Right wing websites believe that Donald Trump Jr.’s self-published emails showing he met with a Russian attorney in search of Hillary Clinton opposition research is fake news—but they haven’t settled on the reason why.
A variety of pro-Trump media outlets pushed separate—and often conflicting—conspiracies in the wake of Trump Jr.’s bombshell email release Tuesday. All of them, however, absolve Trump Jr. of any wrongdoing.
The disparate approaches from far-right websites and TV shows ranged from once again claiming it’s a “fake story,” despite Trump Jr. releasing the emails himself; to claiming the emails are true and that it’s a Democratic setup, or instead, pushing the idea that the meeting itself isn’t technically a crime.
Despite an explicit sentence sent to Trump Jr. detailing “very high level and sensitive information [that] is part of Russia and its government's support for Mr. Trump,” frequent InfoWars host and Pizzagate conspiracy theorist Mike Cernovich said that Trump Jr.’s email correspondence “doesn't support the lying Times conspiracy.”
“.@DonaldJTrumpJr posted the full email,” he wrote on Twitter. “As suspected the lying NY Times fabricated another fake story!”
(In a May webcast, InfoWars founder Alex Jones said Cernovich’s sources are “[Trump’s] sons, especially Donald Jr.” and that “it’s no secret.”)
Sean Hannity, who on Monday night claimed Trump Jr.’s meeting “could have been a setup made to give the appearance of Russian collusion” on the part of a consulting group “connected to Democrats,” began to pivot to the idea that Hillary Clinton also met with foreign groups. Hannity tweeted a Wikileaks post from February, citing a hacked John Podesta email about a potential meeting with a Chinese ambassador.
“Is this Hillary Collusion???” he tweeted.
Hannity and pro-Trump outlet Gateway Pundit both pushed a story claiming Clinton allies met with Ukrainian officials last year.
While Hannity and Fox News host Tucker Carlson have both called coverage of alleged Team Trump collusion with Russia, “media psychosis” and “hysteria” in the past week, Hannity and other Fox hosts had previously wondered if proven Russian collusion should even be viewed negatively if it ever came to light.
"You can collude all you want with a foreign government in an election. There is no such statute. Collusion is not a crime—only an antitrust law,“ Fox anchor Gregg Jarrett said on May 30th.
“Is that a crime, to release it?” Hannity asked last month, about releasing anti-Clinton emails collected by Russian intelligence.
That talking point was backed by alt-right provocateurs like Jack Posobiec, who is famous for disseminating pro-Trump stunts like last month’s Shakespeare in the Park protest and anti-CNN hashtag campaigns, on Tuesday.
“If we're going to say a mtg to get dirt on a politician is suddenly illegal then we'll have to build a whole new prison for DC reporters,” he tweeted.
Carlson avoided stories involving Trump Jr.’s emails on Monday night, instead devoting a segment to asking why “raising questions about the safety of vaccines [is] a no-go zone?”
Trump Jr. is scheduled to appear on Hannity’s show on Tuesday night.
On Tuesday, The Drudge Report led with the headline "NATALIA: I WAS NOT FROM KREMLIN!” The headline links to an interview with the Russian surrogate who met Trump Jr., Natalia Veselnitskay, claiming she did not represent the Kremlin in the meeting, despite the contents of Trump Jr.’s email correspondence indicating that she is a “Russian government attorney.”
Drudge appeared to waver on its Trump support after news of the email broke on Monday night, splashing a picture of the Russian St. Basil’s Cathedral above the words “THE EMAIL,” and omitting any mention of the president himself from the homepage. Drudge also included a link titled, "Pence betting it will all come crashing down?"
Rush Limbaugh took a much more straightforward tack: “Why Believe Trump Jr. Collusion Story When Everything For 9 Months Has Been An Outright Lie?”
“There is still no evidence of any kind anywhere that the Russians tried to help Trump and that Trump colluded with them. There is not a shred, there is not a syllable, there is not a consonant of evidence,” Limbaugh falsely claimed on his show Tuesday.