Washington D.C. (The Hill, July 12,2017): The White House is facing its gravest crisis yet in the wake of the publication of emails between the president’s son, Donald Trump Jr., and a go-between for a Russian lawyer.
The emails, which date to June 2016, call into question the main pillars of the White House’s defense against allegations of Russian involvement in the 2016 election.
Team Trump has repeatedly said that while Russia may indeed have meddled in the election, there was no coordination or communication between Moscow and their campaign.
However, the newly published emails show music publicist Rob Goldstone writing to Trump Jr. suggesting that a Russian lawyer could share damaging information on Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton.
“This is obviously very high level and sensitive information but is part of Russia and its government’s support for Mr. Trump,” Goldstone wrote.
Trump Jr. replied 17 minutes later, writing in part, “If it’s what you say I love it.”
Trump Jr. published the emails on Twitter moments before Rhe New York Times also published them. In an accompanying statement, the president’s son said he was releasing the emails “in order to be totally transparent.”
Even some Republicans were taken aback by the startling twist in the long-running Russia story.
Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) told reporters at the Capitol that “anytime you’re in a campaign and you get an offer from a foreign government to help your campaign, the answer is no.” Graham added that he found the emails “disturbing” and that Trump Jr. needed to testify before Congress about the matter.
Critics of Trump in the broader conservative world were outraged.
“I think it’s devastating for the Trump presidency, I think it’s devastating for Donald Trump Jr. and I think it’s devastating to everybody within the Trump orbit, because it is beginning to confirm the worst suspicions and gravest concerns about the Trump campaign,” said Peter Wehner, who worked in the administrations of past Republican Presidents George W. Bush, George H.W. Bush and Ronald Reagan.
“It is clear that we were misled and that everything the Trump campaign said in relation to Russia has to be taken with a grain of salt,” Wehner added.
The atmosphere of crisis was apparent at the White House itself and in the broader Trump orbit, where hatches were battened down amid the storm.
Late on Tuesday afternoon, CNN reported that special counsel Robert Mueller’s investigators would look at the newly revealed emails as part of their broader probe into Russian meddling.
The storm is deepening for the White House — and no one can predict when it might end.