Last week, Donald Trump Jr. wasn’t considered part of the sprawling Russia investigation that has consumed his father’s early presidency. Now he is firmly at its center.
The New York Times reported over the weekend that the president’s eldest son met with a Russian lawyer who promised damaging information about Hillary Clinton. On Monday, the Times reported that Donald Jr. received an email before that meeting that “indicates that the Russian government was the source of the potentially damaging information.” The article attributed its sourcing to “three people with knowledge of the emails.”
At face value, the Times report is the most significant development so far in the constellation of Russia-related scandals. It is the first indication that someone in Trump’s inner circle was informed the Russian government wanted to pass along damaging information to undermine one American presidential candidate and favor another, and that he responded by signaling his willingness to receive it. And it will likely complicate efforts by the Trump administration to dispel accusations the president’s campaign may have colluded with Moscow to damage Clinton’s candidacy.
Some details about the email still remain uncertain. The precise contents of the email are not offered. Its exact tone and phrasing could produce different interpretations than what the sources told the Times; the report claims the email “indicates” that the source was the Russian government, but does not explain the nature of that indication. The Times report also says there is no evidence so far that Donald Jr. was informed the information could have been illegally obtained, or that he was offered the contents of hacked emails from either the Democratic National Committee or the Clinton campaign. If either of those things turned out to be the case, it would place the president’s eldest son in significant legal peril.