A major bombshell just dropped in the ongoing saga of Did the Donald Trump campaign collude with Russian agents during the 2016 presidential election?

Today Donald Trump Jr., in response to New York Times reporting on a secret meeting he had last June, released what he claims is the full email chain between him and the person who set up that meeting -- during which Trump Jr. believed he would receive information "that would incriminate Hillary [Clinton]," his father's opponent in the campaign, from a "Russian government attorney."

In the emails (which you can read below), it is made explicitly clear that the Russian government was responsible for the information and was trying to transmit it in order to hurt Clinton and help Trump win the presidency.

The email exchange is between Trump Jr. and Rob Goldstone, a music publicist and former tabloid reporter. At one point Goldstone writes to Trump Jr., "This is obviously very high level and sensitive information but is part of Russia and its government’s support for Mr. Trump."

Trump Jr. responded positively to the offer, writing, "If it's what you say I love it."

Since we don't know what actually transpired at the subsequent meeting in June at Trump Tower in New York, we can't be precisely certain of any illegal exchanges of information. But the emails do show willingness, even eagerness, on Trump Jr.'s part to collude or conspire with what he believed was the Russian government to gain intelligence on Clinton. That could certainly amount to the breaking of federal election law.

Goldstone is connected to pop singer Emin Agalarov, the son of the Russian-Azerbaijani billionaire Aras Agalarov, known by some as "the Donald Trump of Russia." Agalarov and President Trump have ties dating back at least as far as 2013 -- Trump even cameo'd in Agalarov's son's video -- when the two men tried to bring a Trump Tower to Moscow. Agalarov is a prominent businessman in Russia with connections to Vladimir Putin.

We still don't know exactly what occurred inside the meeting, which was attended by four people:

  • Donald Trump Jr.
  • Jared Kushner, Trump's son-in-law and top adviser on the campaign and now as president
  • Paul Manafort, the Trump campaign chairman at the time who also has numerous major, messy ties to Russia
  • the Russian lawyer, Natalia Veselnitskaya

Veselnitskaya's exact links to the Kremlin and/or Vladimir Putin are unclear. She likely does not work directly for the Russian government, though her clients have included "state-owned businesses and a senior government official's son." When Goldstone told Trump Jr. about who she was, he described her as "the Crown prosecutor of Russia," which isn't an actual position in the Russian government.

That is likely a language error. Goldstone, who is British, may have been equating her to the Crown Prosecutors of England and Wales, who are like Justice Department attorneys in the U.S. In other words, Goldstone was implying that a top-level Russian government lawyer wanted to share some dirt on Hillary Clinton when he wrote to Trump Jr.:

The Crown prosecutor of Russia met with [Emin's] father Aras [Agalarov] this morning and in their meeting offered to provide the Trump campaign with some official documents and information that would incriminate Hillary and her dealings with Russia and would be very useful to your father.

The lawyer, Veselnitskaya, told NBC that she did not have any such thing. "I never had any damaging or sensitive information about Hillary Clinton," she said. "It was never my intention to have that."

Trump Jr. insisted on Monday (July 10) that that was the purpose of their meeting:

When asked why he would make that claim, Veselnitskaya answered, "It is quite possible that maybe they were longing for such information. They wanted it so badly that they could only hear the thought that they wanted."

President Trump, usually quite quick and eager to respond to the day's news on Twitter, has so far remained conspicuously quiet. He released a very brief statement through a spokesperson: "My son is a high-quality person and I applaud his transparency."

Trump Jr., in addition to releasing the emails and retweeting words of support from political allies, has announced he will be a guest on Sean Hannity's Fox News program tonight at 10 ET. However, Trump Jr.'s lawyers may put a hold on that, considering those emails he chose to release may well prove to be self-incriminating, so maybe Trump Jr. should just keep quiet for the time being.

Below are the emails Trump Jr. tweeted out. The Atlantic has helpfully reprinted them in an easily readable, chronological order (and you can CTRL-F for key passages). It doesn't transcribe Trump Jr.'s statement on the matter where he claims he is being "totally transparent," which rings a bit hollow, considering the Times was going to release the emails anyway and Trump Jr. knew that.

The BBC had some fun with Trump supporters -- voters, right-wing media figures, and members of Congress -- who have a tendency to dismiss all the latest revelations of evidence of Trump-Russia collusion as "fake news":

And last, here is Rob Goldstone, the man who initially contacted Trump Jr. to arrange the meeting, the man who set this whole investigative flurry into motion last year:

Yeah. That's the guy who may inadvertently bring down an American president.

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