Trump, Jr. Meeting: What Were The Russians After, And Did They Get It?

The Facts Of The Meeting

Donald Trump, Jr. Paul Manafort and Jared Kushner met with a Russian government lawyer during the Presidential campaign. We know a lot about the meeting at this point, and none of it looks good for the current administration.

We know that Trump, Jr. was contacted, through a friend, by an old business pal of his father, a man named Aras Agalarov. We know that Agalarov told young Donald Trump to contact a lawyer he knew because she could give the Trump campaign negative information on Hillary Clinton. As if that’s not enough, Agalarov said the information was part of a Kremlin plan to swing the election toward Trump.

We know that Trump, Jr. did meet with the lawyer, Natalia Veselnitskaya. He also brought two other campaign insiders, Trump son-in-law Jared Kushner and top aide Paul Manafort. They met, but the conversation quickly shifted away from a discussion of Hillary Clinton to the issue of Russian adoptions.

The Trump team left. They admit that they walked out because there wasn’t any dirt on Clinton forthcoming from Ms. Veselnitskaya.

Why Did Trump Take The Meeting?

Right now there are a few outstanding questions about the meeting. Most of the media is focusing on the intentions of the Trump team. Obviously, they met with the Russian because they wanted to find a way to boost their own campaign, even it meant working with the Russian government.

What Did The Russians Want?

But what about Putin? What was he after?

Let’s start with the adoptions that were under discussion.

Back in 2012, Congress passed a law called “The Magnitsky Act.” It denied visas to any Russian citizen involved in the mysterious death of Sergei Magnitisky, a tax lawyer who uncovered a fraud case that reached all the way to the Kremlin. The law also let the U.S. freeze the assets Russian officials connected to the case.

In retaliation for those sanctions, Vladimir Putin put a halt to all adoptions of Russian children by American families.  The ban remains in place to this day, and is symbolic of the mutual sanctions between Russia and the United States.

So if we look at the recently revealed meeting between the Trump campaign and the Russian operative, we have to ask ourselves what it was the Russians were hoping to achieve.

Possibility #1

Maybe Ms. Veselnitskaya truly hoped to find a way to get Putin to lift the adoption ban. If so, she might have wanted to feel out the Trump team, to see if they’d be open to lifting sanctions.

Maybe Putin was behind the meeting, and he was the one who wanted to get a sense of how Trump felt about lifting sanctions.

That’s the most obvious explanation. We know that Putin had hopes that Trump would be a malleable American leader, unlike Barack Obama.

In fact, (English version) reports today that Russia is considering new sanctions against the U.S., including the expulsion of diplomats. They’re considering these steps because of the “unfriendly” actions of the U.S. government, and because the “new administration has decided not to return” property taken in 2016. In other words, the Kremlin is disappointed that Trump doesn’t intend to lift sanctions against Russia.

So perhaps that was the Russian goal, to find out if Trump would be open to lifting sanctions.

Possibility #2

But the Russians probably knew that the sanction talk would go nowhere. From all accounts, Ms. Veselnitskaya didn’t have anything to spill about Clinton. Maybe the Kremlin was just trying to find out how far the Trump team might go in working with them to interfere with the election.

We know that the Russians had been interfering in our election. It’s possible that Veselnitskaya was trying to take the temperature of the campaign. To find out if Trump would be willing to collude with the Russians to swing the election.

Remember, Putin saw Trump as an easier target than Obama or Clinton.

Possibility #3

But there’s another possibility. Perhaps Putin and his people were trying to compromise the Trump campaign.

When this meeting took place, everyone in the world seemed certain that Clinton would defeat Trump. There were no polls indicating a Trump victory, so why would Putin have thought Trump would be able to lift sanctions? That takes out possibility #1.

Trump, Jr. went to the meeting specifically to get dirt on Clinton. He knew he was meeting with a Russian government attorney. He knew the Russian government was trying to swing the election his father’s way.

As soon as he stepped into the room, it seems to me that Vladimir Putin had the goods on the Trump campaign, and could begin to exert pressure in any number of ways.

Maybe Donald, Jr. and the others walked right into Vladimir Putin’s trap. That would explain a lot about Trump’s unwillingness to stop sucking up to Putin.


Karen is a retired elementary school teacher with many years of progressive activism behind her. She is the proud mother of three young adults who were all arrested with Occupy Wall Street. To see what she writes about in her spare time, check out her blog at "Empty Nest, Full Life"