On Monday, The Washington Post reported that the president had, in fact, dictated the untruthful statement that Donald Trump Jr made about his meeting with Natalia Veselnitskaya. Only weeks ago, president Trump’s lawyer, Jay Sekulow, denied that the president was involved in writing his son’s misleading statement about meeting with a Russian lawyer. 

On board Air Force One, returning from the G20 summit, the president ignored advisors, who urged that a completely truthful account should be made. Instead, Trump described the now infamous Trump Tower meeting as “a short introductory meeting”.  In dictating the release, Trump raised the odds that he, or his son may be charged in the ongoing Justice Department investigation into the ties between his campaign and Russia. 

Adopting: A cover for repealing the Magnitsky Act

On the afternoon of 9 June, 2016, at least eight people attended a meeting at Trump Tower, including Donald Trump Jr and Jared Kushner. There have been shifting accounts about the topics of discussion. Donald Trump Jr initially said the meeting was “primarily about adoptions”. Then he released the statement that his father drafted which maintained that the conversation focused on “a program about the adoption of Russian children”.  

In another release, Trump Jr complained that he’d “wasted 20 minutes”, saying that he’d only attended the meeting because he’d been promised that Russian lawyer Natalia Veselnitskaya had damaging information about Hillary Clinton. He termed this “Political Opposition Research”, dismissing the fact that he was in contact with the Russian government, in effort to help his father win the election. “I love it,” Trump Jr had responded when invited to meet with Veselnitskaya, whom he was told was a “Russian government attorney”.

According to The New York Times, Natalia Veselnitskaya is a “fearsome Moscow insider” who has spearheaded Putin’s efforts to reverse the Magnitsky Act. This law was put in place by President Obama to punish Russian officials who killed Russian tax lawyer Sergei Magnitsky when he was investigating a fraud involving Russian officials. The US law freezes the assets of elite Russian businessmen that were suspected of being involved and prevents them from travelling to the US where they own real estate. 

In retaliation, from 2012 when the Act was passed, Russia has refused to permit Americans to adopt Russian children. Vladimir Putin has sought a repeal of the Magnitsky Act, which he’s called “a purely, political, unfriendly act.” Natalia Veselnitskaya has said that she was lobbying against the act when she met with Donald Trump Jr. 

Russian attempts to meddle with US election

Vladimir Putin has said he hasn’t “once seen any direct proof of Russia’s interference in the presidential election in the U.S.A.” He contends that cyberattacks against the US were committed by “patriotically minded” Russian hackers. Senior US intelligence officials are confident that Putin personally directed the operation, because it required top government approval. The FBI reported that the first indication of Russian interference was seen in September 2015 when Democratic National Committee computers were infiltrated by Russian hackers. Since then, US intelligence officials have found a well-coordinated campaign that included leaking the hacked information, spreading fake news on social media and breaching US voting systems in at least 39 states. 

Lastly, Russians met with a number of Americans who were perceived as being sympathetic to the Kremlin, including former Defense Intelligence Agency chief Michael Flynn and former Trump campaign chairman Paul Manafort, who was also at the meeting Trump Jr attended. At the top of the reasons why Putin would interfere in the US elections is his goal to ease economic sanctions, including repealing the Magnitsky Act. This was clearly what was discussed as the “adoption program.”

The plot has now thickened with the news that Trump dictated his son’s release about the meeting. With the Russian scandal casting a shadow over his presidency, Trump isn’t delivering the jobs he promised Americans. As on The Apprentice, the refrain of his tag line, “You’re fired!”, reverberates. 

Scaramucci out, General Kelly in

Trump’s White House appears to have installed a revolving door, given the unprecedented sackings of the president’s staff. Trump’s friend, financier Anthony Scaramucci managed a tenure of just ten memorable days in the role of White House communications director. His arrival marked the departure of Sean Spicer, who was the White House press secretary for six months. After Scaramucci’s foul-mothed rant to the New Yorker magazine’s Washington correspondent, in which he threatened to “fire the entire White House communications staff”, the magazine fared far better than he did. Ryan Lizza’s account of the phone call brought in record traffic, his piece was read by over 4.4 million visitors and the magazine’s average daily number of subscriptions jumped by 92%. The event occurred less than a week after Scaramucci’s debut at the White House lectern when he indicated that it was time for Trump’s administration to turn a page. 

That page may have been turned by new chief of staff John Kelly, who replaced Reince Priebus. Minutes after being sworn in on Monday, the retired Marine general fired Scaramucci, the new communications director. Four-star general Kelly is expected to bring military discipline to a White House that Trump steadfastly insists isn’t in “chaos”. John Kelly’s colossal tasks include changing the protocol among staff and family members who routinely report directly to the president, rather than the chief of staff. 

Chiefly, Kelly must discipline the president so that he doesn’t ignore his advisors and make more dangerous decisions, like dictating his son’s release about the Russian meeting. Trump has lashed out at those who are reportedly “managing” him, so if Kelly succeeds in structuring the White House, he’s likely to lose the president’s support. Sean Spicer was said to have the hardest job in Washington, but his former challenges pale in comparison with Kelly’s summer to-do list.