TRUMPadelphia: Don Jr.'s emails and more

Trump Russia Probe
Donald Trump Jr. campaigns for his father Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump Friday, Nov. 4, 2016, in Gilbert, Ariz.

Good morning, pals. This email is coming to you special from the mountains of northern Pennsylvania, where your correspondent is out on a reporting trip and spent several blissful hours yesterday driving through a forest with no cell phone reception. I hear I missed a real nothing burger of a story.

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-Aubrey Whelan


Today, let’s talk about Donald Jr.

What’s at stake

If you were watching yesterday’s news from the left, you saw the president’s son blithely tweeting himself into treason charges. If you were watching from the right, you saw a hopelessly biased media, hell-bent on destroying the president and everyone around him, conducting business as usual.

It may not have been illegal. But Donald Trump Jr.’s surprise reveal of a chain of campaign-trail emails in which he was offered damaging information about Hillary Clinton, purportedly on behalf of the Kremlin, is the farthest thing from a nothing burger, a phrase I cannot believe I have typed twice now. It’s evidence that someone at the highest levels of the Trump campaign went after information they were told was “part of the Russian government’s support for Mr. Trump,” and contradicts months of denials from the Trump administration over any connection with Russian meddling in the election.

The local angle

I tend to disagree with people on both sides of the aisle who argue that this whole thing is distracting the country from important issues — foreign election interference is an important issue, and people are generally capable of paying attention to multiple things at a time. We have smartphones, after all! (I’m here all week.)

That said, in the interest of not going through the litany of Philadelphians investigating the Russian connection again, the only local angle here is that lawmakers representing us keep getting asked about Russia while an enormous piece of legislation with potentially dire implications for the region is moving through Congress. U.S. Sen. Pat Toomey wrote the healthcare bill, spent Monday making the rounds on cable TV to defend it, and still ended up with a Morning Joe headline about the Russia investigation. (And we spotted you at U.S. Sen. Chuck Schumer’s presser, Woke Bob Casey.) If the future of the administration is at stake over these emails, then so too is its agenda — the infrastructure plan and the tax plan and the healthcare plan, all of which could affect the Philly region, all of which have yet to be passed.

Also, Don Jr. went to Penn. So there’s that.

What’s ahead

The president’s son just preempted a blockbuster New York Times story by tweeting out an email with the subject line “Re: Russia — Clinton — private and confidential,” so I am done trying to predict anything. But, since the GOP controls the House and the Senate and therefore the impeachment proceedings that Democrats are increasingly bringing up, the Republican reaction to developments in the Russian investigation is the one to watch. So far? It’s a shrug, the Washington Post writes.


What they’re saying

“For me, this was opposition research.” — Donald Trump Jr., on Hannity last night, dismissing the meeting with the Russian lawyer outlined in the emails he tweeted Tuesday.

“So this is straight-up collusion, right?” — the London editor of the far-right-wing site Breitbart — generally some of the president’s most ardent defenders — musing on the Trump Jr. emails in a Slack message obtained by CNN.

“My son Donald did a good job last night. He was open, transparent and innocent. This is the greatest Witch Hunt in political history. Sad!” — President Trump, on Twitter, reviewing Junior’s Hannity appearance.


In other news…

  • The Washington Post elaborates on Sean Hannity’s opening monologue last night, where he a called out the reporters at mainstream outlets undoubtedly watching. A foreign government — Ukraine — had tried to boost Hillary Clinton’s campaign, too, Hannity said. “Which is worse?” he asked. The Post, putting it bluntly: “The Russia-Trump Jr. issue is worse.” Here’s why.
  • McClatchy outlines another wrinkle in the Russia investigation, this one involving Jared Kushner and fake news bots.
  • The Times gauges the mood inside the White House: “Advisers said the president was annoyed not so much by his son as by the headlines.”
  • Michelle Obama is coming to Philly this fall.

What I’m reading

  • POLITICO looks at community development block grants, the HUD program that stands to get eliminated entirely under Trump’s budget — and finds outdated funding formulas that mean cash-strapped Allentown, for example, gets less CDBG funding per resident than San Francisco.
  • Buzzfeed looks at the right-wing defense of Donald Trump Jr., who is beloved, perhaps more so than anyone else in the president’s orbit, by the Trump base.
  • New York Magazine looks at the darkest climate-change predictions in a deeply terrifying article, and Penn State’s own Michael Mann, a prominent climate scientist, rebuts it as too terrifying.

A non-political palate cleanser

I cannot say enough about this heartbreaking, deeply reported account of an avalanche that claimed the lives of seven schoolboys on a class trip in 1955 — and the journey of their classmates who survived — by my colleague Craig McCoy.