The news that Trump fixer Michael Cohen is willing to testify that President Trump knew in advance about the infamous Trump Tower meeting with Russians is a big problem for the president.
But to add insult to injury, it’s now clear that Trump cynically used the murder of 49 people at the Pulse nightclub in Orlando to cover up the fact that the meeting was a dud.
The June 2016 meeting came together because a music publicist with a Russian client emailed Don Jr. offering to put together a meeting with some Russians who had “some official documents and information” that constituted “very high level and sensitive information but is part of Russia and its government’s support for Mr. Trump.”
Don Jr.’s response was classic: “If it’s what you say I love it.” But he has always insisted, including under oath, that his father knew nothing about the meeting.
That never passed a smell test. In fact, Trump hinted strongly that he was about to reveal some dirt on Hillary Clinton at a rally just two days before the meeting.
“I am going to give a major speech on probably Monday of next week and we’re going to be discussing all of the things that have taken place with the Clintons,” Trump said on June 7. “I think you’re going to find it very informative and very, very interesting.”
The Monday in question was June 13. The speech never happened. Instead, Trump used the Pulse massacre, which happened early in the morning of June 12, as an excuse to cancel his scheduled rally for that day. A media advisory from the campaign later that same day said the speech was canceled “due to the horrific tragedy that has just taken place.”
As a reminder, Trump’s lack of empathy was on full display in the aftermath of the shooting. His response to the massacre was classic Trump narcissism.
Appreciate the congrats for being right on radical Islamic terrorism, I don't want congrats, I want toughness & vigilance. We must be smart!
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) June 12, 2016
In fact, it look obvious that the Pulse shooting was the excuse Trump needed to cancel his promised speech. The meeting didn’t provide the goods on Clinton that Trump must have hoped for, so he had no speech to deliver.
Instead, he decided to use the worst mass shooting in U.S. history (up to that point) and a concerted attack on LGBTQ people to cover up his coursthip of Russian interference in the campaign. If he had the goods on Clinton, what are the odds that he wouldn’t have plowed ahead with the speech as promised?
Of course, Trump has lied so much about the Trump Tower meeting that using a tragedy for his own gain is hardly a surprise.
When The New York Times was preparing to publish the first story about the meeting last year, Trump dictated a statement on Air Force One in which Don Jr. said the meeting was just about adoption policy. Conveniently enough, Trump had just had a meeting with Russian president Vladimir Putin in which the two discussed that very topic.
Still, Trump’s willingness to exploit the Pulse tragedy for convenience’s sake is reprehensible. What you can’t say is that it’s surprising.