On Tuesday, Donald Trump Jr. released a shockingly incriminating email chain on Twitter. It details the arrangements for his meeting with a Russian lawyer last year to get dirt on Hillary Clinton, described as “part of Russia and its government’s support for Mr. Trump.” Junior claimed that he did it “in order to be totally transparent.” But it turns out that that’s not the real reason he did it.
The New York Times already had the emails. As is normal journalistic practice, the Times contacted Junior’s office to give him an opportunity to comment. Instead, Junior stalled the reporter while he quickly pulled together a statement for his tweet. Then he published just before the Time was going to.
Mark Mazzetti, the Times’s Washington Investigations Editor, said on the Rachel Maddow Show,
We notified the White House and we notified Donald Trump Jr that we were preparing to go with the story very soon… and we were asking for comments. They asked for a little more time… but then, around 11:00 when we were preparing to publish our story, that’s when Donald Trump Jr. tweeted out the emails themselves.
Give Junior this: he managed to both deny the Times its big scoop, and to put out a bogus narrative about how “transparent” he is. His father, always a fan of specious narratives, quickly offered praise, saying “My son is a high-quality person and I applaud his transparency.” Perhaps Trump is so naïve that he thinks that transparency really was the reason for Junior’s actions. But Trump is probably just happy that his dear boy managed to stick it to the newspaper he hates the most.
Of course, none of this makes the emails any less incriminating, both to Junior and to the other attendees, Jared Kushner and Paul Manafort. The real question for Junior now is whether his new lawyer, Alan Futerfas, can leverage his experience defending the mob to somehow contain the damage.
In the meantime, the takeaway for any journalist with a scoop is not to trust anyone in Trump’s circle. From now on, any reporter asking for a comment on a story will have their story ready to publish, with their finger hovering over the mouse button as they place the call.