Is Russia Flipping the Script?

July 11, 2017

Just days after Donald Trump Jr. accused Russian attorney Natalia Veselnitskaya of approaching him with an offer to assist the campaign with damaging information about Hilary Clinton the Kremlin connected agent claims that the reverse was actually true. In her version of events the campaign approached her requesting the meeting, and paints an image where Don Jr. desperately begs for Russian intelligence to help his father's campaign. As surprising as this new development may be on its face, it's ten times more telling when viewed within its full context. At first look this appears like Putin's intelligence machine has taken a clear shot across the President's bow.

The first peculiarity we should notice is that Natalia V. claims to have been approached by the campaign to request the meeting, however that's not true. Don't take our word for it. Rob Goldstone has already come forth and acknowledged that he was the individual who set up the meeting on request of Azerbaijani recording artist Emin Agalarov (which is consistent with Don Jr's account), and the NYT has further reported on the email Goldstone sent to Don Jr. explaining that the Russian government wanted to assist the campaign. Natalia V is lying about who requested the meeting for no readily apparent reason.

The story originally presented by Don Jr. was that Natalia V wanted to talk about adoption laws. This is the Russian created cover story. Natalia V. is known for her work in this arena and nothing unusual would be seen in this explanation. In fact, Natalia V. still maintains that she used the opportunity of this meeting to lobby against the US sanctions related to current international adoption policies between the two countries. If Natalia V. wanted to deny being a Kremlin operative nothing is served by lying about who requested the meeting, even if she wanted to deny the pretense used to lure Don Jr. into meeting. There is only one thing accomplished in this lie. This isn't a strictly defensive lie to protect her and the Kremlin's interests. This is an offensive maneuver.

When the President feels like he's been attacked he reacts with a certain violent gusto, rapidly scrambling into a frenzy while summoning his closest agents in a spectacle reminiscent of the Skeksis gathering for the Great Conjunction to receive immortality and everlasting power. That scene is playing out once again this morning, but with a healthy dose of desperation that has been frequently observed in his Presidency so far as he attempts to cope with being outside of his own element. More family business. The President is not taking Ms. Veselnitskaya's story very well.

While it might be tempting to imagine the President is suddenly a target of the same Russian machine that he thought was an ace up his sleeve, this appears more like a warning shot. As we have explained before, the President has often believed he can manipulate Putin and has attempted to straddle both sides of the fence. Even while placating Russian interests the President has often insisted, with full sincerity, that he will be able to utilize Putin to achieve the President's own goals. These lofty ambitions have included such foolish beliefs that the President could convince Putin to essentially change loyalties against Syria, and to become involved in pressuring North Korea to halt their weapons program. And while Secretary Tillerson has been tight lipped about the recent G20 meeting between Presidents Trump and Putin we know understand that he feels President Trump's performance was a somewhat embarrassing mix between clumsy attempts at peacocking and obtusely misreading Putin's refined reserve as weakness. It appears that an unimpressed Putin is sending a signal about who's in charge. Comply, or be destroyed.