The left is thrilled: Donald Trump, Jr. met at Trump Tower with a Russian lawyer offering “damaging information” on Hillary Clinton.
Collusion! the Times cried Sunday: “The meeting — at Trump Tower on June 9, 2016, two weeks after Donald J. Trump clinched the Republican nomination — points to the central question in federal investigations of the Kremlin’s meddling in the presidential election: whether the Trump campaign colluded with the Russians.”
Notice how the goalposts have shifted. The question of collusion has always concerned Russian efforts to intervene in the 2016 presidential election, allegedly by hacking the Democratic National Committee and other targets.
What the Russian lawyer allegedly offered was entirely different — information “that individuals connected to Russia were funding the Democratic National Committee and supporting Mrs. Clinton,” Trump, Jr. told the Times.
That has nothing whatsoever to do with the hacking allegations, and actually inverts the dominant media narrative, as it suggests that Clinton, not Trump, might have been the one colluding with the Russians in the 2016 election.
Though Trump’s son told the Times that the lawyer “had no meaningful information,” there was already a mountain of evidence that the Russian government had some questionable ties with the Clintons and the Clinton Foundation.
Do the Times, and the Democrats, want to go there?
The Washington Post‘s Callum Borchers called Trump, Jr.’s statements to the Times “stunning.” One version of the Post story used the word “incriminating” in the headline, though there is no crime alleged and none, apparently, took place.
Someone allegedly offered opposition research to the campaign — something that happens all the time, as the Clinton campaign knew well, since it was digging up dirt on Donald Trump anywhere it thought it could find it, including foreign sources.
The Times called the lawyer “Kremlin-connected,” but there is no reason that the Trump team would have suspected that (and the lawyer herself appeared to deny any such connection in the Times article).
For the left, it suffices that a member of the Trump family met with someone from Russia. That is enough to revive the failing Russia conspiracy theory, lighting up social media and setting the mainstream news agenda for the week.
Sen. Mark Warner (D-VA) and the party’s legion of mainstream media operatives spent all day Monday speculating about what the Times story might suggest, giving air to all the old conspiracy theories, which have led nowhere.
There is still no evidence of any collusion between the Trump campaign and the Russian government. The story is a giant red herring — one that will ultimately hurt the media’s credibility and the Democrats’ prospects.
Not only is the story entirely irrelevant to what is known about the issue of Russian election interference, but it will also fuel the Democrats’ intense interest in conspiracy theories, which have crowded out any of the issues that voters care about.
Joel B. Pollak is Senior Editor-at-Large at Breitbart News. He was named one of the “most influential” people in news media in 2016. He is the co-author of How Trump Won: The Inside Story of a Revolution, is available from Regnery. Follow him on Twitter at @joelpollak.