Donald Trump Jr.’s meeting a year ago in June with a Russian attorney who he believed was going to provide some dirt on Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton does not by itself – unfortunately for all those who are salivating in the hope of impeaching President Trump – prove that the campaign colluded with the Russians.
But it does prove quite a bit – none of it good for the president or his inner circle.
It proves that, previous declarations to the contrary, senior members of the Trump campaign – son, son-in-law and then-campaign manager – did meet with a Russian attorney in response to the suggestion that she, a representative of a hostile foreign power, could assist them.
It proves that Donald Jr. told multiple lies until confronted with evidence by the New York Times that would prove he was lying – at which point he suddenly decided to become “transparent” and tweet out the email thread that led to the meeting.
It turned out, apparently, that Natalia Veselnitskaya had no “opposition research” on Clinton to offer – thus there was technically no collusion.
But it is clear that Trump Jr. hoped there would be, which is significant. The conservative website National Review Online called it “disgraceful.”
Indeed. It was also profoundly stupid. No political pro would have agreed to such a meeting, and if he or she did, certainly wouldn’t have memorialized it with a digital “paper trail.”
So Trump Jr., the president and his flagging agenda deserve the heat they are getting – for attempted corruption and stupidity at a minimum.
All that said, it is still breathtaking to watch the combined power of the national media and the government “deep state” – otherwise known by the gentler label of “the intelligence community” – openly colluding to expose the lies of this administration.
Lying in any administration is, as they say, a “target-rich environment.” It is in the DNA of virtually all politicians, from presidents on down, along with the loyalists and sycophants they hire to “spin” their messages and protect their incumbency.
We’ve got as many – probably more – euphemisms for lying than Eskimos have for snow. Among them: Spin, loyalty, dissemble, prevaricate, fudge, misspeak, bad information, untruth, concoction, deception, falsehood, misrepresent, “inoperative” statements, fiction and, of course, the “alternative facts” recently coined by presidential adviser Kellyanne Conway.
In a modern American lifetime, some of the more famous have ranged from President Lyndon Johnson’s multiple lies (and those of his predecessors Truman, Eisenhower and Kennedy) about the Vietnam War; to Nixon’s “I’m not a crook” (as opposed to just crooked); to President Clinton’s declaration that “I did not have sex with that woman”; to President George W. Bush’s sales pitch for the Iraq war; to President Obama’s multiple lies on everything from his signature health care bill to his secret and illegal surveillance of American citizens to his laughable declaration that there was “not a smidgen of corruption” in his oversight of a toxic and ferociously corrupt Internal Revenue Service.
None of which excuses Trump Jr. But, while we’re in a lather over this, it should include some context.
Imagine, if Hillary Clinton had been elected president, if the vast powers of the national media and the deep state had focused on her with the same level of ferocity.
There would be a constant drip, drip of leaks about her efforts to hide her communications as secretary of state from Congress and the public.
There would be a vastly more rigorous investigation of the private server she set up to conduct government business in secret. There would be headlines nationwide about her selectively turning over only some of the subpoenaed emails – printed copies that could not be easily searched and from which metadata was eliminated.
There would be weeks of outrage on all the national news shows about her people using a program called BleachBit to render any data from other emails unrecoverable. There would be cries for investigations of obstruction of justice for that and for destroying other devices with data on them with a hammer.
Indeed, multiple cybersecurity experts have said that if the FBI and National Security Agency had really wanted those emails, they could have found them – that they probably have them – since that nothing in cyberspace is ever totally destroyed.
But they didn’t, or said they couldn’t, because it was Hillary Clinton. And while there was obviously some coverage of it, it was nothing like the blowtorch on Trump.
In short, if Chelsea Clinton, not Donald Jr., had met with representatives of a foreign government that promised to provide some dirt on Trump Sr., there would have been a few complaints about “bad optics” – you know, like there were when President Bill Clinton met with then-Attorney General Loretta Lynch right before Hillary was due to be interviewed by the FBI about her private server – but little else.
Same with the Clinton Foundation, which used legitimate charity work as a cloak for what was, to any marginally trained eye, a rampantly corrupt influence peddling system for foreign governments. It got marginal, spotty coverage.
Indeed, there was hardly a ripple of mainstream press coverage in January when the foundation essentially shut down, “a result of the gusher of foreign money that kept the foundation afloat suddenly drying up after Hillary Clinton failed to win the presidency,” as Investor’s Business Daily put it.
There is nothing wrong with the media aggressively exposing lies and corruption in the present administration. There is something very wrong with giving other administrations and candidates a pass because they’re from the “correct” party.
That is a major reason why even when they report real news, too many people think it’s fake.
Taylor Armerding is an independent columnist. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org