Donald Trump Jr. is retreating to the safe confines of Sean Hannity’s Fox News show in the wake of a devastating series of reports which prove that the president’s son met with a Russian national after being told she would provide damaging information on Hillary Clinton as part of the “government’s support” for Donald Trump. Members of the Trump family have made more than 100 appearances on Hannity’s program since the start of the campaign for pillow-soft treatment.
Over the past three days, the Trump administration has been rocked by a series of stories detailing a June 9, 2016, meeting between Trump Jr., then-Trump campaign manager Paul Manafort, Trump son-in-law and senior advisor Jared Kushner, the entertainment publicist Rob Goldstone, and Natalia Veselnitskaya, a Russian lawyer with ties to Vladimir Putin. In emails setting up the meeting that were made public today, Goldstone told Trump Jr. that his client’s father, a Russian businessman, had been contacted by a senior Russian government official and could provide Trump Jr. with documents that would “incriminate” Clinton as “part of Russia and its government’s support for Mr. Trump.” Trump Jr. replied, “If it’s what you say I love it especially later in the summer.”
Veselnitskaya, described by Goldstone as a “Russian government attorney,” was supposed to convey the information at the meeting. According to Trump Jr., he was eager to accept damaging information about Clinton from a foreign government, but the information Veselnitskaya provided was no good. Trump Jr. has repeatedly dissembled about the meeting over the past few days, with his story changing drastically as reporters uncovered new details about it. And the Russian government’s subsequent “support” for Trump involved a campaign orchestrated by Russian president Vladimir Putin in which emails from Democratic Party officials and organizations were stolen and distributed, according to the U.S. intelligence community.
Having openly admitted that he knowingly sought information from a U.S. government adversary in order to influence an election -- that he was trying to collude with the Russians -- Trump Jr. is in a lot of trouble. But he has an ally in his corner. Tonight he will make his case under the friendly questioning of Hannity, who is virtually without peer in his loyalty to President Trump and whose softball rescues of Republican politicians are so legendary they have spawned the neologism “to Hannitize,” which means “to clean up a messy situation with a softball interview, typically one conducted by Sean Hannity.”
According to a Nexis review, since Trump launched his campaign in June 2015, he has made 68 appearances on Hannity's show; his sons Don Jr. and Eric, who run the Trump Organization, have made 14 and 12, respectively; daughters Ivanka, a White House aide, and Tiffany have made one and two appearances, respectively; Eric’s wife, Lara, a Trump campaign aide, has appeared four times; and Trump’s wife Melania has appeared once.
It is difficult to overstate just how obsequious Hannity’s interview style is during these encounters:
In recent weeks, Hannity has moved the goal posts, declaring that there’s nothing wrong if the Trump campaign did collude with Russia. In a pre-taped segment last night, he suggested that the Veselnitskaya meeting had been a setup by Democrats (this makes no sense). Based on his Twitter feed, he’s planning on attacking the media for reporting on the story and trying to find a way to attack Clinton. Other pro-Trump sycophants have responded to the story by foolishly praising Trump Jr. for his “transparency” in publicly releasing the emails after learning that The New York Times was about to report on them, or falsely claimed the emails disproved the Times story altogether.
A better lawyer might counsel Trump Jr. that he should shut the hell up and stop speaking publicly. But if he’s unwilling to take that step, the friendly confines of Hannity are the next best thing.
Rob Savillo contributed research to this post.