President Trump said on Sunday that a Trump Tower meeting between top campaign aides and a Kremlin-connected lawyer was designed to “get information on an opponent” — the starkest acknowledgment yet that a statement he dictated about the encounter last year was misleading.
Mr. Trump made the comment in a tweet on Sunday morning that was intended to be a defense of the June 2016 meeting and his son Donald Trump Jr.’s role in hosting it. The president claimed that it was “totally legal” and of the sort “done all the time in politics.”
But the tweet also served as an admission that the Trump team had not been forthright when Donald Trump Jr. issued a statement in July 2017 saying that the meeting had been primarily about the adoption of Russian children. Donald Trump Jr. made the statement after The New York Times revealed the existence of the meeting.
A few days later, Mr. Trump posted a tweet similar to the one he wrote on Sunday morning: “Most politicians would have gone to a meeting like the one Don jr attended in order to get info on an opponent. That’s politics!” But his administration at the time was sticking to the adoption story line, with his press secretary, Sean Spicer, saying later that day there was no evidence that anything but that topic had been discussed during the meeting.
Although the president tried again on Sunday to portray the meeting as routine, it is a key focus of the investigation by the special counsel, Robert S. Mueller III. Mr. Mueller is looking into whether the president’s campaign worked with Russians to interfere in the 2016 presidential election and whether Mr. Trump or his associates obstructed justice by lying about their activities.
It is illegal for a campaign to accept help from a foreign individual or government.
Mr. Trump’s tweet on Sunday was one in a series in which he renewed his attacks on Mr. Mueller, saying his inquiry was riddled with “lies and corruption.
The president denied a report in The Washington Post that he was worried about the legal exposure for Donald Jr., who had been promised damaging information about Hillary Clinton before agreeing to hold the meeting with the Russian lawyer. While he said that the meeting was legal, he also distanced himself from it, repeating his assertion that he knew nothing about it at the time.
At some point, somebody must have told Trump to stop talking and to get off Twitter, but as any good prosecutor will tell you, letting the suspect talk himself into a conviction because they lack basic self-control is tried and true.
So now, with Trump's public admission that he has committed both obstruction of justice and campaign law contributions, we arrive at the inevitable test of the durability of the Republic.
It was always going to reach this point, I have been saying this for 18 months now. But today is the day we turn the corner from midgame to endgame, and we finally see if anyone is willing to stand up to Trump. We've been down this road as a country before, and I don't use the term Nixonian lightly.
August 5, 1974, was the day the Nixon Presidency ended. On that day, Nixon heeded a Supreme Court ruling and released the so-called smoking-gun tape, a recording of a meeting, held two years earlier, with his chief of staff, H. R. Haldeman. Many of Nixon’s most damaging statements came in the form of short, monosyllabic answers and near-grunts—“um huh,” the official transcript reads, at one point—as he responds to Haldeman’s idea of asking the C.I.A. to tell the F.B.I. to “stay the hell out of” the Watergate investigation. The coverup is clearly of Haldeman’s design. Nixon’s words are simple: “All right. Fine.” Then, “Right, fine.”
Haldeman’s idea seemed clever. He believed the F.B.I. was close to concluding that the break-in at the Democratic National Committee offices at the Watergate hotel was the work of a C.I.A.-led operation, which had something to do with Cuba and the Bay of Pigs. Nobody would have to actually lie, he seems to suggest—it wasn’t “unusual” for the C.I.A. to warn the F.B.I. to drop an investigation that could harm national security. “And that will fit rather well because the F.B.I. agents who are working the case, at this point, feel that’s what it is. This is C.I.A.”
Nixon’s strongest statement to Haldeman is, surprisingly, a word of caution. “Don’t lie to them to the extent to say there is no involvement, but just say this is sort of a comedy of errors, bizarre, without getting into it,” he says. “Say that we wish, for the country, don’t go any further into this case, period!” When Nixon released the tape, he acknowledged that it would lead to his impeachment. Three days later, he resigned the Presidency.
The fact that there's only a 0.0001% chance that Trump resigns after this admission makes me have my extreme doubts. But we will see if we survive this or not.