All in the Family

(Door Hugo Kijne te Hoboken USA)

To me, the highlight of the week was Sean Hannity’s interview with Don Trump Jr.  At the time of the interview the White House’s story about possible collusion between the Trump campaign and Russia had evolved through the following stages: 1. There was no collusion; 2. There was a meeting on June 9, 2016 of Trump Jr., Jared Kushner and Paul Manafort with a Russian lawyer, but only the adoption of Russian children by American citizens was discussed (this version was concocted by Donald Trump Sr. on his flight back from the G20, after leaks from White House advisors had revealed that the meeting took place); 3. The Russian lawyer had gotten Trump Jr.’s attention via an intermediary, with the promise to provide information about Hillary Clinton’s campaign that would be useful to the Trumps, but at the meeting she could not deliver so it was almost immediately over.  The information that ‘dirt’ about Hillary Clinton had been promised had also been leaked to the press, and the New York Times got hold of the e-mails that were exchanged between Trump Jr. and the intermediary about setting up the meeting.  Preemptively Trump Jr. released the e-mails himself, exhibiting his eagerness to collude.  “I love it,” he wrote.

So there they were, Hannity, the junkyard dog of Fox News, and Don Jr., the Fredo of the Trump family.  Ignoring all the lies that up to that point had been told by the president and his spokespeople, they limited themselves to the meeting.  It all happened at the height of the campaign, said Jr., when things were moving so fast that you had barely time to think about something like that.  He might do it differently a second time, but probably everybody would have taken the meeting.  Ultimately it amounted to nothing, Jared left within ten minutes, Manafort only looked at his I-phone, and it wasn’t even important enough to tell Trump Sr. about it.  Hannity boiled over with understanding, sneered at the fake news media who had blown the story out of proportion, and had one last critical question, namely if Trump Jr. had been completely transparent. “This is everything,” was the answer, and Sean was more than satisfied, as was the president who later praised his ‘boy.’ And then something strange happened.  It turned out that a fifth person had been in the room, a former Russian counter-intelligence officer who is now a shady DC lobbyist, and that the lawyer had handed over a file with information about the Clinton campaign for Trump’s perusal.

So far Don Trump Jr. appears to be the leading character of these dramatic events, but he is only a pawn in Putin’s game and certainly not the brightest bulb on the porch.  The real star, or better, black hole, is his brother-in-law Jared Kushner, who failed to report the meeting on his security clearance application.  Other meetings Kushner ‘forgot’ to mention were with Sergey Gorkov, who runs a bank that is generally considered Putin’s foreign slush fund, and with Russian ambassador Kislyak, about setting up a secure backchannel with the Kremlin.

Kushner’s amnesia could land him in federal prison for five years, but his sky got even darker when former Deputy Assistant Secretary of Defense Michael Carpenter told McClatchy DC that the Russians could only have targeted American voters via social media as accurately as they did with domestic assistance, for instance from the digital network and database that Jared Kushner managed for the Trump campaign.

The House Intelligence Committee wants to interview Trump Jr., but they might as well leave that to Sean Hannity.  Kushner, who would never talk to Hannity, is the fish they, and Robert Mueller, should be after, because only he can answer the old familiar question: What did the president know, and when did he know it?

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