Rinat Akhmetshin. Remember the name. He may be an answer to an esoteric political trivia question in a few years. Apparently Mr. Akhmetshin was in the room when Donald Trump Jr., Jared Kushner and Paul Manafort met with Russian operatives, allegedly to discuss damaging information on Hillary Clinton that the Russkies might turn over to the Trump campaign.
Now “in the room” has become a thing. Who wasn’t in the room? Hard to say. Initially, the Trump people insisted there was never any such meeting. Then they said there was, but it was poorly attended and ended early, and no one was even paying attention, probably playing Candy Crush or something instead of trading secrets.
Then Donald Trump Jr. confessed that there was a meeting (one minute before it was revealed in The New York Times), and he said he was being totally “transparent” and that was that. Except it turns out there were more people in the room, including Akhmetshin, a former Soviet intelligence officer. There was the Russian lawyer, Natalia Veselnitskaya, and, as we go to press, more information is coming out about additional people in on the ever-more-intriguing black ops meeting.
President Trump’s surrogates assured the public this was all a big “nothingburger,” adding to the lexicon of the Trumpgate scandal. The president himself told us his son is “a good boy,” even though the “boy” is the same age as the president of France, with whom Trump was meeting at the time the news of the ever-growing meeting broke.
And far from being a “nothingburger,” the Trump-Russian secret meeting was a Kobe steak burger with the works.
Another useful term being bandied about is “opposition research,” which is a highfalutin term for rumor, dirt and embarrassing information one political party can dig up on another. In fact, the president said that his son’s meeting with the Russians was just that, clearly bypassing the obvious truth that Americans don’t ever meet with and accept campaign help from hostile foreign powers. It’s illegal, unethical and immoral. And what else? Yes, it’s un-American.
Trump Jr. and Kushner met with Russian operatives in order to get information on Hillary that would damage her campaign. This goes way past bad judgment, and is well on its way to collusion or worse. But let’s leave that to Special Counsel Robert Mueller and to Congress, if it can ever find the courage to stand up for our country and do the job it was elected to do.
Another timely turn of phrase is “circular firing squad”: the gathering of presidential advisers and lawyers trying to defend their client’s inconsistent and possibly self-implicating tweets and manic outbursts. Example? Trump tweets that he only learned about the meeting between his son and the Russians “very recently,” while many of us expect the update any day now that he’s known for months and has been lying about it.
You hear the words “drip, drip, drip” and you should be thinking about the slow but relentless flow of damning testimony and facts leaking from the White House. Related to this turn of phrase is “It isn’t the crime; it’s the cover-up,” a truth that emerged during Watergate and the Lewinsky affair. The first, best advice is to lance the boil, release the toxins and then begin to repair the damage.
There’s also the ever-popular “smoking gun,” a reference to any key piece of evidence that potentially clinches the case against someone. In the case of Junior, the smoking gun very well may be the stream of emails he released himself, proving his meeting with the Russians.
Of course, “fake news” became part of our language as soon as the press began calling out Trump Sr.’s serial lies and he decided that reporters were the enemy and their product was fake. It will be tricky for the president to dismiss the coverage of Donald Jr.’s meeting as “fake news” since this particular news came from Sonny Boy himself.
It is possible, however, that the president will borrow a different expression from his adviser Kellyanne Conway, who coined the term “alternative facts” to explain away her boss’s lies about election results, crowd size and such. Yeah, that’s right, let’s go with that: Donald Jr. confessed to “alternative facts,” when in fact there was never any meeting with Russian operatives. It was all just a big miscommunication mash-up.
If we want to follow this story, we need to know the lingo. When you hear “travel ban,” think Trump’s efforts to keep Muslims from entering the U.S. And when you hear “death spiral,” this is the president describing any of President Obama’s initiatives, from health care to the environment.
Will we ever really know who was in the room after the drip, drip, drip ends? As readers and observers, we are becoming desensitized to shocking revelations. Tell me Anastasia Romanov was in the room and I’ll buy it.
Copyright © 2017 Randi Kreiss. Randi can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.