Browsing the blog archivesfor the day Tuesday, June 5th, 2018.


Getting Their Stories Straight

Trump Maladministration

Not that they’re doing a good job of keeping their stories straight, as the stories tend to devolve from “that didn’t happen” to “well, it happened, but it’s not what you think” to “okay, maybe it’s what you think, but it wasn’t illegal” to “HILLARY’S EMAILS, DAMMIT.” Even so, before we get around to wallowing in schadenfreude about Manafort’s possibly getting his bail revoked any minute now, let us consider what appears to be one hell of a coincidence about the stories.

This relates to the infamous Trump Tower meeting of June 2016. One of the tidbits we learned from the letter from Trump’s lawyers to Bob Mueller that was leaked to the New York Times is that yeah, okay, the statement released in Donald Junior’s name that the meeting was really about Russian adoptions had been dictated by Trump. They’d been denying it for months, even though everybody pretty much knew the statement was Senior’s and not Junior’s.

Now, here’s the coincidence.

In July 2017 Trump and Putin both attended the G20 Summit in Hamburg, Germany. Per Josh Marshall, on July 7, while Trump was en route to Germany, the New York Times contacted the White House for comments on a story it was preparing about the Trump Tower meeting (here’s the original story, dated July 8). The White House asked for some time to respond, since Trump was literally up in the air at the time. A conference call was arranged for the next day, but then the White House canceled. The Times then sent a list of questions to the White House, but I take it the White House didn’t respond.

This happened during the G20 meeting (you’ll probably remember this) on July 8, the day the Times‘s article came out. Josh Marshall:

During the day Trump had his first meeting as President (and apparently ever) with Vladimir Putin. They discussed various issues including U.S. charges of Russian interference in the 2016 election. As is normally the case, they were accompanied by key aides on both sides. But the two men met a second time that evening during a gala dinner for the heads of state at the summit. This meeting was unplanned and reportedly included only Trump, Putin and Putin’s translator. No Americans. (This left everyone gobsmacked last year. But it was before these other details and thus the full context of the meeting became clear.) There were different accounts of the meeting. The President later said it was only about 15 minutes. A senior White House officials told CNN it lasted as long as an hour. What did the two men talk about? Two weeks later, the President sat for an interview with The New York Times and said he and Putin talked about Russian adoptions.

Here’s the passage.

TRUMP: She was sitting next to Putin and somebody else, and that’s the way it is. So the meal was going, and toward dessert I went down just to say hello to Melania, and while I was there I said hello to Putin. Really, pleasantries more than anything else. It was not a long conversation, but it was, you know, could be 15 minutes. Just talked about — things. Actually, it was very interesting, we talked about adoption.

HABERMAN: You did?

TRUMP: We talked about Russian adoption. Yeah. I always found that interesting. Because, you know, he ended that years ago. And I actually talked about Russian adoption with him, which is interesting because it was a part of the conversation that Don [Jr., Mr. Trump’s son] had in that meeting. As I’ve said — most other people, you know, when they call up and say, “By the way, we have information on your opponent,” I think most politicians — I was just with a lot of people, they said [inaudible], “Who wouldn’t have taken a meeting like that?” They just said——

The “adoption” story may have pre-dated the dinner meeting, however, because this appeared in the Times’s original story:

In his statement, Donald Trump Jr. said: “It was a short introductory meeting. I asked Jared and Paul to stop by. We primarily discussed a program about the adoption of Russian children that was active and popular with American families years ago and was since ended by the Russian government, but it was not a campaign issue at the time and there was no follow up.”

He added: “I was asked to attend the meeting by an acquaintance, but was not told the name of the person I would be meeting with beforehand.”

Given that Hamburg is several hours ahead of the U.S. east coast, it’s hard to know which came first — the dinner meeting or the initial statement. In any event, one does wonder if Donald and Vlad were whispering to each other about keeping their stories straight.

Now I draw your attention to this handy dandy timeline from FactCheck.org. It tells us that by July 9 the Times was reporting that Junior had been “promised damaging information about Hillary Clinton before agreeing to meet with a Kremlin-connected Russian lawyer during the 2016 campaign.” And on July 11,

The New York Times reports that “the president signed off” on Donald Trump Jr.’s initial statement to the Times “that was so incomplete that it required day after day of follow-up statements.”

(See also Donald Trump Jr.’s evolving statements.)

If you keep going with the timeline, you see a series of media reports saying Trump dictated the response to Junior, and the White House — through lawyers and Sarah Sanders — denying this. But now the lawyers have admitted yeah, he dictated this. And the Trumpettes haven’t even bothered to stick to the Russian adoption story; the next version of the story was that yeah, they expected dirt on Hillary but the Russians didn’t dish any. So no collusion, see?

Anyway — the Manafort story is that Mueller has strong evidence that Manafort has been involved in witness tampering while out on bail, and he has asked a federal judge to revoke his bail. So stay tuned.

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