Donald Trump, Jr., (L) places a hand on the shoulder of his father, presidential nominee Donald Trump, during in a rally on the final night of the 2016 presidential election at the SNHU Arena on November 7, 2016 in Manchester, New Hampshire. FileMandel Ngan / AFP - Getty Images File
Breaking News Emails
Get breaking news alerts and special reports. The news and stories that matter, delivered weekday mornings.
The drip-drip has now turned into a gusher. In arguably the biggest revelation yet into the allegation that the 2016 Trump campaign had contacts and connections with Russian officials, the New York Times reported last night that Donald Trump Jr. was informed in an email before his meeting with Kremlin-connected Russian lawyer that it was part of a Russian government effort to help his father’s campaign against Hillary Clinton. "The email to the younger Mr. Trump was sent by Rob Goldstone, a publicist and former British tabloid reporter who helped broker the June 2016 meeting... Mr. Goldstone’s message, as described to The New York Times by the three people, indicates that the Russian government was the source of the potentially damaging information. It does not elaborate on the wider effort by Moscow to help the Trump campaign."
As the Times writes, there’s no evidence that this promised damaging information was the Russian hacking scheme. Given this NYT story, however, we can count at least 10 times when President Trump has directly said there was no collusion between Russia and his 2016 campaign:
“The Russia-Trump collusion story is a total hoax, when will this taxpayer funded charade end?” (Trump tweet, 5/8/2017)
“There is no collusion between me and my campaign and the Russians.” (Trump interview with Lester Holt, 5/11/2017)
“When James Clapper himself, and virtually everyone else with knowledge of the witch hunt, says there is no collusion, when does it end?” (Trump tweet, 5/12/2017)
“Again, the story that there was collusion between the Russians & Trump campaign was fabricated by Dems as an excuse for losing the election.” (Trump tweet, 5/12/2017)
“The entire thing has been a witch hunt. And there is no collusion between certainly myself and my campaign, but I can always speak for myself — and the Russians, zero.” (Trump news conference, 5/18/2017)
“No collusion, no obstruction. [James Comey's] a leaker.” (Trump news conference, 6/9/2017)
“They made up a phony collusion with the Russians story, found zero proof, so now they go for obstruction of justice on the phony story. Nice.” (Trump tweet, 6/15/2017)
After 7 months of investigations & committee hearings about my “collusion with the Russians,” nobody has been able to show any proof. Sad! (Trump tweet, 6/16/2017)
“Look, there has been no obstruction. There has been no collusion. There has been leaking by Comey. But there's been no collusion, no obstruction and virtually everybody agrees to that.” (Trump interview with Fox and Friends, 6/23/2017)
There is no collusion & no obstruction. I should be given apology! (Trump tweet, 6/26/2017)
Let our news meet your inbox. The news and stories that matters, delivered weekday mornings.
What’s absolutely amazing about this Donald Trump Jr-Rob Goldstone email story is how hard it is to believe that they would communicate like this via email.
By the way, here is the statement from Donald Trump Jr.’s lawyer Alan Futerfas, which doesn’t deny the existence of the email: "In my view, this is much ado about nothing. Late May and early June 2016, near the end of the 2016 Republican primaries, was an intensely busy time for Don, Jr. During this busy period, Robert Goldstone contacted Don, Jr. in an email and suggested that people had information concerning alleged wrongdoing by Democratic Party front runner, Hillary Clinton, in her dealings with Russia. Don Jr.’s takeaway from this communication was that someone had information potentially helpful to the campaign and it was coming from someone he knew. Don Jr. had no knowledge as to what specific information, if any, would be discussed. Further, at no time was there ever any understanding or commitment that he, or anyone else, would find the information, whatever it turned out to be, to be reliable, credible or of interest, or would even survive due diligence. The meeting lasted about 20-30 minutes, and nothing came of it.”
The Trump-Russia story has definitely been a boon to defense attorneys in D.C. and New York. Consider all of the outside lawyers that the president, his family, and members of his administration have hired. We count nine so far:
“The Russian lawyer who met with Donald Trump Jr. during the presidential campaign denied in an exclusive interview with NBC News that she had any connection to the Kremlin and insists she met with President Donald Trump’s son to press her client’s interest in the Magnitsky Act — not to hand over information about Hillary Clinton’s campaign,” NBC’s Keir Simmons and Rachel Elbaum report. “‘I never had any damaging or sensitive information about Hillary Clinton. It was never my intention to have that,’ Natalia Veselnitskaya said. From Simmons’ dispatch on “Today” this morning:
Keir Simmons: What was the purpose of that meeting?Natalia Veselnitskaya: All I knew before the meeting took place, I never knew who else would be attending the meeting. All I knew that Mr. Donald Trump Jr. was willing to meet with me.Veselnitskaya: I could recognize the young gentleman who was only present in the meeting for probably the first seven to 10 minutes, and then he stood up and left the room. It was Mr. Jared Kushner, and he never came back, by the way… And the other individual who was always in the same very meeting, he was all the time he was looking on his phone, he was reading something, he never took any active part in the conversation, that was Mr. [Paul] Manafort.Simmons: They had the impression it appears that they were going to be told some information that that you had about the DNC. How did they get that impression?Veselnitskaya: It's quite possible that maybe they were longing for such an information. They wanted it so badly.Simmons: Have you ever worked for the Russian government? Do you have connections to the government?Veselnitskaya: No
Here’s a data point from the Pew Research Center that caught our eye yesterday. Their new poll finds that the share of Republicans who believe America’s colleges and universities have a positive impact on the country has fallen dramatically since 2015. Just two years ago, 54 percent of Republicans and Republican-leaning independents said that institutions of higher learning offered a net positive for the way things are going in America. This year, that’s down to just 36 percent, with a majority of Republicans — 58 percent — saying that colleges have a negative impact on the country.
What’s perhaps even more striking than the sudden drop in goodwill for universities among Republicans is that it’s mirrored across all education levels, with GOP-affiliated Americans with a college or postgraduate degree about as likely as their high school-educated counterparts to view colleges as a bad influence. There’s a lot at play here — controversies about conservatives speaking at various schools, university faculties moving to the left, “snowflake” memes about millennial students, and the educational divide that was so crucial to understanding Trump’s triumph in November. But wow, these numbers are dramatic.
Chuck Todd is moderator of "Meet The Press" and NBC News' political director.
Mark Murray is a senior political editor at NBC News.