“I would have done things a little differently”
That understatement came from Donald Trump Jr. Tuesday night during his big sit-down interview with Sean Hannity. He was speaking to the Fox News host just hours after he released damaging emails that showcased his willingness to meet with a Russian lawyer during #Campaign2016 to gain some dirt on Hillary Clinton.
The email dump — which Trump Jr. released right before The New York Times published them — show that members of Trump's campaign were glad to meet with someone they'd been told was connected to the Russian government and who promised damaging information on Hillary Clinton, undercutting President Trump’s main line of defense in the inquiry into Russian election meddling.
President Trump praised his “high quality” oldest son Wednesday morning for being “open, transparent and innocent.” But Trump Jr. has been anything but.
The slow reveal of this story, which the Times started publishing since July 8, has been a lesson on political lies and spin. The New York Times first reported over the weekend that Trump Jr. had met with Russian lawyer Natalia Veselnitskaya during the 2016 campaign and Trump Jr. initially said he took the meeting to discuss adoption policy.
Follow-up reporting indicates that Trump Jr. was offered “very high level and sensitive information but is part of Russia and its government’s support for Mr. Trump,“ according to the emails.
But Trump Jr. explained to Hannity that his judgement was influenced by the campaign whirlwinds: ”Again this is before the Russia mania, this is before they were building this up in the press. For me this was opposition research, they had something you know maybe concrete evidence to all the stories I’d been hearing about.“
And on whether he told his father about the meeting: “No. It was just a nothing. There was nothing to tell,” Trump Jr. said. “I mean, I wouldn't have even remembered it until you started scouring through this stuff. It was literally just a wasted 20 minutes, which was a shame.”
To many in Washington, all this reads as utter incompetence — another reminder why Trump Jr. was nicknamed after The Godfather’s Fredo Corleone during the campaign. His lack of political experience and savvy was often seen as a hindrance.
But for Trump Jr. to take that meeting with Veselnitskaya, and also pull in then-campaign manager Paul Manafort and brother-in-law Jared Kushner, he has moved the needle from just plain incompetence to possible violation of campaign laws.
And there is no “nothing” about that.