We’re finally getting somewhere. Dead horses are useless to most folks, but Democrats, rendering plants and certain newspapers are determined to follow the stink.
The latest scoop by the intrepid horse-hunters of The New York Times has led to a meeting by Donald Trump with Russians who were said to have savory secrets about Hillary Clinton for sale. This was at a meeting during what the newspaper called “an inflection point” in the late, lamented presidential campaign of 2016.
Too bad for the crack scoop artists of The New York Times, it wasn’t actually Donald Trump, but Donald Trump Jr., who manages the family real-estate interests, and what they talked about was American adoptions of Russian babies and a Miss Universe Contest, a franchise owned by the Trump interests, for Moscow. Whether they discussed shoe and bra sizes of contestants, whether the Russians promised contestants with the perfect 38-24-36 measurements so prized by beauty-contest judges, The New York Times did not say. Perhaps the newspaper is saving that for further scoops in the coming days.
It’s not clear what The New York Times was looking for in this particular dead-horse account, perhaps proof that Mr. Trump had sent a campaign team bearing a hollowed-out watermelon with microfilmed specifications for the next generation of the H-Bomb inside. After months of huffing, puffing and promising the real goods, we still haven’t seen a smoking gun, or whatever cliche we’re using this month to describe the evidence that would overturn the election results, cancel the Gorsuch appointment to the U.S. Supreme Court, and install Hillary Clinton in the White House at last. Or something like that.
In the Times account, it was “unclear whether the Russian lawyer, Natalia Veselnitskaya, actually produced the promised compromising information about Mrs. Clinton.” But with smoke like that — a Russian spy named “Natalia” with an unpronounceable surname is all John le Carre would need to spin a dark tale of intrigue, with or without microfilm in a hollowed-out watermelon. Who needs fire?
Mr. Trump, junior not senior, said he took the meeting with the Russian lawyer, held at Trump Tower in Manhattan, at the request of an acquaintance from arranging an earlier Miss Universe Contest. “After pleasantries were exchanged,” he said in careful, precise, police-blotter language, “the woman stated that she had information that individuals connected to Russia were funding the Democratic National Committee and supporting Mrs. Clinton. Her statements were vague, ambiguous and made no sense. No details or supporting information was provided or even offered. It quickly became clear that she had no meaningful information.”
Mr. Trump Jr. said the conversation turned to adoption of Russian children and an American law that blacklists suspected Russian human-rights abusers. Russian President Vladimir Putin was so offended by the law that he halted American adoptions of Russian children.
“It became clear to me that this was the true agenda all along,” Mr. Trump said, “and that the claims of potentially helpful information [about Hillary] were a pretext for the meeting.”
So far, the story was another of the nothingburgers served up as appetizers for the promised porterhouse about Russian collusion with Donald Trump, senior not junior, for so long expected from the magpie media. For the record, the account noted that the president’s lawyers said, “The president was not aware of and did not attend the meeting.” But if any reader wanted to think he had, that was OK by the newspaper. If it wasn’t true, it could have been.
And it was here in the account that it was time to insert a little boilerplate. “American intelligence agencies [not identified, of course] have concluded that Russian hackers and propagandists worked to tip the election toward Donald J. Trump [just in case anyone was confused about which Trump the newspaper was talking about], in part by stealing and then providing WikiLeaks internal Democratic Party and Clinton campaign emails that were embarrassing to Mrs. Clinton.” At least here was a slice of dill pickle to reward readers disappointed by just another nothingburger.
The junior Mr. Trump broke no laws in taking the meeting; he does not serve in the Trump administration, he does not have a security clearance and he is not required by law to disclose foreign contacts. No investigator, federal or congressional, has asked for disclosure of contacts. He was apparently engaged in the “opposition research,” i.e., a little (or a lot of) dirt that is the fuel of political campaigns.
The magpie media just can’t let go of the Trump-Russian collusion story, no matter how many unearthed horses turn out to be dead. Maybe there really is the story of the century lurking in the shadow of Donald Trump, but this one ain’t it. The New York Times used to be better than this.
• Wesley Pruden is editor in chief emeritus of The Times.
Copyright © 2017 The Washington Times, LLC.