The Republican National Committee is directing its allied TV talking heads to emphasize that even though his son’s meeting with a Kremlin-linked Russian attorney was harmless, President Donald Trump’s attorney says the president didn’t know about it.
That’s according to “Pundit Prep,” a semi-regular email blast the RNC’s communications team sends out to friendly TV and radio commentators (basically, people introduced on cable news as “Republican Strategist”). The Daily Beast reviewed the email, which provides insight into how the GOP is gearing up for questions from the media on the president’s son.
“Don Jr. has been transparent about the logistics and substance of the meeting,” one of the talking points says. “He has released emails pertaining to the matter without being asked, and he has stated that he will happily cooperate with Congressional Committees should they need to investigate the matter further.”
That’s some impressive spin. First, the president’s son has been far from transparent about the meeting. He still hasn’t said who all the participants were, and he spent months saying nobody on the campaign had any conversations with Russian government-linked officials; he only owned up to the meeting after the New York Times reported on it. And the idea that he was “transparent about the logistics and substance” of his meeting could be hard for some pundits to repeat with a straight face. Trump Jr’s first comment on the meeting was that it had nothing to do with the campaign, and was only about adoptions. We now know that comment was...not transparent.
And the claim that he released emails “without being asked” is an eyebrow-raiser; Trump Jr. released the emails a few minutes before the New York Times published them, likely to preempt the paper’s scoop.
“Despite attempts by the left to perpetuate hysteria in the media, there is still no evidence of collusion,” the Pundit Prep email continues. “Even Democrats have been unable to point to any clear evidence that indicates otherwise.”
“President Trump did not have any knowledge of the meeting, as stated by his attorney,” the email adds.
So the RNC is arguing that the president’s son didn’t do anything questionable by taking this very legal, benign, inconsequential, normal meeting. But the RNC is also emphasizing that when it comes to this very legal, benign, inconsequential, and normal meeting, the president (according to his attorney) didn’t know about it.
The email then links to a USA Today op-ed by James Robbins, a Pentagon official during George W. Bush’s presidency, bemoaning the “collective furor that has been generated around the Russia issue writ large.” It also links to a Newsmax write-up of an interview RNC Chair Ronna Romney McDaniel did with Fox and Friends saying Democrats are hypocritical for criticizing the president’s son.
Donald Trump Jr.’s woes from this week aren’t the only issue around which guidance was issued. The Pundit Prep email also has talking points on the president’s trip to France and on the healthcare bill, saying Congressional Republicans have “an opportunity and obligation to act.”