From the moment we first learned the details of the now infamous mid-2016 meeting at Trump Tower between the top brass of the Trump campaign and apparent representatives of Russia, it was obvious to thinking people that President Donald Trump was lying when he claimed not know about it at the time. With today’s release of the transcript of Donald Trump Jr.’s testimony to the Senate, that is now the only remotely logical conclusion to which anyone not brainwashed as a member of Trump’s “Cult 45” can come.
Don Jr.’s remarkable inability to remember hardly anything about what would seem like a pretty darn memorable development—the fact that Russia was expressing interest in helping provide dirt on Hillary Clinton—has already been rightly and roundly mocked. But the overall absurdity of the Trump family story here has not, to my knowledge, been fully explored.
In short, their narrative is both nonsensical and inherently contradictory.
The best I can tell, it goes something like this: Don Jr., Paul Manafort, and Jared Kushner all took time out of their busy schedules, while preparing for an unexpected presidential general election campaign, for a meeting at Trump Tower, with agents of Russia, to possibly get valuable information about their opponent, but the meeting was a dud, nothing else important ever happened, their candidate was never told about it, Don Jr., out of embarrassment, lied about all of it, multiple times, and then the candidate helped craft Don Jr.’s explanation for his lies through their loyal aide Hope Hicks, but Don Jr. doesn’t remember many of details of the whole ordeal.
Even without knowing any other facts, this storyline is blatantly ridiculous. But when you understand the full context, it becomes very clear that this is nothing short of a fantasy concocted to hide some large wrongdoing.
The first thing you need to understand is that Donald Trump, a notorious control freak, was in Trump Tower that day and even tweeted about Hillary Clinton soon after the meeting in a way totally consistent with having been told about the meeting. In the real world, Don Jr. not being extremely eager to keep his father in the loop on every detail of a meeting as exciting as this one is even more unlikely than him not telling his father that a famous Playboy Playmate wants to play golf alone with him.
Then, add to this the fact that Donald Trump has been fascinated for years with all things Russia, that he knew some of the people involved in the meeting through the 2013 Miss Universe pageant in Russia, and that he was desperate for anything that could help him attack Hillary Clinton. All of this would have made it impossible for Don Jr. to not have told his father. Not just because he was passing on a chance to be a hero to his dad, but also because he would have surely faced his wrath if he had unilaterally decided to keep him in the dark (much like if he had never told him about the Playboy Playmate golfing offer).
Yes, in a rational world, you could theorize that Don Jr. wanted to protect his father by keeping him ignorant of the whole thing, but this simply does not square with what we know about President Trump, or with the rest of Don Jr.’s story. Trump, as his mob-like dealings with Michael Cohen have consistently shown, has absolutely no problem with being in contact with things that could be hazardous to him.
If Don Jr. really thought that this was something he needed to keep away from his father for legal or ethical reasons (LOL), then obviously he knew this was an extremely serious and perilous matter. If this was really such a big deal that he made the very precarious decision to keep it to himself (even though Manafort and Kushner were also there) then there is simply no chance that he would fail to remember large chunks of what happened. It is also important to note that, if his father really knew nothing of the meeting, and it was Don Jr.’s intent to keep him away from it at all costs, then it makes no sense for his father to be involved at all in the writing of a statement explaining it.
In short, Don Jr.’s story tries, and fails, to have it both ways in multiple areas. If there was nothing “wrong” with taking the meeting, then why all the lies, and why NOT tell your father about it? If nothing else, it is a truly great story. Also, if this meeting wasn’t a problem, why did his father advise on Don Jr.’s statement through Hicks, rather than directly? This isn’t just his son we are talking about, it is his namesake!
What’s working most for the Trumps here is that all of this takes at least a little bit of thought to make it clear just how audacious and potentially significant the lies are and that all of this is, frighteningly, is now seen as “old news.” We are all now dangerously desensitized to the Trump madness. The masses have far more important matter to concern themselves with, like what a former gameshow model will wear at her royal wedding on Saturday, and whether that audio really sounds like “Yanny” or “Laurel.”
John Ziegler hosts a weekly podcast focusing on news media issues and is documentary filmmaker. You can follow him on Twitter at @ZigManFreud or email him at firstname.lastname@example.org
This is an opinion piece. The views expressed in this article are those of just the author.