On Tuesday, Donald Trump Jr. tweeted an email chain between himself and Rob Goldstone, regarding a meeting he was setting up with a Russian attorney, in order to discuss possibly turning over official documents about Hillary Clinton that could help the Trump campaign. The emails say that the Russian government supported Trump, and Trump Jr. said that former campaign manager Paul Manafort and Jared Kushner would potentially be involved in the meeting. As has been reported, the meeting was pretty fruitless, but these emails show that Trump Jr. was certainly open to colluding with Russia, which begs the question: Why did he reveal them?
In a statement that went along with the emails, Trump said that he was revealing the email chain “in order to be totally transparent.” New York Times Deputy Managing Editor Clifford Levy tweeted that Trump released the emails because he was aware that the Times was about to publish a story about them.
— Clifford Levy (@cliffordlevy) July 11, 2017
Neither of these reasons make a lick of sense, especially given who we’re talking about. As far as Trump Jr.’s explanation, transparency hasn’t exactly been a hallmark of the Trump administration (e.g. President Trump’s tease of whether or not tapes existed of his conversations with James Comey).
Regarding Levy’s tweet, while Trump Jr. may have released the emails after being told that the Times story was coming, that doesn’t mean this is what led him to do it. After all, Trump Sr. casts doubt on media reports—especially from the Failing New York Times™—on a regular basis, so it wouldn’t be out of character for him to have his son’s back and claim the story is bogus.
Of course, the real reason why the email disclosure is so surprising isn’t because it seems out of character for the Trump family. It’s because it’s stupid. These emails are actual proof that the Trump campaign was at the very least interested in colluding with Russia, if not engaging in actual collusion. No, it’s not necessarily evidence that they committed a crime, but it makes it a much shorter leap to go from what we know about the campaign’s Russia ties to collusion that would be illegal (accepting illegal contributions, treason, being complicit in illegal activities, etc.).
We now know the campaign was interested in getting information from Russia about Hillary Clinton, and we also know that Russians hacked computer systems to dig up dirt on Democrats that favored Trump’s campaign. It’s getting easier and easier to imagine that there could be evidence out there somewhere that the two are connected.
So that brings us back to the original question: Why did Donald Trump Jr. give us this information? How is the Trump legal team reacting to this? I find it hard to believe that they approved of this move because all it does is give the public (and maybe Robert Mueller) additional fodder against them. As a former prosecutor, I can tell you that transparency isn’t always a good thing if you’re being investigated for a crime.
Certainly, covering something up makes it worse, but you never want to volunteer incriminating evidence, because that just helps build the case against you. It’s one thing for a cop to think you’re driving drunk because you’re slurring your speech and having trouble walking. These Trump emails are the equivalent of a driver yelling, “I’m so wasted!”
This is the part where you might be expecting me to drop some theory, be it brilliant or ridiculous, as to what Donald Jr. was thinking when he posted the emails, but I have nothing. Maybe he’s playing 7-D chess and I just can’t follow his strategy, but that seems unlikely. From where I’m sitting, this makes no sense.
Ronn Blitzer is the Senior Editor of LawNewz.com and a former prosecutor in New York City. Follow him on Twitter: @RonnBlitzer
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This is an opinion piece. The views expressed in this article are those of just the author.