It has always baffled me how it is that, when huge news stories break, inevitably the most important aspects get lost amidst the chaos. It sure seems that happened this week with the ever-evolving scandal involving people on Trump campaign’s meeting with representatives of Russia seeking to help them beat Hillary Clinton.
Bubbling just beneath the surface of this potentially volcanic development is the issue of whether President Trump himself was aware of, and therefore at least effectively approved, the meeting. The White House and Trump himself have insisted (for the most part) that then-candidate Trump had no knowledge of, and therefore no culpability for it.
While there has been some beating around the bush, the news media has largely accepted this story, at least for now. However, in my view, we already have more than enough information to come to a logical assessment of this issue.
The bottom line is: President Trump totally knew about the meeting, and everyone is lying about this. The weirdest part is I think pretty much everyone in the media already knows this, but is hesitant to go that far for fear of appearing to pile on too quickly, or being accused of “Fake News!”
When assessing this question, the first element to consider is the nature of the Trump organization and the personality of Trump himself. Neither is remotely known for valuing rules, procedure, formalities, or discipline. This is a man who, even as president, routinely tweets at all hours of the night, on sensitive topics, all based on information often as suspect as “people are saying.” He is also a notorious control freak.
Keep in mind, in June 2016, Trump wasn’t even officially the GOP nominee yet and was still running a renegade, seat-of-your pants, live day-to-day campaign which centered completely on him. So, on its face, the idea of a meeting of this magnitude being taken in Trump Tower, with the three top people in Trump’s orbit (all of whom would be taking a massive risk by participating without the approval of the boss), and him not knowing about it, is completely absurd.
Just think about what Trump’s ignorance would entail. Donald Jr. gets an email from a guy his father knows well telling him (in an almost comically overt fashion) that the Russian government wants to help him win and they have dirt on Hillary Clinton. Right there, in the real world, there is NO chance that Don Jr. doesn’t immediately run to Dad’s office and say, “Dad, holy crap, the Russians want to set up a meeting to help us!”
Remember, by this point Trump had already, bizarrely, publicly expressed his admiration for Putin (a man much richer and more powerful than Trump will ever be) several times. Meanwhile, the campaign is very short on resources and a decided underdog against Hillary. Don Jr. not telling his father that effectively Putin “really likes” him is about as likely as him spiking an email from Tiger Woods offering golf lessons or from a Victoria’s Secret model wanting a meeting to discuss doing a photo shoot for “MAGA” swag.
Even the Trump Team’s defense of the meeting exposes the utter ridiculousness of Trump not knowing about it. Both the president and Don Jr. have said that it was a good idea, at least at the time, to take the meeting. Well, if it was a good idea, and there was nothing nefarious going on, then why in the world would you remotely hesitate to tell your father/candidate about it? And “Hey, by the way, the Russians want to help us win and have dirt on Hillary” never came up in conversation with Trump and any of his three top advisors?!
Do rational people seriously believe this?!
But it isn’t just common sense that tells us Trump had to know about the meeting. Trump teased a forthcoming speech on negative Hillary information just after Don Jr. got his “Hillary dirt” email and confirmed the meeting. He also “coincidently” tweeted about Hillary’s emails just after the meeting had ended and, oh by the way, it appears that Trump was IN THE BUILDING when this all took place!
This is basically the equivalent of O.J. Simpson admitting that he was at the crime scene when the killings took place, he just didn’t know anything about what happened.
Then, of course, there is the issue of Don Jr.’s many lies about the nature of the meeting. If there was nothing immoral/illegal going on here, then why lie about it on multiple occasions in such an obvious fashion? Why do we keep finding out that his claims, like the implausible idea that no information was actually provided (that many people would not put their credibility with Trump on the line and arrive totally empty handed), are apparently false?
In fact, everything about the way the Trump Team has handled this situation is FAR more consistent with a cover-up, though admittedly a horribly executed one, than with simply just some bumbling misunderstanding fostered by a political neophyte. Many of their “explanations,” like using the Secret Service as cover, and planning to go after reporters who cover the story, smack of pure desperation and guilt. The state-run “conservative” media conspiracy theory that this was all a Democratic set up is just insane (so then why didn’t they leak it during the campaign?!).
Occam’s Razor is basically screaming at us that Trump knew about the meeting and that there is more to the story than even what we currently know.
To be clear, I still don’t know for sure that there was actually “collusion” between Trump and Russia, but at this point it is very hard to argue rationally that there isn’t a good chance that actually did happen. Far more importantly, it seems rather clear that Trump’s actions towards Russia/Putin are 100% consistent with him being effectively compromised by them, which is what all parties should be really focused on at this point.
I believe that eventually it will be accepted, at least by non-Trump Cult members, that the president knew about the meeting (he has already slightly opened the door to that result himself). However, as the Trump Team continues to move the goalposts, I’m sure by the time that happens there will be little or no impact to that revelation. You see, when everyone already assumes you are a pathological liar, being exposed in a lie, even one as significant as this, is no big deal.
Good job, everyone.
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.
[image via JStone / Shutterstock.com]
This is an opinion piece. The views expressed in this article are those of just the author.