Thursday, July 20, 2017

I'm Still Not Getting It

Yesterday, on the news commentary -- I suspect that all TV news is commentary anymore -- I heard an otherwise reasonable commentator talking about the meeting that Donald Trump Jr., a private citizen, was a part of a year ago.

You know the one, set up by a business associate of one or more of the Trump organization through their Miss Universe pageants, and somehow connected to the people who commissioned the phony dossier on President Trump.  It had 7-8 people or so in it, including the younger Trump, as well as Paul Manafort, the former campaign chairman and Jared Kushner, the now-President Trump's son-in-law.

I'm trying to get why this meeting is of any interest whatsoever.  The scandal, according to this commentator, was because there was misinformation -- the number of people at the meeting, the fact that the younger Trump had originally neglected to include it on disclosure documents as far as interaction with foreigners.  That was just, oh so terrible, as the details of the meeting took a while to get out.

Now, let's see.  As Donald Jr. pointed out at the time, the meeting was on fairly short notice, and was taken on the expectation of there being available adverse information regarding Hillary Clinton that would help the Trump campaign.  When the existence of the meeting broke, he quickly published the emails relating to the meeting's origin, which indicated that it was to be about adverse information and that it was coming from a Russian.  In fairness, the emails did suggest that the person (the Russian lawyer) was connected to the Russian government, although the relevance -- and ultimate accuracy -- of that is in question.

So the worst thing that we can deduce is that Donald Jr., a non-politician and private citizen helping out in his first-ever campaign, should have decided that information potentially from a foreign government was not appropriate to set up a meeting about.  Certainly after the stories in the last year, no one except Hillary Clinton would have taken that meeting (given that her people did take such a meeting with Ukrainian operatives wanting to help her campaign, and this wasn't her first rodeo, I think it's fair to say that).

So are the media simply trying to make anything they can about this story?  I mean, let's unpack it a bit.  A businessman leveraged his business acquaintanceship with the Trump organization to set a meeting up for a Russian lawyer who claimed (or was portrayed) to work with the Russian government.  She was supposed to have adverse information on Hillary.  Donald Jr. expressed his happiness at that prospect and accepted the meeting, bringing Manafort and Kushner.

The lawyer and a few other Russians were there.  No adverse information was provided, and the Russians swiftly moved the topic to fixing a law that prevented adoptions of children from Russia, whereupon Kushner and Manafort just left, and Donald Jr. shortly followed.

No information on Hillary.  No intent to provide any, and the Trump people all left.

Outcome:  Nothing happened. 

So what am I missing?  Obviously there was nothing criminal, as neither what we know happened nor what the left is trying to say happened is a crime, high or low.  If the younger Trump has parceled out information (the accusation of the left as they struggle to make something out of this), it is more likely than not that, in his mind, the meeting was so much "nothing" in the midst of a campaign full of meetings that he just initially went back to his notes and emails, none of which mentioned extra Russians.

Moreover, he is sufficiently virginal in politics -- and let's remember that he is even now not in politics -- that he failed to anticipate the aims of an opposition that will not allow itself to be proven wrong without looking for something else.  He clearly thought that releasing the emails immediately was the right thing to do (which it was).

But now we're left with ... well, that's the title of this piece: I'm still not getting it.  What is the crime?  What, other than taking the meeting in the first place without foreseeing that a year later meeting with Russians, even about adoption, would be a capital offense, did anyone do wrong?  There was no content to the meeting!

I have got to find substantive topics; this one eludes me.

Copyright 2017 by Robert Sutton
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