On July 11, Donald Trump Jr., having been caught in a series of lies about his meeting with Russians in Trump Tower in June of the year before, appeared on Sean Hannity’s friendly program to insist implicitly that he had stopped lying. “That’s part of why I released all the stuff today. I wanted to get it all out there,” he said. Hannity asked, “As far as this incident is concerned, this is all of it?” Junior replied, “This is everything. This is everything.”
It wasn’t everything. The number of confirmed attendees at the meeting has continued to expand. (Philip Bump has a good close read of the slowly-changing explanations Trump Jr. has offered as he has been forced to concede more ground.) Meanwhile, the likelihood has grown that the meeting did in fact cover Russian hacking of Democratic emails.
Even if the meeting came to nothing, it may well have played an important role in collusion. The setup “bears all the hallmarks of a professionally planned, carefully orchestrated intelligence soft pitch designed to gauge receptivity, while leaving room for plausible deniability in case the approach is rejected,” explains Rolf Mowatt-Larssen, a former CIA counterintelligence official in an op-ed published today.
And yet some of the information that has dribbled out over the course of the day suggests even more than this. The meeting may well have gone beyond the simple feeling-out process Mowatt-Larssen describes. One of the attendees at the meeting turns out to be Rinat Akhmetshin, a former Soviet intelligence officer who U.S. authorities believe has continued ties to Russian intelligence. Akhmetshin has been accused in federal court of “hacking into two computer systems and stealing sensitive and confidential materials as part of an alleged black-ops smear campaign,” reports the Daily Beast, which cited court records.
Akhmetshin, who attended the meeting with Russian lawyer Natalia Veselnitskaya, has provided the alibi (of sorts) that he offered to share “printed-out documents that detailed what she believed was the flow of illicit funds to the Democratic National Committee.” Chuck Ross points out that, nine days after the meeting, Guccifer 2.0 published materials meeting precisely that description.
So the meeting at Trump Tower, which was held on the explicit promise of furthering Russian support for the Trump campaign, included a hacker, and the materials the Russians say they brought were among those published by the Russian hacking cutout.
At this point, the notion that this meeting did not discuss Russian hacking of Democratic emails seems extremely remote.