The last time US politics saw a scandal on this level—Watergate—it wasn’t just Nixon who took the hit. Trump’s allies will know this, and they will be worriedby Adam Aiken / July 13, 2017 / Leave a comment
The Watergate scandal that resulted in the demise of US president Richard Nixon was largely down to the tenacious work of two young reporters on the Washington Post. Without the dedication of Bob Woodward and Carl Bernstein, Nixon may have got away with it.
More than 40 years later, the reporting surrounding the growing scandal in Trumpworld is much more of a team effort, with reporters and investigators from rival titles vying on a daily basis to outdo each other, resulting in explosive revelation after explosive revelation.
The latest development is remarkable, on several levels. Thanks to the New York Times, which managed to get its hands on an email trail between Donald Trump Jr—the president’s eldest son—and a fixer who promised to reveal damning material on Hillary Clinton, Trump Jr has responded by releasing the emails.
In them, he was told by British PR man Rob Goldstone that there was “very high level and sensitive information [which] is part of Russia and its government’s support for [Donald] Trump.”
Trump Jr replied: “If it’s what you say I love it especially later in the summer.” He went on to meet with “Russian government attorney” Natalia Veselnitskaya in June 2016.
Once again, we are left with more questions than answers.
The most immediate one is: what else might emerge? Trump Jr voluntarily released the entire damning email correspondence with Goldstone rather than waiting to have it dragged out of him. Why feed the media frenzy so willingly? Was it a tactic to deflect from even more sensational revelations?
“Trump often rails against the media’s use of anonymous leaks, but the real problem is much closer to home”
Another question is how the White House will deal with the story over the coming days and weeks. Its habit until now has been to stick a lot of chaff in the air in a bid to create confusion. If no one can quite remember who has been accused of doing what and when, it’s easier to build a narrative that it’s all “fake news” and unproven conspiracy theories.
This refrain no longer stands up to scrutiny. Even if no significant information ultimately emerged from the meeting, and even if the attorney’s Kremlin links were exaggerated, the fact the meeting happened at all proves that the Trump campaign did attempt to join forces with what it thought was the Russian government.
Then there are questions about Jared Kushner, the president’s son-in-law and now his right-hand man in government. He was also at the Veselnitskaya meeting, along with former campaign manager Paul Manafort. Kushner originally left his attendance at this meeting off his security-clearance form, even though it is hard to see how this kind of thing could have slipped his mind. (Democrats are now calling for his security clearance to be revoked).
Finally, there’s the question about where the New York Times leak originated from. Very few people would have known about the email chain, so it was almost certainly someone close to the people who attended the meeting. Trump and his surrogates often rail against the media’s use of anonymous leaks, but the real problem is much closer to home. The president likes to claim he is the victim of a witch-hunt by his opponents, but there are clearly people within his own administration who feel the need to leak.
In light of these revelations, it is being reported that several officials within the White House appear wary about defending the president and his family. Perhaps the realisation that the Trump-Russia connections are looking more and more real every day has made a few insiders nervous about tying themselves too closely—even off the record—to the administration because of potential legal consequences further down the line.
After all, Watergate didn’t result only in the impeachment of Nixon. More than three dozen officials were indicted or jailed, too, and some in the White House might be waking up to the fact that they need to distance themselves from Trump.
And if his friends are beginning to slide away, the president’s problems might be about to get a whole lot worse.