Thursday, May 9, 2019

What did Donald Trump do today?

He said he was "surprised" that his son was being called back to explain his testimony before the Republican-controlled Senate.

In news that broke yesterday, Donald Trump, Jr., was subpoenaed to testify once again before the Republican-controlled Senate Intelligence Committee. Trump Jr.'s previous testimony about the infamous Trump Tower meeting with Russian agents peddling "dirt" on Hillary Clinton, and the Trump family's attempts to build a luxury high-rise in Moscow during the 2016 campaign, is contradicted by other witnesses

And while it's not illegal to lie to the American public in a press release, as Trump Sr. did in crafting his family's response to the unfolding scandal, it is illegal to lie in testimony to Congress.

Asked about it today, Trump Sr. said this:

Q: Mr. President, as you saw, the Senate Intelligence Committee has subpoenaed Don, Jr. That’s the Republican-led Senate Intelligence Committee. What do you make of that? 
TRUMP: Well, I was very surprised. I saw Richard Burr saying there was no collusion two or three weeks ago. He went outside and somebody asked him. “No, there’s no collusion. We found no collusion.” But I was very surprised to see my son. My son is a very good person, works very hard.

...He’s now testified for twenty hours or something. A massive amount of time. The Mueller report came out. That’s the bible. The Mueller report came out and they said he did nothing wrong. The only thing is it’s oppo-research.

There are a few lies here. First, Donald Jr. did not testify for "twenty hours" to Mueller's team, because he completely refused to cooperate at all.

The Mueller report—or at least the portions left unredacted by Trump's hand-picked attorney general—does not say that Trump Jr. "did nothing wrong." The closest it comes is to say that prosecuting Trump Jr. for his apparent violation of federal laws prohibiting foreign election tampering would be challenging, because Trump Jr. could plausibly claim he was too ignorant of those laws to form the requisite criminal intent.

Trump Jr.'s name appears 153 times in the visible portions of the report. Here is some of what it does say in the portions that Trump has allowed Congress and the public to see so far:

  • that Trump Jr. participated in the Trump Tower meeting with agents of the Russian government, which immediately precipitated more Russian cyberattacks on Trump Sr.'s political enemies:

  • that Trump Jr. helped publicize Russian propaganda created by the now-indicted Russian "Internet Research Agency" to help Trump Sr. win the election

  • that Trump Jr. had repeated secret interactions with Wikileaks, the site that the Russian government was using to disseminate propaganda and stolen information

  • that Trump Jr. tried to bargain for "dirt" on Clinton at the Trump Tower meeting in exchange for Russia's influence over policy after the election

  • that Trump Jr.'s actions regarding the Trump Tower meeting, on their face, violated federal laws against foreign election tampering

  • that Trump Sr. actively involved himself in a disinformation campaign about the Trump Tower meeting in an attempt to protect his son and himself from criminal exposure

  • that Trump Sr.'s attempts to deceive the public about what had happened at the Trump Tower meeting made even Trump Jr. uncomfortable

One part of Trump Sr.'s statement rings true, however: he very likely was genuinely surprised that Republican senators would allow any investigation into him, his campaign, or his family.

Why should I care about this?

  • Presidents are not above the law, and neither are their family members.
  • It's wrong to lie, even if it's to protect an adult child suspected of criminal activity.