In response to the latest Trump bombshell from the New York Times, Richard Painter minced no words about the seriousness and severity of what these allegations mean.
In the New York Times’ newest bombshell reporting regarding the Trump administration and Russia, the focus is on Donald Trump Jr., whom the Times reports met with a “Kremlin-connected Russian lawyer” during the 2016 campaign.
But it is the reported reason for the meeting that is most disturbing: Trump Jr. “was promised damaging information about Hillary Clinton.”
The Times had previously reported that the meeting had taken place, and that it was also attended by Paul Manafort, Donald Trump’s campaign chairman at the time, and Jared Kushner, Trump’s son-in-law and now senior adviser.
But the initial explanation offered by Trump Jr. was “that it was primarily about adoptions and mentioned nothing about Mrs. Clinton.” He soon changed his tune:
But on Sunday, presented with The Times’s findings, he offered a new account. In a statement, he said he had met with the Russian lawyer at the request of an acquaintance from the 2013 Miss Universe pageant, which his father took to Moscow. “After pleasantries were exchanged,” he said, “the woman stated that she had information that individuals connected to Russia were funding the Democratic National Committee and supporting Mrs. Clinton. Her statements were vague, ambiguous and made no sense. No details or supporting information was provided or even offered. It quickly became clear that she had no meaningful information.”
While Trump Jr. claims that the conversation then turned to Russian adoptions, it is clear that the promise of damaging information about Clinton was of interest to him.
As Rep. Adam Schiff (D-CA) noted, “There’s no reason for this Russian government advocate to be meeting with Paul Manafort or with Mr. Kushner or the president’s son if it wasn’t about the campaign and Russia policy.”
And one of the most vehement condemnations of this latest revelation came from Richard Painter, a former ethics lawyer in the George W. Bush Administration.
As Painter bluntly put it, if the report is proven true, it “borders on treason.”
PAINTER: I don’t know what President Trump knew at the time. But Donald Trump Jr. and Jared Kushner were apparently both of them involved in this, and this was an effort to get opposition research on an opponent in an American political campaign from the Russians, who were known to be engaged in spying inside the United States. We do not get our opposition research from spies. We do not collaborate with Russian spies, unless we want to be accused of treason.
And I can say, I worked for two and a half years as the chief ethics lawyers of the Bush administration. The Bush administration never would have tolerated this. And if this story is true, we’d have one of them, if not both of them, in custody by now, and we’d be asking them a lot of questions. Because this is unacceptable. This borders on treason, if it is not itself treason, depending on whether the New York Times story is true. But this is a very, very serious situation. We should not treat this lightly. And the fact that it was a ten minute meeting is irrelevant; you can accomplish a lot, by way of damaging your own country, assisting an adversary in espionage inside the United States, in ten minutes. And we need to make sure this never happens again.
The Russian storm cloud over the Trump campaign, the Trump White House, and thus the country as a whole shows no signs whatsoever of dissipating. Indeed, it only seems to grow larger and darker each day.
Trump may have enjoyed his humiliating meeting with Vladimir Putin, but it will be cold comfort to him as everyone around him goes down over their connections to Russia.