the Russian government’s support for Trump’s campaign, and he simply takes it in stride, the way anyone takes in stride any reference to an ongoing thing that they are aware of."
"This is the first time that the public has seen clear evidence of senior-level members of the Trump campaign meeting with Russians to try to obtain information that might hurt the campaign of Hillary Clinton," Senate Intelligence Committee ranking member Mark Warner, DVa., told reporters Tuesday.
On Monday, Colin Woodard of the Portland Press Herald reported that Senator Collins is calling for Donald Trump Jr., Jared Kushner, and former campaign chair Paul Manafort to testify before the Senate Intelligence Committee. “I certainly believe that our Intelligence Committee needs to interview him and others who attended the meeting,” Collins told reporters in Washington Monday afternoon. Collins is one of 15 senators currently serving on the Senate Intelligence Committee, a group that also includes Maine Senator Angus King, an Independent who caucuses with the Democrats. She is the first Republican senator to call for Trump Jr. to testify, which would tip the balance in the committee to 8-7, presuming all Democrats vote alongside her.
On Monday, a spokesperson for Donald Trump's personal lawyer released a statement to the Guardian regarding the meeting between his son and Natalia Veselnitskaya, the Russian lawyer with ties to Vladimir Putin and the Kremlin, reading simply: "The President was not aware of and did not attend the meeting."
On Tuesday, Donald Trump Jr. released the entire email chain with Rob Goldstone about the Russian meetings. President Trump released a statement Tuesday about the proceedings via White House deputy press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders. "My son is a high-quality person and I applaud his transparency."
In July 2016, a month after he was offered compromising information on Clinton, Trump Jr. rejected claims of a Russian effort to boost the Trump campaign in an interview on CNN. "This just goes to show you their exact moral compass. I mean, they will say anything to be able to win this," Trump Jr. told CNN's Jake Tapper. "It's disgusting. It's so phony."
Later, Trump Jr added: "If Republicans did that it would be disgusting and that's what you're going to see in a Clinton administration. They should be ashamed of themselves. And again, if we did that, if the RNC did that, if my father's campaign did that they'd be calling for people to get the electric chair."
Last week, White House Chief of Staff Reince Preibus called the Trump Jr. emails “a giant nothingburger.”
In June, it was reported that Manafort had failed to disclose $17m in funds given to his consulting firm over two years by a Ukranian political party connected to the Kremlin. In February 16 of this year, Donald Trump was asked in a press conference if anyone from his campaign had had connections with Russia during 2016. The exchange is printed in full on this page. Right over there, actually.
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