So Donald Trump Jr’s 2016 meeting with a Putin lawyer wasn’t just a humanitarian mission after all.
Until now Daddy’s official line has been that Don Jr met Natalia Veselnitskaya to discuss US adoptions of Russian orphans, something Putin’s government banned in response to American sanctions.
Considering that Russian orphanages are death factories, where children are malnourished, maltreated and molested, that countermeasure would strike any civilised person as odd. The underlying message seems to be: “If you don’t let us export our goods, we’ll starve our orphans to death.”
Had Don Jr discussed this moral disaster with Putin’s agents, I’d be full of admiration, only slightly leavened with a dash of incredulity.
There we were, in the middle of a bitterly fought presidential campaign, and the leading candidate’s closest confidant took time off to discuss such worthy issues with agents of a hostile power? Anything is possible, I suppose, but some things are hard to imagine.
Now Don Sr has owned up to what everyone has known all along: his son, his son-in-law Jared Kushner and his campaign manager Paul Manafort (currently on trial for his life) met Veselnitskaya because she had promised some juicy dirt on Hillary Clinton.
However, the president didn’t make that admission with contrition. His dominant emotion was anger, especially since various sources had reported that he was concerned about his son’s role.
Those reports were “fake news”, screamed Trump’s tweet. He wasn’t concerned because there was nothing to be concerned about: “This was a meeting to get information on an opponent, totally legal and done all the time in politics – and it went nowhere. I did not know about it!”
This last statement sounds dubious: it’s unlikely that his closest advisers would of their own accord and without informing their boss have met an agent of a foreign power – even if the Trumps didn’t consider that power hostile.
However, being a credulous sort, I’m happy to believe that Donald Sr knew nothing about the meeting, nothing came out of it anyway, and the meeting was “totally legal”.
Similarly, it would have been “totally legal” for Trump’s emissaries to triple-team Natalia in her hotel room and then post the video of the orgy on the Internet. It would, however, have been immoral and, even worse, ill-advised.
Alas, the president’s whole experience of life, especially in business, has taught him that legal is whatever one can get away with, and moral is whatever is legal.
Since I don’t know as much about American legal loopholes as he does, I shan’t venture an opinion on the legality of that meeting of minds, although to my layman’s eye it looks dodgy. But what Trump’s lads did was much more immoral than my imaginary orgy scenario would have been.
Yes, trying to get compromising material on a political opponent is a practice as old as politics itself.
Some might question its probity but, come on chaps, we live in the real world, don’t we? Objecting to this practice in principle is like objecting to tax avoidance: might as well take issue with the wind and the rain.
The problem here isn’t what the lads tried to get but from whom they tried to get it. Allow me to illustrate with a hypothetical example even Putin’s most devoted fans won’t find contentious.
Suppose for the sake of argument that Don Jr was contacted not by Veselnitskaya but by the godfather of a major Mafia family. Let’s call him Don Corleone.
When they met, Don Corleone said to Don Jr: “You’re a good boy, Donny, your father must be proud of you. And is this pezzonavante your consiglieri? Heard a lot about you, Paul. Now I got stuff on Hillary to make your eyes water. But what have you got for me? One hand washes the other, capisci?”
Suppose further that the fact and the nature of the meeting were leaked after Donald Sr became president. What would be his response then?
That there was nothing illegal about that get-together? That the promise of dirt didn’t materialise?
How many people would have believed that Don Corleone’s proposed generosity to Don Jr had no quid pro quo involved? The dirt would have been on the president, covering him head to toe – this even if everything he said about the meeting were true.
Now, any Mafia family is a Rotary Club chapter compared to the Kremlin kleptocracy. Practically the whole Russian economy is criminalised, with Putin and his gang collecting protection money in trillions of dollars.
Whatever loot is left over from buying palaces and yachts, and stuffing Panama cellos with laundered cash goes to wage worldwide electronic war against the West, especially the United States. As we speak, the US government is trying to stop Russia’s meddling in the mid-term elections.
Even if some useful idiots deny the aggressively hostile nature of Putin’s kleptofascist regime, only those refreshingly ignorant of basic facts will deny its organic fusion with organised crime.
Natalia Veselnitskaya is a faithful servant and paid agent of that regime, whose principal function until then had been trying to get the Magnitsky Law overturned. And neither organised crime nor the KGB (FSB/SVR is its current moniker) offers anything for free.
If Veselnitskaya dangled the dirty carrot of information in front of Don Jr’s eyes, she was pursuing the interests of the Kremlin kleptofascist gang that thought – however wrongly – that Trump’s victory would also be theirs.
Accepting the best possible scenario, that no useful dirt materialised and, whatever did, had no effect on the elections, that meeting was still revoltingly immoral.
Illegal? Probably not. But President Trump ought to realise that his new job comes with higher moral expectations than his old one, building casinos in Atlantic City.