Gail Collins: A cheat sheet for keeping up with the Trumps
By Gail Collins
The New York Times
Monday, July 17, 2017
Nobody can talk about anything but Donald Trump Jr. and his Kremlin connections. You probably have some questions. Fire away.
— If Donald Jr. got convicted of a crime, do you think his father would pardon him?
When the latest story about adventures with the Russians first appeared, the president did seem uncharacteristically reserved. He announced, through a spokeswoman, that his son “is a high-quality person,” which sounded as though Junior was a washer-dryer on sale at the mall.
It made you wonder if Dad was trying to distance himself a bit. However, Trump finally took to Twitter and announced: “This is the greatest Witch Hunt in political history. Sad!” That sounded much more sympathetic, unless you want to note that the finale of most witch hunts is not executive clemency.
— Who do you think is Worst Trump Child?
Junior has certainly rocketed into the lead. Although frankly, if the president is playing Godfather in this particular drama, all the grown sons are Fredo.
That includes son-in-law Jared Kushner, who was in on the meeting with that Russian attorney who was supposed to be bearing dirt on Hillary Clinton. Which Kushner neglected to mention on disclosure forms he filled out when he went to work at the White House. As senior adviser on Middle East peace, reorganizing government, combating drug abuse, China and Mexico.
Eric gets credit for keeping a low profile. Really, he hasn’t said anything very strange since he compared waterboarding to a fraternity hazing. Except for the time he said nepotism was “a beautiful thing.”
— So is the family going to stick together?
The Trumps are acquiring different lawyers now, and cynics might presume that eventually somebody’s going to turn on somebody. If so, my money’s on Jared.
— What about Mike Pence?
The vice president, a spokesman said crisply, “is not focused on stories about the campaign, particularly stories about the time before he joined the ticket.” If Trump originally sounded a bit cool, Pence was Antarctica, pre-global warming.
— Who really set up the meeting between Junior and that Kremlin-connected lawyer — the pop singer from Russia or the British PR guy who keeps posting pictures of himself in funny hats?
We do like that PR guy, Rob Goldstone, who also announced on Facebook when he checked into Trump Tower for the secret meeting. But Emin Agalarov, the singer, seems to be the central figure. His father, Aras, is a billionaire oligarch with close ties to Vladimir Putin. He met the Trumps when the Agalarovs paid almost $20 million to bring the 2013 Miss Universe pageant to Moscow.
Emin is also the executive vice president of his dad’s business, allegedly in charge of the malls and restaurants. You can see how he and Junior would bond.
— Is Emin a good singer?
His website says that his “rock star good looks” have made him “a household name in Russia.” It also brags that he was “the first person ever to persuade Donald Trump to appear in a music video.” That was during the Miss Universe pageant, which seems slated to become the most politically important entertainment event since Nero fiddled while Rome burned.
“EMIN was WOW!” Trump tweeted after the singer performed at the pageant. The woman who was Miss Australia told The Financial Times recently that he was terrible. (“Us girls all knew he had zero talent.”)
So somewhere in between those two things.
— Junior certainly appears to have agreed to accept political help from a close connection of the Russian government. Is there any possible explanation that doesn’t involve collusion?
Well, the Trump family apparently had a deal with the Agalarov family to bring a Trump Tower to Moscow. It was put on hold when Donald ran for president. But it’s possible that Junior was trying to keep Emin happy because he was hoping to eventually get the plan back on track.
So you could certainly argue that the president’s son was only pretending he was working with a foreign power trying to manipulate the results of the American election. When his real motives were just making a profit off the presidency. Be fair.
— Whatever happened to the other Russian all the Trump people were talking to during the campaign — the jolly ambassador?
Ah, Sergey Kislyak. Great guy for a party. So much fun that national security adviser Michael Flynn couldn’t stop chatting him up. So easy to be with that Jeff Sessions didn’t even remember they’d met.
He’s going home. The Russians are reportedly replacing him with a guy who helped plan an invasion of Ukraine.
— How are we supposed to feel about the way the Don Jr. crisis has brought the administration to a standstill?
If the question comes up at a party, feel free to choose one of the following responses:
A) Fine by me.
B) Is this going to require a discussion of that health care bill?
C) Damn, we’re never going to get an ambassador to Norway.