Two scoops from The New York Times on a meeting between Donald Trump Jr. and a Russian lawyer contain a key disclaimer about five paragraphs deep clarifying there is still “no evidence” of collusion.
Trump Jr. was promised dirt on Clinton from the Kremlin-connected lawyer ahead of the meeting, TheNYT reported Sunday. A follow up report Monday revealed Trump Jr. responded to the promise of dirt by saying “I love it.” The wider media is treating both reports as bombshells indicating the Trump campaign may have colluded with the Russian government to win the election.
The paper dumps cold water on the implication in both reports, however, by clarifying what the meeting does not prove.
“There is no evidence to suggest that the promised damaging information was related to Russian government computer hacking that led to the release of thousands of Democratic National Committee emails,” TheNYT notes in the fourth paragraph of the initial scoop.
And in the story Monday: “The precise nature of the promised damaging information about Mrs. Clinton is unclear, and there is no evidence to suggest that it was related to Russian-government computer hacking that led to the release of thousands of Democratic National Committee emails.”
Both caveats reveal the meeting may amount to nothing more than an opposition research dump from a foreigner, which is neither illegal nor unprecedented. Clinton allies met with Ukrainian officials in 2016, who provided the campaign and the Democratic National Committee with opposition research on Trump.
If Trump worked with the Russian government to hack Clinton’s emails and release them to the public, well that’s certainly serious business. That’s collusion. But if his campaign happily agreed to review promised dirt on his opponent offered by a foreign official, that’s an entirely different matter.
TheNYT concedes this point in the (somewhat buried) caveat offered in both stories, but carefully places it right next to a reminder the president’s associates are under investigation for collusion with Russia.
The email regarding the meeting “is likely to be of keen interest to the Justice Department and congressional investigators, who are examining whether any of President Trump’s associates colluded with the Russian government to disrupt last year’s election,” reads the line following the caveat in the first foreboding scoop.
And the caveat is preceded by a similar reminder in the second scoop: “The Justice Department, as well as the House and Senate Intelligence Committees, is examining whether any of President Trump’s associates colluded with the Russian government to disrupt last year’s election.”
As yet there is no hard evidence Trump or his allies colluded with Russia to win the election.
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