Email #216: “bizarre rumor”?

On Sunday Donald Trump Jr. admitted to meeting on June 9, 2016 with a Russian lawyer because she said she would give him damaging information about Hilary Clinton to help his father win the election. Jared Kushner and campaign manager Paul Manaforte also attended the meeting which took place in Trump Tower, a fact Kushner neglected to report when applying for security clearance as a senior advisor in the Trump administration.

Previously Trump Jr. had denied and even ridiculed the idea that any Russians had aided the Trump campaign. He said last July: “I can’t think of bigger lies, but that exactly goes to show you what the DNC and what the Clinton camp will do. They will lie and do anything to win.” We now know that he made this statement six weeks after taking a meeting with a Russian lawyer promising to help Trump win by damaging Clinton.

Trump Jr. may have broken federal laws that prohibit solicitation or acceptance of anything of value from a foreign national. According to former George W. Bush White House ethics lawyer Richard Painter: “This is treason. He must have known that the only way Russia would get such information was by spying. In the Bush administration we could have had him in custody for questioning by now.”

Since Trump Jr. is not a member of the Trump administration, his lies and actions are outside the jurisdiction of your House Judiciary Committee. But other members of the administration have also misled the American public. Trump spokesperson Hicks said in November: “It never happened. There was no communication between the campaign and any foreign entity during the campaign.”

When asked if anyone involved in the Trump campaign had any contact with Russians trying to meddle with the election, Trump spokesperson Conway said in December: “Absolutely not. And I discussed that with the president-elect just last night. Those conversations never happened. I hear people saying it like it’s a fact on television. That is just not only inaccurate and false, but it’s dangerous and it does undermine our democracy.”

When Vice President Pence was asked in January, he said: “Of course not. And I think to suggest that is to give credence to some of these bizarre rumors that have swirled around the candidacy.”

When Press Secretary Spicer was asked in February, he said: “I don’t have any — I — there’s nothing that would conclude me that anything different has changed with respect to that time period.”

There is now open, verifiable information that three major members of the Trump campaign—Trump Jr., Kushner, and Manaforte—met with a Russian citizen for the purpose of receiving damaging information about Clinton. This is not a “bizarre rumor.” It is a fact. And attempts to hide it are dangerous and have undermined our democracy.

How as chair of the House Judiciary Committee are you responding to this revelation? What steps are you taking to address this misconduct by members of the executive branch?

Author: Chris Gavaler

Chris Gavaler is an associate professor at W&L University, comics editor of Shenandoah, and series editor of Bloomsbury Critical Guides in Comics Studies. He has published two novels: School for Tricksters (SMU 2011) and Pretend I’m Not Here (HarperCollins 2002); and six books of scholarship: On the Origin of Superheroes (Iowa 2015), Superhero Comics (Bloomsbury 2017), Superhero Thought Experiments (with Nathaniel Goldberg, Iowa 2019), Revising Fiction, Fact, and Faith (with Nathaniel Goldberg, Routledge 2020), Creating Comics (with Leigh Ann Beavers, Bloomsbury 2021), and The Comics Form (Bloomsbury forthcoming). His visual work appears in Ilanot Review, North American Review, Aquifer, and other journals.

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