“Kid Pro Quo” – headline in NY Daily News

A class exercise, after viewing White House news conference of July 11.

Photos and story by Doug CummingCamera crew at Trump Tower

President Trump, who had repeatedly dismissed “the Russia thing” as a hoax and sour grapes, faced dramatic evidence to the contrary yesterday.

His son Donald Trump Jr., under the growing heat of media disclosures of a secret meeting with a Russian lawyer, abruptly released a series of emails showing he met last year with a woman he believed represented a Kremlin effort to help elect his father.

The admission threw such a glaring new light on possible collusion between the Trump campaign and Russia, the White House held a press briefing within hours. But deputy press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders kept a tight rein on the event, which was restricted to audio-only and embargoed until it was over.

She began with boiler-plate complaints about other political issues, then opened the floor to questions, which were almost all about the shattering implications of Donald Jr.’s emails. Sanders rhythmically swatted down the questions with a pre-fab position: Only Don Jr. and outside counsel could answer those questions.

Trump window

Display window in Trump Tower

Asked if she was sticking with her statement from the day before that no member of the Trump campaign colluded with the Russians, Sanders said yes she was.

She did not dispute the scenario that emerged from the emails – that Don Jr., his brother-in-law Jared Kushner and Trump campaign manager Paul Manafort in June 2016 met with a woman they believed to be a Russian government representative with damaging information on Hillary Clinton.

And how is that not collusion, a reporter asked. “Once again,” she said, “I know you guys are going to get tired of it today — and not to sound like a broken record — but on all questions related to this matter, I would refer you to Don Jr.’s counsel and outside counsel.”

For 13 months, Trump and his circle have been dismissing concerns that his campaign was involved in Russia’s hacking of emails. Trump even disputes that the Russian government was responsible for such meddling, in the face of his own administration’s intelligence agencies saying there was no doubt about it. The entire matter is under investigation by independent counsel Robert Mueller.

Sanders read a brief statement from President Trump, who said, “My son is a high-quality person, and I applaud his transparency.”

She said she did not know when the president last spoke with his son.


Tourists riding the escalators at Trump Tower

About Doug Cumming

Writer, W&L journalism professor emeritus
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