Donald Trump Jr. is an odd fellow. Like his father, President Trump, Trump Jr. spends much of his time sending out emotional and somewhat confusing tweets.
Earlier today, however, Trump Jr. released emails confirming Trump campaign efforts to collude with the Russian government. We can say this with confidence because of his tweet below.
Here is page 4 (which did not post due to space constraints). pic.twitter.com/z1Xi4nr2gq— Donald Trump Jr. (@DonaldJTrumpJr) July 11, 2017
Note the email line from Rob Goldstone: "This obviously very high level and sensitive information but is part of Russia and its government's support for Mr. Trump — helped along by Aras and Emin."
That line has relevance for three reasons.
First, because Aras and Emin Agalarov (father and son) are well-known intermediaries (or "cutouts, the formal intelligence community term) for the Kremlin. But this email indicates they were intermediaries for the most sensitive element of Russia's 2016 election intelligence operation: communications with the Trump campaign regarding the anti-Clinton effort.
As I explained last week, Russian intelligence, and Putin in particular, thrive on using cutouts to conduct sensitive intelligence activities. In effective terms, one could replace "helped along by Aras and Emin" with "helped along by Igor and Sergey" (the heads of Russia's GRU intelligence service).
Second, Goldstone's clarification ("part of Russia and it's government's support for Mr. Trump") is offered at face value. That strongly implies Goldstone already knew that Trump Jr. knew what the Russians were doing.
Third, the meeting took place after this email exchange. That's the crunch point. It shows that Trump Jr. was willing to meet with a hostile foreign government in the pursuit of information that would damage a U.S. political opponent.
Now don't get me wrong here, I recognize that campaigns often seek out "dirt" on opponents. But the difference in this case is quite simple. It's the Russian government. Only an idiot or a traitor would seek to form an alliance with Russian intelligence and hope it ends up positively.
There's one final takeaway here: The nature of Agalarov publicist and former British journalist, Rob Goldstone. Why is he relevant? Again, for intelligence reasons.
As I've noted before, there are major differences between the U.S. intelligence relationship with the Five-Eyes intelligence alliance and, say, France. But because Goldstone has a sustaining relationship with Russian intelligence intermediaries (Agalarovs), he has almost certainly been under the attention of British intelligence services.
Based on his failure to secure his Facebook profile, I would assess that Goldstone is not a very operationally secure man. Correspondingly, it is very likely that every phone and email conversation Goldstone had was recorded by GCHQ, the British equivalent of the NSA. There is likely much more to this story than we currently know.
What does all this mean?
As former NSA officer John Schindler, put it to Washington Examiner, "we are still in the early stages" of what will eventually become public. Still, Schindler adds that this is big news for a simple reason.
We've never had a key person in any administration — a core person in Trump's business empire and the current First Family — admit to collusion with a hostile government in a presidential election. Considering that government and its intelligence services are known by our spy agencies to have illegally and clandestinely aided in Trump's election in 2016, the implications of this revelation are obvious and deeply troubling.