As an American statesman once said, “Fool me once, shame on you. Fool me twice—can’t get fooled again.” The Trump family has little love lost with the Bush family, but the president, his son, and their aides and legal team would do well to heed the 43rd president’s mangled maxim, as they continue to offer an increasingly implausible story to the public about a meeting involving a Russian lawyer, Donald Trump Jr., and his brother-in-law, White House senior adviser Jared Kushner.
The account that the Trumps are offering is implausible on three counts. First, it is challenging to believe on its face, as I wrote earlier this week, that Trump Sr. would never have been told about the meeting. Second, the continued flow of new revelations itself suggests that whatever story the principals are peddling should be considered incomplete by default. Finally, the specifics of the string of new revelations about who attended the meeting and when it came to light make the story seem increasingly improbable.
Start with the original story—or rather, the story that Trump Jr. and others landed on on Tuesday, after he released emails about the June 9, 2016, meeting, in an attempt to get ahead of a New York Times story. (That in itself was already at least the fourth separate account Trump Jr. had offered.) Trump Jr. wanted the public to believe that he had a meeting with someone he believed to be a Russian government lawyer, offering information damaging to Hillary Clinton, because the government of Russia wished to aid his father; that he brought two other people heavily involved in the campaign to the meeting, Kushner and campaign chairman Paul Manafort; and that although his father was at Trump Tower, the site of the meeting that day, and although the family trumpets its closeness, no one told Donald Trump until he found out in recent days. Trump, through both his personal lawyers and White House staff, has said he only found recently.