Make no mistake: For months, Team Trump insisted there were no meetings with Russians during the presidential campaign. No one tied to the president shared a bowl of borscht with some guy named Boris. No one hovered over a herring casserole with Helga. And absolutely no one discussed any plans the Russians might have for meddling in the election. To borrow from the “Wizard of Oz,” “Not nobody, not no how!”
But now a big question mark hangs over those denials, because it turns out there were meetings. The latest revelations are tied to President Trump’s son-in-law, Jared Kushner. Kushner says he met with Russians twice during the election, and twice during the transition, and he insists it was always proper. “Let me be clear,” he said, “I did not collude with Russia, nor do I know anyone with the campaign who did.” This, of course, follows news that Donald Trump Jr. also went to a meeting with Russians with both Kushner and then-campaign chairman Paul Manafort in tow.
For fans of the president, it may seem nitpicky to focus on a single sentence. Still for reporters, it’s hard to let this subtle yet meaningful shift go sailing by – from never had contact to never colluded. Why? Because the White House has made a cottage industry of beating the holy heck out of anyone who has dared to even ask about the possibility of such meetings.
“Russia talk is fake news put out by the Dems” and “a total scam!” the president has tweeted. “Did you or anyone in your campaign have any contact with Russia leading up to or during the campaign?” he was asked in January. “No. Not at all,” he scoffed. He’s said it a lot, and so has his team, time and again scorching reporters for even asking about the possibility. No, we didn’t have any meetings. No, it never happened. Go away kid, you bother me.
Now we know there were meetings with Russians during the campaign, despite all those months of denials. Some of the closest members of the president’s team attended, and they are saying so. And you can bet the president’s opponents are hoping he pays a real price for all his howls of “fake news!”