On Monday morning, Wall Street Journal White House reporter Rebecca Ballhaus reported that around the time of the June 2016 meeting, Trump aides were internally asking if the campaign had a position on the Magnitsky Act:
A person close to the Trump campaign recalled getting an email around the time of the meeting with the Russian attorney asking about the campaign’s stance on the Magnitsky Act. The person could not recall if they responded to the email, or whether it was before or after the meeting took place.
This past Saturday, Donald Trump Jr. explained that the meeting was arranged to discuss the Magnitsky Act and Russian adoptions. On Sunday, this changed to the meeting was established because the lawyer said she had damaging information on Hillary Clinton, but Trump Jr. insisted that the Magnitsky Act was a reason for the meeting. Assuming the email (the existence of which was reported by Ms. Ballhaus) does indeed exist, then a very important question needs to be asked:
Was the email sent before or after the meeting between Donald Trump Jr. Jared Kushner, Paul Manafort and the Russian lawyer, Natalia Veselnitskaya?
If the email was sent before the meeting, then Donald Trump Jr. has likely not turned over all communications before the meeting. In the current batch of emails he released, not once is the Magnitsky Act or Russian adoption policy mentioned. Based on those emails, there is no way in which Donald Trump Jr. or any individual could have known that they would be discussed. So, asking about the campaign’s internal policy on the Magnitsky Act before the meeting means that other correspondence took place that made Donald Trump Jr. and/or the Trump campaign aware of it that has not been publicly released and calls into question his transparency.
However, if the email was sent after the meeting, it raises an entirely new problem. Trump Jr. claims that the meeting with the Russian lawyer went nowhere and nothing more happened after the meeting. Yet, the email plausibly undercuts this statement, as it means that the Trump campaign took the Russian attorney, Natalia Veselnitskaya, seriously and did not dismiss her immediately after meeting as claimed. It would demonstrate that the campaign at the very least considered potential further interaction.
Donald Trump Jr. and the Trump administration need to answer whether or not email(s) asking for the campaign’s stance on the Magnitsky Act exists, as well as whether it was sent before or after the meeting. If the email is indeed real, then this scandal just got bigger.