ANALYSIS: Why Donald Trump Jr.'s emails change the game on Russia

Thursday, July 13, 2017

It's as if the entire Russia investigation -- months of leaks and innuendo, new tidbits, false leads, multiple investigations and overlapping scandals -- was distilled into one damning email chain.

The emails posted on Twitter by Donald Trump Jr. connect so many dots, so crisply and so concisely, that words that have only been hinted at -- "collusion" and even "treason" -- are suddenly in wide circulation in Washington.

The documents figure to turbocharge the investigations on Capitol Hill and the special counsel's office, with a raft of new questions for members of President Trump's family and innermost circle.

Some of the president's more dependable allies are expressing discomfort with the revelations. Even Vice President Mike Pence's office issued a statement, which noted that the meeting described in the emails took place during "the time before he joined the ticket."

What makes this revelation a potential game-changer is the explicit nature of the exchange and how it seems to confirm conversations that were, until now, just suspicions. In the emails, a friend of Donald Trump Jr.'s approached him last summer with the promise of "some official documents and information that would incriminate Hillary and her deals with Russia and would be very useful to your father."

The friend, Rob Goldstone, went even further, saying, "This is obviously very high level and sensitive information but is part of Russia and its government's support for Mr. Trump."

Trump's responded, "if it's what you say I love it especially later in the summer."

Another email from Goldstone said the meeting will be with a "Russian government attorney." Trump said the meeting will also include his brother-in-law, Jared Kushner, and then-campaign chairman Paul Manafort -- both of whom he copied on the email chain. The subject line: "Russia -- Clinton -- private and confidential."

The meeting with the Russian lawyer took place the following day, in Trump Tower in New York -- just a floor away from where the candidate himself was working. The White House reiterated its position that the president learned of the meeting only a few days ago, with a terse statement of support read from the briefing room on the president's behalf.

"My son is a high-quality person, and I applaud his transparency," he said in that statement.

That transparency, of course, only came after a string of media reporting forced the information out. And it's a major issue, in part, because the information itself is too transparent, with little room for other interpretations.

"This is the most problematic thing I've seen thus far," Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., told ABC News.

"If you look at Donald Trump Jr.'s own admissions," said Sen. Ron Wyden, D-Ore., "this was an attempt at collusion."

White House spokeswoman Sarah Huckabee Sanders called it "ridiculous" for lawmakers to be talking about collusion and treason. Speaking with reporters after the emails emerged publicly, she said she was standing by previous statements that Donald Trump Jr. "did not collude with anybody to influence the election."

But just going off the emails made public today, he knew that the Russian government was trying to disseminate information that would help his father's campaign. He was, at the very least, willing to accept that help -- and arranged a meeting involving his brother-in-law and the man who was heading the campaign at the time.

Amid shifting explanations and even shifting policy on Russia -- all creating a suspicious backdrop -- Trump now has his own family members to blame for the major escalation of a scandal he wants desperately to be done with.

Related Topics