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A FIRST

According to this New York Times story, last June Donald Trump Jr., presidential son-in-law Jared Kushner and then-campaign chair Paul Manafort met with a Kremlin-linked Russian lawyer who claimed to have damaging information about Hillary Clinton. The key take-away from the article: “The accounts of the meeting represent the first public indication that at least some in the campaign were willing to accept Russian help.”

A TANGLED WEB

The article and related reporting goes on to make matters murkier and potentially more incriminating. Trump Jr.’s inconsistent responses have flowed from first insisting that the meeting was mainly about adoptions to later, after the Times story appeared, asserting that he was fooled into seeing the lawyer because she claimed she had dirt on the Democrats and Hillary. According to Junior, that claim was a Russian ruse, for after briefly offering some nonsensical accusations against Clinton, she moved on to her  real agenda: lobbying against a U.S. law that blacklists certain corrupt Russian officials implicated in human rights abuses, a law that has triggered Putin’s retaliation of barring Americans from adopting Russian kids.

And now, President Trump’s attorney is accusing the Democrats of masterminding the meeting.

ODDER AND ODDER

Even taking Junior’s claim at face value, there are some troubling and odd aspects of this complicated development:

The very existence of the meeting was not revealed until the Times first wrote an earlier story about it on Saturday, at which time Junior initially denied it had anything to do with the campaign.

 

Even if Junior was misled into the meeting on the basis of it supposedly offering ways to sully Hillary – in and of itself, simply the kind of thing political campaigns value – why did he take it with someone possibly working for the Russian government?

 

As a reflection of the Trumpian “new normal,” even Junior’s version of the encounter had him, Kushner and Manafort chatting with an advocate for corrupt human rights abusers.

 

Junior’s current claim is that he asked Kushner and Manafort to attend the meeting, but did not tell them what it was about. Especially given Manafort’s close connections with pro-Russian interests and attempts to cultivate Putin…sure.

 

The article also notes that Prevezon Holdings, a Kremlin-linked company owned by one of the Russian lawyer’s clients, had paid a fine in a U.S. Justice Department case involving massive money laundering. Perhaps just a coincidence, but this is the kind of activity Trump has been suspected of abetting via his real estate contacts and interests.

 

Maybe oddest of all – though admittedly, maybe totally unrelated – Prevezon had at one point hired the same consulting firm whose investigator, working for different clients last year, produced a controversial though as-yet largely unproven dossier of allegations against candidate Trump.

This story spins in so many different directions that it can make your head spin.

MOVING ON

Of course, according to President Trump, our two countries are putting all this unpleasantness behind us. So it’s time to move forward.

Back in the  real world of real consequences for one’s actions, Special Counsel Robert Mueller is still just starting to investigate possible Trump campaign collusion with the Russians in undermining our democracy. This story could turn into one small hole in the wall shielding the Trump family’s interests and activities from accountability.

 

 

 

 

Based in Oakland, California, Stephen Golub writes, consults and teaches about international development, with a particular focus on justice, democracy, human rights and governance issues. Currently teaching part-time at Central European University in Budapest and previously at the University of California at Berkeley, he has worked in over 40 countries and with such organizations as Amnesty International, the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, the Ford and Open Society Foundations, the U.K. Department for International Development, the U.N. Development Program and the World Bank

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