The former CEO of Donald Trump's 2016 presidential campaign has now publicly accused three of his former campaign colleagues -- Trump's son, his son-in-law and his campaign manager -- of committing treason against the United States.
"The three senior guys in the campaign thought it was a good idea to meet with a foreign government inside Trump Tower in the conference room on the 25th floor -- with no lawyers. They didn't have any lawyers," Steve Bannon told author Michael Wolff. "Even if you thought that this was not treasonous, or unpatriotic, or bad shit -- and I happen to think it's all of that -- you should have called the FBI immediately."
Let's pause for a moment to consider how extraordinary it is to see a charge of treason leveled by a top campaign official and former presidential "senior strategist," against fellow top campaign officials, and against a family member of that president. Or at least, it would be extraordinary in any other period of American history. Under Trump, it's a Wednesday.
Let's also remind ourselves of the context: That meeting with Russian nationals, including a woman introduced to Donald Trump Jr. as a Russian government attorney, occurred June 9, 2016. We have emails sent beforehand to Trump Jr., telling him point blank that the Russian government was supporting his father's campaign for president, and that the Russians were ready to provide information harmful to Hillary Clinton. We also know that Trump Jr. responded enthusiastically to that offer of assistance, saying that he loved it. He encouraged people whom he believed to be Russian operatives to give him illegally obtained material about his father's opponent. None of that is in factual dispute.
Then consider this additional grenade, also lobbed by Bannon in his interview with Wolff:
"The chance that Don Jr. did not walk these Jumos up to his father’s office of the 26th floor is zero,” Bannon said, a statement that implicates the president himself.
I do not know what a Jumo might be. However, it's important to note that Bannon does not claim actual firsthand knowledge of Trump's involvement in that meeting, only that he finds it inconceivable that the president wasn't involved. Trump and his associates have said repeatedly that he was not involved, and that he did not even learn of the meeting's occurrence until a year later.
Is that true? Almost certainly no.
Remember, Trump campaign officials first claimed that no such meeting had occurred, period. When proof emerged to the contrary, they then claimed that it had involved only the question of Russian adoptions, and had nothing to do with the campaign. When emails were released disproving that second claim, they fell back on a third explanation: Yes, the meeting occurred, yes there was talk of Russian dirt on Hillary, but no, no such dirt had been delivered and Trump was not informed.
That's just not believable. It is not believable that Trump Jr., Kushner and Manafort -- then the top three officials in the campaign -- held a secret meeting with Russians promising campaign dirt on Clinton and said nothing about it to Trump himself. Keeping that kind of juicy information compartmentalized would have required an immense degree of discipline within a campaign that in fact had no discipline whatsoever.
Speaking of no discipline, we now have Trump's fiery response to Bannon's statement:
It's just freaking crazy.