Russia 'Collusion' Smoking Gun?

© Sputnik / Vladimir Astapkovich / Go to the mediabankOne of the Kremlin towers in Moscow.
One of the Kremlin towers in Moscow. - Sputnik International
Political opponents and US media are calling the uncovered past meeting between Donald Trump's son and a Russian lawyer a "smoking gun".

This is the proof, we are told, that the Trump election team did indeed collude with the Russian government in order to win the US election at the end of last year.

Since the New York Times broke the story last weekend of the meeting between Donald Trump Jr and the Russian lawyer there has been a frenzy among the anti-Trump political camp that the so-called "Russia-gate" affair has reached a critical moment.

Allegedly Kremlin-linked lawyer Natalia Veselnitskaya speaks to journalists in Moscow, Russia, Tuesday, July 11, 2017. - Sputnik International
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Demands for impeachment have grown because, it is asserted, a member of the Trump campaign team met with a "Kremlin-connected lawyer who had information to damage Clinton".

If you read the story in this way then perhaps the "smoking gun" conclusion might be made: Trump's son, Donald Jr, responds "I love it" when told in an email that a Russian lawyer working for the Kremlin wants to give him information that would politically damage Hillary Clinton, the Democratic presidential contender against his father.

Trump Jr did indeed respond enthusiastically to the offer and the meeting did take place at Trump Tower in New York City on June 9 last year, two weeks after his father won the Republican party's nomination for president. Donald Jr earlier this week released a batch of private emails confirming those details.

Political opponents of President Trump, mainly Democrats but also Republicans, as well as prominent news media outlets, like The New York Times, Washington Post and CNN, are now saying that the meeting between Trump's son and the Russian lawyer is the "first hard evidence" of the alleged Russia collusion to interfere in US democracy.

U.S. President Donald Trump and Russia's President Vladimir Putin shake hands during the G20 Summit in Hamburg, Germany in this still image taken from video, July 7, 2017 - Sputnik International
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However, this version of the story has a crucial fatal flaw. All the claims made to Trump Jr about the "Kremlin-connected lawyer" and the "Russian government wanting to help Trump get elected" are deeply suspect. The grandiose claims were made by a former British tabloid journalist named Rob Goldstone who appears to be acquainted with Trump Jr.

Goldstone, who works as a publicist and an entertainments manager, wrote to Trump Jr to set up a meeting with Russian attorney Natalia Veselnitskaya. The lawyer was acting for the family of Russian pop star Emin Agalarov.

It turns out that the Russian lawyer wanted to meet the Trump campaign to make legitimate representations about US legislation known as the Magnitsky Act (2010), which has sanctioned several Russian individuals and business people over alleged human rights abuses.

Natalia Veselnitskaya, the attorney, has this week told US media that this was the sole subject of the meeting with the Trump campaign, and that she was not acting on behalf of the Russian government, but rather in a private professional capacity. She also said that she never had any intention to discuss Hillary Clinton with Trump Jr. As far as she was concerned, the meeting was only about issues related to the Magnitsky Act.

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The Kremlin has confirmed that Veselnitskaya does not work for the Russian government. In fact, the Kremlin said it was not even aware of her legal practice.

Trump Jr also confirmed in subsequent media interviews that his meeting with Veselnitskaya was an anti-climax. He says he heard "nothing" about Clinton from the Russian lawyer, whom he said wanted to talk about Magnitsky issues. "I realized that this was the real purpose for the meeting," said Trump Jr.

That means that Trump Jr was misled by the music publicist Rob Goldstone. For whatever reason, Goldstone embellished the nature of the forthcoming meeting with the lawyer as being about juicy political gossip to help the Trump election campaign.

In other words, the former tabloid hack was putting his own spin on the matter by claiming that the lawyer was "Kremlin-connected" and was conveying "information from the Russian government to damage Clinton in order to help Trump's election".

The lawyer for the family of Emin Agalarov, the Russian singer who asked Goldstone to set up the meeting between Trump Jr and Veselnitskaya, has now come out to rubbish the claims made by Goldstone.

"The vast majority of what Rob Goldstone said in email exchange with Donald Trump Jr is not accurate," Agalarov's family attorney, Scott Balber, told RT. "The only thing that's true is that Emin asked the meeting to be arranged. The rest of it is not true, it's false."

So there you have it. It appears that the US media frenzy this week about obtaining a "smoking gun" implicating Trump in collusion with the Russian government to subvert the American presidential election is yet another over-the-top sensation with little factual basis.

Simply put, the Russian government was not involved in US election interference, as the Kremlin has maintained all along.

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What the US media are basing their latest collusion allegations on are merely claims made by a former British tabloid hack and pop star publicist who would have had self-serving reasons to ham up the "goods" in order to sell Trump Jr a scoop.

This would not be the first time that the Russia-gate affair has relied on dodgy information from a dubious British source. Recall that the "dirty dossier" was authored by former British MI6 spy Christopher Steele, who made outlandish claims that the Kremlin had "Kompromat" on Donald Trump Sr from hotel orgies with Russian prostitutes.

Granted, one could censure Donald Trump Jr for being willing to receive information from what he believed to be Russian government sources to take down Clinton. But, hey come on, that's politics and the dirty business of "opposition research" which all parties engage in. It's impossibly naive and self-righteous to pummel Trump Jr over it.

Anyway, the salient fact remains that there was no such transfer of information from the Russian government to the Trump campaign. The US media are once again going off on a tangent, chasing their tails and tilting at windmills.

To make a grandstanding big deal about Trump Jr's conduct is the height of hypocrisy, especially in light of Hillary Clinton's campaign having commissioned the British ex-spy Christopher Steele to dig dirt on Trump Sr, as reported by award-winning investigative journalist Robert Parry.

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The whole "Russia-gate" affair is a wild fiction dreamt up by powerful American elements who frankly refuse to abide by democracy. To make things worse, Russia is embroiled as a villain in the piece, which ensures US-Russia bilateral relations deteriorate to dangerous levels of hostility, where even the breakout of war has become a real possibility.

Washington and the US media have been in thrall to this fantasy for the past seven months, and yet still no evidence has been unearthed to justify the squandering of taxpayer money and paralysis of American government. It's not Russia that is undermining US democracy. It is Americans themselves.

The so-called "smoking gun" of Trump Jr meeting a Russian lawyer for 20 minutes last year is another dud in a heap of duds. This is no smoking gun. More like a joke water pistol.

The views expressed in this article are solely those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the official position of Sputnik.

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