I had planned to focus today’s newsletter on something other than the presidency, but the drip, drip, drip of news from Washington once again became a torrent following The New York Times’s third straight day of reporting on Donald Trump Jr.’s meeting with a Kremlin-connected Russian lawyer. After months of speculation over whether the Trump team had actual knowledge of Russia’s campaign to influence the election, the quadruple-bylined story that dropped last night around 9 pm stated: “Donald Trump Jr. was informed in an email that the material was part of a Russian government effort to aid his father’s candidacy.”
The Times’s Matt Apuzzo, Jo Becker, Adam Goldman, and Maggie Haberman take pains not to overstate the implications of their reporting, noting that “there is no evidence to suggest that the promised damaging information was related to Russian government computer hacking that led to the release of thousands of Democratic National Committee emails.” At the same time, they write that the communication between Trump Jr. and Rob Goldstone, the publicist who arranged the meeting, will likely be of interest to those investigating whether any attempt at collusion between President Trump’s associates and agents of the Russian government existed.
In a sign of how seriously some on the right are taking the news, Drudge Report gave the story top billing, with a picture of St. Basil’s Cathedral in Red Square above a link to the Times’s report.For months, supporters of the president have argued that the media and chattering class have been screaming “Fire!” in the presence of little more than a whiff of smoke. We still haven’t seen the email Don Jr. received, but the Times’s story is the first evidence that a member of Trump’s inner circle had knowledge of a Russian effort to aid the campaign. Whether this was an isolated encounter or part of a larger series of communications remains to be seen. As Adam Goldman, one of the reporters on the story, tweeted shortly after it posted, “Update: I am still reporting.”
Below, more on the reaction to the Times’s reporting and the newfound focus on Donald Trump Jr.
- Defending Don Jr.: The president’s eldest son is a favorite of the MAGA crowd, and BuzzFeed’s Tarini Parti, Adrian Carrasquillo, and Charlie Warzel report that the base is rallying to Don Jr.’s defense.
- The spotlight shifts: The Washington Post’s John Wagner and Rosalind S. Helderman look at Don Jr.’s role, removed from Washington, but marked by “fierce loyalty and outspoken advocacy for his father’s political interests.”
- “The most significant development so far”: The Atlantic’s Matt Ford notes the expanding nature of the investigation into connections between the Trump sphere and Russia. “Last week, Donald Trump Jr. wasn’t considered part of the sprawling Russia investigation that has consumed his father’s early presidency. Now he is firmly at its center.”
- Breitbart running interference: Joel Pollak focuses on the fact that Times reporters have not seen the actual email. “This is only the latest effort by the Times to bring down President Donald Trump that relies on documents it has not seen and verified,” Pollak writes.
Other notable stories
- “It is, I promise, worse than you think.” So begins David Wallace-Wells’s New York magazine epic on the planet’s future as the impacts from climate change accelerate.
- Good piece from CJR’s Trudy Lieberman on how reporting on health care has changed. The main culprits: secrecy, speed, and social media.
- Reacting to a new Pew Report about trust in the media, The Washington Post’s Margaret Sullivan admits she may be grasping at straws to find a positive message, but argues that Trump’s media-bashing isn’t moving the needle in the way he intends.
- Politico’s Hadas Gold reports that Jeff Mason, president of the White House Correspondents’ Association, said the Trump administration asked him to publicly single out a reporter and criticize an article.
- NBC Nightly News anchor Lester Holt discusses his two years on the job, his frustrations with media coverage of Trump, and the challenge of replacing Brian Williams in this profile by the Associated Press’s David Bauder.
- Digiday’s Lucia Moses reports Facebook is planning to roll out a subscription option for users consuming Instant Articles. Moses quotes a senior executive at The New York Times who says, “We’ve been briefed and are continuing to evaluate if we’re going to participate. So far, we don’t see any great upside.”