Earl Ofari Hutchinson
Donald Trump Jr.’s oft-cited gleeful quote in an email., “if it’s what you say I love it especially later in the summer” now looms larger than ever after Trump legal fixer Michael Cohen’s claim that Trump knew about the much-mentioned meeting Trump Jr. had with a pack of Russian officials, businessmen, lobbyists, and other operatives at Trump Tower on June 9, 2016. The “it’s” was spewing out dirty stuff on Hillary Clinton. This could point to the smoking gun proof that’s needed to nail Trump on collusion in the Russia hacking, meddling, and sabotage of the 2016 presidential election. Every time the question has been tossed at Don Jr., and the others at the meeting, they vehemently deny that anything about Clinton was discussed.
The other potential tie-in to the Trump Tower meeting and the collusion claim is the memo released in February 2018, by ranking Democratic House Intelligence Committee member, Adam Schiff. He noted that Trump publicly demanded that Russia release the emails it stole from the Clinton campaign in a speech on July 31, 2016
“By the way, they hacked — they probably have her 33,000 emails,” he said, referring to emails that were on Clinton’s private email server, “I hope they do,” said Trump. They did and that added to the emails that WikiLeaks splattered over the media landscape days before he made the call for Russia to publicly dump out the emails to the public that were stolen from the Democratic National Committee. The hacked Democratic National Committee emails, illicit ways to use social media to torpedo Clinton, and even future policy deals with Russia were almost certainly discussed at the meeting. Yet, Trump Jr. and the other participants at the meeting loudly deny, deny, deny
Trump followed the set-piece denial script of any knowledge of dirty dealing with the Russians to the letter when he instantly shot back that Cohen was a liar in a series of tweets. “(No,) I did NOT know of the meeting with my son, Don jr.” “Sounds to me like someone is trying to make up stories in order to get himself out of an unrelated jam (Taxi cabs maybe?).”
Cohen’s claim of collusion and Trump’s denials still brings things back to Trump. If the meeting was such a dud as his son claimed, then why did he rush to put out the ludicrous line that the meeting was solely about Russian adoption policy. If that was really true, why meet at Trump Tower with Russians who had not the remotest connection to family issues.
Then there is the he said-she said charge and denial by the former member of Trump’s legal team, Mark Corallo, and Trump’s Communication Director, Hope Hicks. She was on the plane with Trump heading back from the G-20 Summit in Germany. Corallo claimed that she told him in a phone call that the emails between Trump Jr. and the Russian operatives pertaining to the meeting would “never get out.” Hicks resigned her post in February 2018, and hotly denied that she had ever said anything of the sort. However, in testimony before the House Intelligence Committee the same month, she did admit to telling “white lies” for Trump.
The GOP controlled House committee, as was its disturbing pattern, quickly wrapped their protective shield around her. They didn’t press her on her admitted lying and whether that lying spilled over into Trump’s Russia dealings. The Democrats on the Committee protested the velvet glove treatment of her on Russia and the Trump Tower meeting, but to no avail.
There was also the question of why Trump’s campaign manager, Manafort, was at such a meeting at Trump Tower? This is the most compelling question for Mueller. This might be the key to unraveling the mystery.
Manafort is under indictment on money laundering, tax-fraud, and violations of the Foreign Agents Registration Act, and if convicted faced a long prison stretch: up to 305 years, if convicted on all counts and slapped with the maximum sentence. This is heavy duty stuff and certainly more than enough incentive, if he so choses, to cooperate with Mueller in the investigation. One of the prices for his cooperation is that he come clean on what exactly did happen at the June meeting. Manafort took notes on the meeting on his iPhone. He turned them over to the Senate Intelligence Committee at the time he appeared before the committee to testify in July 2017.
There is also the dangling question of whether there were other meetings or contacts between Trump campaign officials, Trump family members, and Russian operatives. The fact is that days after the meeting there was another flood of hacked DNC emails about Clinton, all negative stuff.
Cohen’s claim that Trump knew about the meeting with the Russians makes sense; a meeting that had only one purpose and that was to damage Clinton. The meeting stands as one of the heaviest clouds that hover over Trump and the 2016 presidential election. More than that, it keeps open the charge of Trump and collusion.
Earl Ofari Hutchinson is an author and political analyst. He is the author of the forthcoming Why Black Lives Do Matter (Middle Passage Press). He is a weekly co-host of the Al Sharpton Show on Radio One. He is the host of the weekly Hutchinson Report on KPFK 90.7 FM Los Angeles and the Pacifica Network.