All those tweets about “fake news” just went up in smoke.
Image via Flickr user Gage Skidmore.
Remember how back in April Donald Trump Jr. tweeted a photo of himself wearing a green T-shirt that said “Very Fake News” in big block letters? It was a visual reminder of the Trump administration’s official stance: Any story that the Trump campaign had colluded with Russia during the 2016 presidential election was simply the result of haters in the media coming up with conspiracy theories.
The president’s son is probably wishing that he’d kept posting selfies while wearing that shirt. Instead, on Tuesday he tweeted a chain of emails about a meeting that some say may be Russiagate’s first smoking gun.
Trump Jr.’s sharing of the emails has backfired in epic fashion, and Twitter, where the Trumps have shouted “fake news” in 140-character statements for months, is having a field day. Confused? Republican strategist Ana Navarro feels your pain.
In a nutshell, Don Jr.’s tweet came in response to an out-and-out media and political frenzy over the weekend after The New York Times dropped a bombshell story on Saturday about his meeting with a Russian lawyer during the campaign.
[quote position="left" is_quote="true"]They were at least prepared to do business with a foreign adversary.[/quote]
Then, on Monday, the paper upped the ante, reporting that emails existed showing Trump Jr. knew what he was getting into: “Before arranging a meeting with a Kremlin-connected Russian lawyer he believed would offer him compromising information about Hillary Clinton, Donald Trump Jr. was informed in an email that the material was part of a Russian government effort to aid his father’s candidacy, according to three people with knowledge of the email,” reported the Times.
In response, Trump Jr. tweeted the emails and a statement that he was doing it to be “totally transparent.” As Chelsea Handler insinuated on Twitter, this doesn’t seem like the smartest move. “Don Jr. has been accused of colluding with Russians. To defend himself he released the emails proving it,” Handler wrote.
Indeed, as the Washington Post noted on Tuesday, “The emails between President Trump’s oldest son and an intermediary for the Russians provide the clearest indication to date that Trump campaign officials and family members were at least prepared to do business with a foreign adversary in the mutual goal of taking down Hillary Clinton.”
Among the most brutal takedowns of Trump Jr.’s actions are the comparisons to Fredo Corleone, the insecure, dim-witted son of Vito Corleone in “The Godfather.”
Then there are the folks who began modifying book titles in Don Jr.’s honor, with the hashtag #DonJrChildrensBooks.
Rep. Adam Schiff (California), the ranking Democrat on the House Intelligence Committee, didn’t tweet Fredo jokes or change book titles, but he did post a brief timeline of Trump Jr.’s changing story.
During a press conference on Tuesday, Schiff also told reporters that the emails reveal “very significant, deeply disturbing new public information about direct contacts between Russia and the very center of the Trump family, campaign, and organization.”
Of course, not everyone believes that the emails matter. Bill O’Reilly, who was ousted from Fox News in April after advertisers fled in droves because of public backlash over sexual assault allegations against him, tweeted that Trump Jr. is “smart” and brought the Trump email scandal back to Hillary Clinton.
And Don Jr.’s dad, President Trump, says he has his oldest son’s back. “My son is a high-quality person and I applaud his transparency," Trump said in a statement on Tuesday.
As journalist Yasher Ali pointed out, the president has also used the phrase “high-quality” to describe his clothing line at Macy’s and people from Mexico.
In an interview with Sean Hannity on Tuesday night, Trump Jr. told the Fox News host that he “probably would have done things a little differently.” Meanwhile, Robert Mueller, the special counsel leading the Department of Justice’s investigation into Russian interference in the election, is adding the emails to his evidence list.