This past week the probe into Russia’s interference in the 2016 election became a slow motion car wreck that won’t stop. With each new revelation and lie associated with the Trump Jr./Russia meeting, the loyal conservative media stepped further away from the abyss created by the Trump family. The Republican Congress, who hold the keys to our fate, looked on in relative silence.
Last Sunday, The New York Times reported that during the Trump campaign, Trump business associates in Russia worked through a British publicist to set-up a meeting between Trump and a Kremlin-connected lawyer, Natalia Veselnitskaya.
When asked about the meeting, Trump Jr. said it dealt with adoption. He acknowledged that then-campaign chairman Paul Manafort and his brother-in-law Jared Kushner attended the meeting.
Trump modified his story when The Times pressed on the topic of receiving dirt on Hillary Clinton. He stated, Veselnitskaya was “vague, ambiguous and made no sense. No details or supporting information was provided or even offered. It quickly became clear that she had no meaningful information.”
Once that story was firmly in place, The Times asked Trump for a comment about the email string detailing the planning of the meeting. Trump quickly scooped The Times by tweeting the emails himself. He then modified his story about Manafort and Kushner not knowing what the meeting was about, since the email string showed that both men received copies.
The President then praised his son for transparency.
On Tuesday, Trump went on Fox News to clear up the facts. At the end of the interview anchor Sean Hannity asked, “This is all of it?”
“This is everything,” Trump reassured Hannity.
On Thursday, Charles Krauthammer, a political analyst for Fox News, declared the meeting collusion. Meanwhile, Trump Sr. blamed former Attorney General Loretta Lynch and the Obama administration for the meeting because they approved a visa for Veselnitskaya. He also reassured the public, “From a practical standpoint most people would have taken that meeting. It’s called opposition research or research into your opponent.”
On Friday, NBC News revealed that an additional person, Rinat Akhmetshin, was at the meeting. Akhmetshin – a Russian-American lobbyist for the repeal of the Magnitsky law and former Soviet military counter-intelligence officer – said that Veselnitskaya brought and presented documents that outlined how illicit funds could flow to the Democrats and Hillary Clinton. Trump asked if she had evidence to back up her claims. Akhmetshin said he lost interest when Veselnitskaya replied that the Trump campaign would need to research that on their own.
Veselnitskaya said Trump ended the meeting by saying, “Well, the story that you’ve told us, it sounds very interesting but unfortunately at the moment, there is nothing that we, we can help you with about it. But maybe if we come to power, maybe one day, we will get back to you on that, because it really sounds interesting.”
As all this reporting was happening, Trump’s attorney called NBC News to mention that there was a second, and previously unreported, person at the meeting.
Then CNN reported the meeting also included a third undisclosed person sent by the Russian business associates of Trump, Emin and Aras Agalarov, who initiated the meeting.
By Friday afternoon, Fox News anchor Shep Smith had enough of the lies. “We’re still not clean on this, Chris. If there’s nothing there — and that’s what they tell us … If all of that, why all these lies?”
“There are still people who are out there who believe we’re making it up,” Smith continued. “And one day they’re gonna realize we’re not and look around and go, Where are we, and why are we getting told all these lies?”
The moment was not lost to fellow anchor, Chris Wallace. “This really shouldn’t be a matter of liberal vs. conservative, pro-Trump vs. anti-Trump,” Wallace said. “If you’re a fair-minded citizen, you ought to be concerned about the fact that we were repeatedly misled about what this meeting concerned.”
William Rivers Pitt warns that “whatever slivers of credibility the Trump administration ever possessed have been consumed by this bonfire of hubris, lying and shady dealing” and this situation leaves the world in the hands of a cornered man with access to incredible power.
“Thanks to the 2001 Authorization for the Use of Military Force, Trump has the power to start and/or escalate wars at will, and war is a time-tested method of distraction. He still has control over a vast nuclear arsenal. The current scandal is yet another glaring indication that Trump and his people are more than comfortable engaging in shady dealings behind closed doors.”
So where is the Republican lead Congress?
The Senate voted overwhelmingly to take away Trump’s unilateral power to remove Russian sanctions. The House shows no interest in moving the bill forward. And an amendment to modify the Authorization for Use of Military Force passed with bipartisan votes in the House defense spending bill, only to run into Speaker Paul Ryan (R-WI) who called the amendment a “mistake.”