Morris & McGann: Was Trump Tower Meeting with Don Jr. a Setup?

The Associated Press
The Associated Press

Associates of Russian lawyer Natalia Veselnitskaya arranged a June 9, 2016, meeting with President Trump’s son, Donald Jr., luring him to attend by promising “dirt” on Hillary Clinton.

But there was no dirt whatsoever produced at the meeting. Instead, the Russians’ chief concern appeared to be seeking support for canceling American sanctions against certain Russians, a major obsession of the Kremlin.

There were some curious circumstances surrounding the appointment. Right before the meeting with Trump Jr., Veselnitskaya huddled with Glenn Simpson, the head of Fusion GPS, the opposition research firm hired by the Clinton campaign. After the meeting, they apparently met once again, perhaps to debrief Simpson.

Fusion had also been working on Veselnitskaya’s Kremlin-supported team to repeal the Magnitsky Act, which originally imposed the sanctions.

Why did Simpson want to keep such close tabs on what happened in the Trump Tower meeting?

Could it be that this meeting — whose content was a non-event — was staged simply so that there could be an incident involving Trump’s son and the Russians ? That would allow Democrats to claim the collusion was planned. Without a meeting, it’s hard to prove a conspiracy or collusion.

So was the purpose of the meeting to supply the missing piece in their collusion allegations?

Remember that Fusion had hired ex-British spy, Christopher Steele to develop a dossier on Trump’s activities in Russia. According to Steele, he was hired in June 2016.

Only a week after the Trump Tower meeting, Steele sent his first memo on June 16, 2017. One of the central points in the three pages was that the Kremlin was providing Trump with negative material on Hillary.

The dossier stated that “the Kremlin had been feeding valuable information about Hillary Clinton” to the Trump campaign.

But there was no “valuable information” about Clinton exchanged at the Trump Tower meeting. Nevertheless, it’s easy to see why the Russians — and possibly Fusion, too — wanted to be able to point to a meeting where it could say that the material was being passed.

Once the initial memo was written, Steele sent it to his contacts at the FBI. He had earlier worked with the FBI on the FIFA soccer scandal. It was because of Steele’s connection to the FBI that he was chosen. His earlier work gave him credibility and stature — regardless of the truthfulness of the allegations.

Steele faithfully sent his dossier to the FBI, although he admitted in court that the material was not verified and needed further investigation.

No matter. The Trump Tower meeting set up a basis for the collusion and no one knew that Steele didn’t know whether the material was true or where it came from. Later, under oath, Steele said that he received “unsolicited” information that he included in his dossier. In this case, it may have come from his Fusion paymasters (who got the money from Hillary’s campaign).

Think about it: Who else would know to send unsolicited material that was relevant to the dossier to Steele?

This raises the larger question of whether Fusion, itself, was the source of much of the dossier it had been paid to amass. Did it fabricate the entire house of cards, spinning a yarn that was to preoccupy American politics for over a year and endanger a presidency?


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