Until Donald Trump Jr. was all but forced to release an email exchange detailing how badly he wanted Russian-flavored “opposition research” on Hillary Clinton, the White House and those closest to his father insisted that the outrage from Democrats and never-Trumpers was a lot of fuss over nothing. After all, the meeting was a “nothing burger,” and the Trump camp didn’t really get anything of value.
However, there’s yet another sign that there really was something in that burger. It turns out that just after Donald Jr., Jared Kushner, and Paul Manafort met with a pro-Kremlin lawyer at Trump Tower, pro-Russian hackers released a slew of documents that sound a lot like what was reportedly offered to the Trump camp.
HuffPost discovered that just nine days after the meeting, the pro-Kremlin hacking entity Guccifer 2.0 unveiled a trove of documents that he claimed to have been culled from a Democratic National Committee server. At the time, he claimed this stash contained “financial reports, donors lists and their detailed personal information.”
Now what does this have to do with the meeting between the three Trump advisers and Russian lawyer Natalia Veselnitskaya? Well, one of the people who was on hand for the meeting, former Soviet Army counterintelligence specialist and current lobbyist Rinat Akhmetshin, claimed that Veselnitskaya was working from a document supposedly detailing “bad money” flowing into DNC coffers. Veselnitskaya reportedly left the documents in Trump Tower after the meeting broke up.
So we have yet another $64,000 question in this saga. Were the documents Veselnitskaya reportedly provided among the “tons of files and docs” Guccifer uploaded more than a week after the meeting? This is important to consider, since the American intelligence community fingered Guccifer as one of the intermediaries that Russian military intelligence used to funnel information to WikiLeaks. If Veselnitskaya was working from those documents, it would strongly suggest that Russian intelligence also had a pipeline to the Trump campaign as well.
Just before HuffPost went to press with this new development, CIA officer Rolf Mowatt-Larssen suggested in an op-ed for The Washington Post that the run-up to the Trump Tower meeting sounded a lot like something Russian intelligence would do. He thought it bore all the earmarks of an effort to feel out the Trump campaign’s receptiveness to an offer for help from the Kremlin. To his mind, the Trump campaign’s willingness to meet with Veselnitskaya, as well as its failure to report it to the FBI, may have been “the green light” for Russia to ramp up its effort to hack the election.
NBC national security reporter Ken Dilanian agreed, telling MSNBC’s Brian Williams on Friday night that the mere fact Donald Jr. agreed to the meeting was a sign that the campaign was willing to play ball with the Kremlin. Watch here.
This by itself would be enough to make this meeting problematic in the extreme. But if it turns out that Donald Jr. was offered the same information that was ultimately blasted out by Guccifer, it’s going to be even harder for him to talk his way out of this situation.
(featured image courtesy Max Goldberg, available under a Creative Commons BY-SA license)