Donald Trump Jr. and the other participants in his Russia meeting have changed their stories so many times that even their current version can no longer be taken at face value. The only thing we know with any confidence is that, based on the leaked emails, the Trump team thought they would be attending a meeting about dirt on Hillary Clinton. So allow me to present an alternate sequence of events, call it a theory if you will, of what might have really gone down:
It’s June of 2016, and Donald Trump is about to shockingly become the Republican nominee, after a year of no one thinking it was possible. Vladimir Putin decides to make sure Trump knows he owns him. He has his intermediaries lure Donald Trump Jr. into a meeting under the friendly guise of offering him dirt on Hillary. But the meeting is a setup: instead of presenting the Trump team with dirt on Hillary, it presents them with dirt on Trump. Financial records, or still images from the Pee Pee Tape, or whatever Putin has been holding. The implication is clear: make sure Trump does Russia’s bidding, or we’ll release this stuff and destroy him.
There are some circumstantial nods to this theory in the details being floated by attendees. One of them said that by the end of the meeting, Rob Gladstone was apologizing to Donald Trump Jr. for having set it up at all. You’d be apologizing too, if you’d just unwittingly lured your friend into the blackmailing of his father. Another is that the Kremlin attorney brought a folder of documents with her, but that for some reason Trump Jr. ended up not being happy about them. If the documents were dirt on Hillary, he’d have at least tried to put it to use. But if the documents were dirt on Donald, then yeah, he’d have had nothing but scorn for them.
Again, this is just a theory of events. I’d argue that it’s more believable than the overall version of events that the attendees are trying to feed us. And frankly, if you’re going to try to blackmail someone as erratic and unpredictable as Donald Trump, you might have better luck trying to convince his kids to be the ones to get him to fall in line.
Bill Palmer is the publisher of the political news outlet Palmer Report