After months of adamantly denying that investigators would find even a shred of evidence pointing to collusion between his campaign and Russia, President Donald Trump is aggressively embracing the view that his son’s cooperation with apparent Russian agents was entirely normal. On Monday, he acknowledged that his son, Donald Trump Jr., met with a Russian lawyer in the hopes of receiving damaging information about Hillary Clinton:
Most politicians would have gone to a meeting like the one Don jr attended in order to get info on an opponent. That's politics!— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) July 17, 2017
As news of the June 9, 2016, meeting, involving Trump Jr., Jared Kushner, his brother-in-law (who is now a senior adviser in the White House); and Paul Manafort, Trump’s campaign chairman, began to trickle out last weekend, the president’s defenders initiated a 180-degree turn in their line of argument. Gone was the claim there was no evidence of a collusion to be found—that claim was untenable in light of the emails that Trump Jr. released, in which he was very clearly informed that the meeting was with a woman identified as a “Russian government lawyer,” and that the purpose was to give the Trump campaign damaging information about Clinton, because the Russian government backed Trump in the race.
The new tactic was to normalize collusion, arguing that in fact colluding with a foreign government in such a situation was neither nefarious nor illegal, and was in fact standard operating procedure. Jeanine Pirro, a Fox News host who has emerged as one of Trump’s most dogged defenders, even said, “If the devil called me and said he wanted to set up a meeting to give me opposition research on my opponent, I’d be on the first trolley to hell to get it.”