As Air Force One flew home from Europe, news was set to break about a meeting that Donald Trump’s eldest son had with a Kremlin-connected lawyer, promising yet another round of unwelcome headlines about the president and Russia. And that happened twice within a week.
The day-after-day drip-drip-drip of revelations over the past week about Donald Trump Jr.’s contact with the Russian lawyer in 2016 underscores the White House’s inability to shake off the Russia story and close the book on a narrative that casts a shadow over Trump’s presidency. No matter how presidential Trump may have looked on his back-to-back trips to Europe in recent days, the persistent questions about connections between Trump’s team and Russia prevent him from savoring a public relations victory and building momentum for his stalled legislative agenda.
“No successful crisis management model works the way they are doing things,” said Lanny Davis, who worked as special counsel to President Bill Clinton during his impeachment hearings. “If your mission is to control a story or try to end a story, you need to tell it early, tell it all and tell it yourself.”
Trump Jr.’s account of his Trump Tower meeting has seemingly changed on an almost daily basis. At first, the meeting was said to be about a Russian adoption program. Then, it was to hear information about campaign rival Hillary Clinton. Finally, Trump Jr. was forced to release emails — mere moments before The New York Times planned to do so — that revealed he had told an associate that he would “love” Russia’s help in obtaining negative details about the Democratic nominee.