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The nation is once again abuzz with talk of Russia. The media and the government are scrambling to figure out what happened during a meeting between President Trump’s son, Donald Jr, and a Russian attorney. At this point, there are just as many things we don’t know as things we do know. In order to help keep you well-informed, here are the core facts you need to know about this story that will likely dominate the news cycle for days to come.

In June of 2016, before Trump officially accepted the Republican nomination, Donald Trump Jr exchanged emails, which he has now made public, with a publicist named Rob Goldstone in order to set up a meeting with Russian attorney. One of the looming questions about this woman is if she works for the Russian government, was an independent actor, or something else. She has publicly said that she does not work for the Russian government, but further investigation has found some signs of ties between her and the government through her law firm. She is not employed by the Russian government and claims she was not acting on their behalf in this meeting.

According to Don Jr, and the emails he released, he believed that he was meeting with Ms. Veselnitskaya in order to discuss some dirt she had on Hillary Clinton. He called this opposition research, though the woman’s Russian ties do complicate things in the current political climate. Other people present at this June 9, 2016 meeting included Jared Kushner, Ivanka’s husband and Trump’s aide, and Paul Manafort, Trump’s former campaign manager.

One of the most damning lines in the email exchange that Don Jr made public on July 11, 2017, just before the New York Times released them, was Goldstone saying: “This is obviously very high level and sensitive information but is part of Russia and its government’s support for Mr. Trump.” Whether that information was conveyed or not is up for dispute. Don Jr and the attorney in question claim that the real topic of the meeting became about adoption of Russian children by US citizens, which is currently frozen.

No matter the content of the meeting, that a meeting did occur and was scheduled carefully seems to blatantly contradict what Donald Jr told the New York Times earlier this year when he was asked if he had met with any Russians during the campaign. In response, he told them, “Did I meet with people that were Russian? I’m sure, I’m sure I did. But none that were set up. None that I can think of at the moment. And certainly none that I was representing the campaign in any way.”

Natalia Veselnitskaya said in a statement “I never had any damaging or sensitive information about Hillary Clinton. It was never my intention to have that.” Is she implying that Donald Jr knew that and wanted to meet with her anyway? Was she deceptive in order to get this meeting? That is to be determined.

Donald Jr released his own statement, on Twitter, which insisted that the “entire meeting was the most inane nonsense I ever heard. And I was actually agitated by it.”  In a statement on Tuesday, Trump said, “My son is a high-quality person and I applaud his transparency.”  Lawyers for both the President and Vice President have denied that VP and POTUS were at the meeting. This seems to be confirmed by the email chain.

So, what happens going forward? It’s really quite hard to tell. This is unlike anything we’ve seen in a long time. Donald Jr is not a government employee. Kushner is. What sort of action can be taken? Is this something that special prosecutor Robert Mueller will consider in his investigation into Russian collusion? Almost certainly. Will Congress want to hear from Donald Jr, and maybe even Kushner? Without a doubt. Some Congressmen are already up in arms. Tim Kaine called it potential treason. John McCain said it was “one of many more shoes to drop.” No one is going to let this one slip away quietly if they can help it. As of the writing of this article, Donald Jr has hired an attorney, Alan Futerfa. He seems to accept that he will have to defend himself further against these allegations.

Worst case scenario for the administration, this meeting and the email chain that confirms it is proof that there was collusion or at least an attempt at it between the Trump campaign and the Russian government or Russian actors. Best case scenario for the Trumps, this meeting is confirmed to be a big nothing-burger and forgotten about within the week. Likely, we’ll end up with something in between. It doesn’t look good for Donald Jr. Though this is not going to be the smoking gun that impeaches Trump, it will likely lead to increased scrutiny of those in the campaign and Trump’s inner circle. There is no question that Russia tried to meddle in the 2016 election. Did the campaigns themselves know this in the moment? That’s one of the biggest questions at hand.

If you’re looking for more information on this hot topic, USA Today has put together a very useful list about what we know so far that shies away from the opinion pages that so many other publications have become. You can also find more coverage by Fox NewsCNNPoliticoNew York Times, and Daily Caller.

Aryssa D
FFL Cabinet Member