June 4, 2018


The Evidence That Trump and Putin Concocted a Cover Story for the Trump Tower Meeting (Martin Longman June 4, 2018, Washington Monthly)

Now, as I already mentioned, the Trump team knew that emails revealing all of these unsavory aspects of the meeting existed. Jared Kushner's lawyers had unearthed them at least three weeks prior and updated his security clearance application prompting a visit from the FBI. They also knew that the emails were responsive or would be responsive to both congressional inquiries and the investigation of the Special Counsel. And early on the morning of July 7, 2017 they were approached by reporters from the New York Times who apparently knew about the meeting but not about the emails.

As it happened, President Trump had a prescheduled meeting with Vladimir Putin at the G20 on July 7. He also had a second meeting that night that had not been scheduled. When this second meeting was revealed, it caused quite an uproar. For one, the White House did not volunteer that the second meeting had taken place. They also couldn't get their story straight about how long it lasted. Trump said it was "brief" but a senior White House official told CNN the discussion lasted "nearly an hour." No other American officials were present for the conversation which was a complete violation of protocol, yet Putin had a translator who facilitated the back-and-forth.

The official explanation was that Melania had been seated at dinner with Putin while Trump had been seated far away with the wife of Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe who did not speak any English. Growing bored, Trump decided to amble over to his wife. In other words, the president sat down to have a nearly hour long private conversation with Putin because Putin just happened to be seated with the First Lady.  All they did was exchange pleasantries.

Of course, since early that morning the entire Trump team had been scrambling and strategizing to figure how to respond to the Trump Tower meeting story they knew the New York Times was about to report. The subject was obviously on the president's mind, especially since it centered around his son. Did Trump discuss potential cover stories with Putin during their second meeting? Was that perhaps his real motivation in violating protocol and speaking privately with a foreign head of state with no American officials in tow to be witnesses?

Going back to that July 19, 2017 interview President Trump gave to the New York Times, you'll see something very interesting in retrospect.

TRUMP: [Melania] 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.

So, by his own admission,  the president joined Putin uninvited at the July 7 dinner and discussed Russian adoptions with him. On July 8, on Air Force One, he "dictated" the Russian adoption cover story despite protests from members of his family, legal team and other advisers.

While Hicks allegedly assured the group that the emails would never surface, causing the spokesman for the legal team to resign out of concern that she and Trump were obstructing justice, the New York Times told them they knew of their existence the very next day. And then they reported on that, too. Even worse, their sources were "three advisers to the White House briefed on the [Trump Tower] meeting and two others with knowledge of it."

By July 11, 2017, the Trump team realized that the New York Times had obtained actual copies of the emails and was preparing to publish them. To get ahead of that blockbuster story, Donald Jr. preemptively released the emails on his own in a series of tweets and did his best to rationalize and minimize them.

The next step was to try to protect the president. Trump insisted that he had no prior knowledge of the Trump Tower meeting and had only learned that it taken place at all a few days earlier.  But, of course, his lawyers had known for weeks and his son-in-law had been interviewed by the FBI about the matter on June 21.

By the end of the July, the Washington Post was reporting that the president was totally responsible for the adoption alibi.

The report said that President Trump had "overruled the consensus" of Trump Jr, Kushner, aides, and lawyers, who favored issuing "transparent" reports "because they believed the complete story would eventually emerge." The Post reported that Trump personally dictated, worked on, and released a version in Trump Jr's name with claims which "were later shown to be misleading". Some advisors reportedly feared "that the president's direct involvement leaves him needlessly vulnerable to allegations of a coverup."

In response to that article, White House Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders falsely declared on August 1, 2017 that Trump "certainly didn't dictate, but ... he weighed in, offered suggestion, like any father would do". Her statement is now directly contradicted by the letter Trump's own lawyers sent to Robert Mueller on January 29, 2018.

You have received all of the notes, communications and testimony indicating that the President dictated a short but accurate response to the New York Times article on behalf of his son, Donald Trump, Jr. His son then followed up by making a full public disclosure regarding the meeting, including his public testimony that there was nothing to the meeting and certainly no evidence of collusion.

There's much more to this story, including strong indications that Trump actually was aware of the Trump Tower meeting at the time. But for our purposes, here, we can skip over those facets of this scandal. I will instead summarize the evidence that Trump and Putin colluded on the adoption story.

Trump acknowledges that he had a conversation with Putin on the evening of July 7, 2017 where by his own design no American witnesses other than his wife were present. That entire day, his staff had been preoccupied with figuring out how to respond to an impending nightmare involving the president's son. Trump, by his own admission, says that he and Putin discussed the adoption issue, which was tied in Putin's mind to the Magnitsky Act. The president then proceeded to board Air Force One and dictate a partially false and wholly misleading statement over the strong objections of some family members and staff. The statement omitted all references to the Magnitsky Act, sanctions, or dirt on the Clintons and focused exclusively on the adoptions issue that he had just discussed with Putin. The president then lied about having dictated that response, although his lawyers have admitted to the Special Counsel that he was solely responsible for it.

Posted by at June 4, 2018 5:45 PM