Jacob Heilbrunn

Trump’s son gives his father’s critics the smoking gun they were looking for

Trump's son gives his father's critics the smoking gun they were looking for
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Let there be no doubt: it’s turning into the political equivalent of Defcon 1, the highest level of nuclear alert, for the Trump administration.

There can be no greater irony than that Donald Trump, who thundered about Hillary Clinton’s secret email server during the election campaign, could be undone by an email disseminated by his own son. Donald Trump Junior, who has recently hired a former mob lawyer to represent him, revealed on Twitter (shortly before the New York Times ran a story detailing his efforts to gather dirt on Hillary Clinton) the lengthy email chain between him and the publicist Rob Goldstone. Those epistolary efforts reveal that, despite President Trump’s and his paladin’s repeated denials of contacts with Russia during the campaign, Trump, Jnr. actively solicited them. He was told that the Kremlin wanted to lend a helping hand. A farrago of sordid characters would be involved. His response: “If it’s what you say I love it.”

Whether any of the Trumps are loving it now may be wondered. The feast of osculation that appears to have taken place between the Trump campaign and Moscow is now turning sour. Putin may calculate that he can best sow further chaos by allowing the main and bit actors in this drama to reveal more of their electoral shenanigans on behalf of Trump and Co.

At the same time, Trump’s detractors in the GOP, both political and intellectual, are rounding on him. Writers such as Max Boot, David Frum and Peter Wehner have been relentless in depicting Trump as a phony conservative, a dupe of Moscow, a traitor to everything that America holds dear. Now Trump Jnr. has supplied the very smoking gun that daddy’s critics have been seeking.

Even as his son thrashes about, Trump himself is remaining studiously silent. Speculation is rife in Washington about what figures in the administration leaked the latest bombshells. Jared Kushner? Steve Bannon? The remarkable thing is that these leaks did not come from the deep state that Trump likes to complain about; they came from within his own administration. Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s hand has been strengthened by the latest revelations as well. At this point, Michael Flynn and Paul Manafort and Carter Page have every incentive to sing to Mueller’s team. If Trump were to sack Mueller, it would clearly be a case of obstruction of justice that would likely trigger a revolt among Senate Republicans who are already unable to pass a health care bill.

For Trump, who met with Vladimir Putin for several hours at the G20 - where the actual content of their badinage remains a mystery - this represents the unravelling of his presidency. Even if he manages to retain his post as president, he will be one of the walking wounded, watching helplessly as his administration succumbs to a cancer that he cannot eradicate. At the pinnacle of power, Trump, once the pre-eminent brand salesman of the modern era, is witnessing the decline and fall of his own personal empire. The crash is bound to send shock waves not only around America but the world.