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Former Clinton Aide Responds To Trump Jr.'s Emails On Russia Meeting


We're getting reaction to the emails from Donald Trump Jr. about a meeting with a Russian lawyer. The president's eldest son released those emails today. They show that during the campaign he was offered documents that, quote, "would incriminate Hillary and her dealing with Russia." The emails say the information, quote, "is part of Russia and its government's support for Mr. Trump." Donald Trump Jr. replied, if it's what you say, I love it. We've been hearing responses from the White House and from lawmakers. With us now is Jennifer Palmieri, who was a top aide in the Clinton campaign. Welcome to the program.


SHAPIRO: If during the campaign someone had come to you and said that they had dirt on your opponent, what would you do?

PALMIERI: If you would - when you're receiving something that is from a foreign entity, you've got to alert law enforcement. I mean, this is a matter - it's clearly a matter for the FBI when someone from another country is offering you information like that. And it's pretty stunning the detail in which they did do that. I think that you could - if you see a subject line that says Russia-Clinton, Private and Confidential, that - coming from a foreign source that should raise a lot of flags. That goes directly to the FBI.

SHAPIRO: White House allies have said this week that the Clinton campaign benefited from Ukrainian efforts to dig up opposition research on Donald Trump. A Politico story from January describes how the Ukrainian government worked with Clinton allies to do opposition research. Were you aware of those efforts by Ukraine?

PALMIERI: No, I certainly wasn't. I saw - I did see the Politico story. It mentioned a part-time DNC staffer who has been at the DNC since 2004 that I've never met or heard of. And I think if you - you know, if you step back and take a broader picture of this, this is about the Russian government making a concerted effort the United States has - intelligence agencies determined that came from the very top to interfere in our election.

And as you can see with the casualness with - the Russians reached out to Don Jr. that the Russians spent a lot of time cultivating this relationship with the Trump family. And that - among the things I found pretty shocking about the email exchange is the casualness with the information was received in the Trump campaign and with which - the casualness with which Don Jr. shared it with the campaign chair and his brother-in-law, none of which seemed to not only not sound alarms but seemed to be in the normal course of business.

And I did not - you know, I expected that there was probably low-level collusion, maybe through a third party with the Trump campaign. Maybe they had been coordinating with WikiLeaks. I certainly didn't expect to see something that was so vivid and so literal where you have an email saying the Russian government is trying to help you defeat Hillary Clinton, and we want to share information with you. I didn't expect we'd see something like that.

SHAPIRO: So you're saying this information today does not confirm the fears and suspicions that you had. It actually goes beyond them.

PALMIERI: Yeah. I didn't think that it would be this - just this literal, this specific, this actually - actually laying out that the Russian government intended to help Donald Trump and the president's own son saying love it and wanting to participate; that being flagged for the campaign chair, the campaign chair being brought in on the process, sitting down in the meeting; and then all of these people eventually being asked and lying about it in some form or another.

SHAPIRO: Just briefly, given that the election was eight months ago, how would you like to see this play out now?

PALMIERI: I would just - I would like to - what - my biggest concern and fear is that the Russians will continue to do this. They set out to recruit and cultivate the Trump family years ago before anyone had ever imagined he'd be a presidential candidate that was successful. They were able to undermine our democracy as part of that. And what I want to know is exactly what happened and how the government will be able to take steps to prevent it from happening in the future.

SHAPIRO: That's Jennifer Palmieri, who was communications director for Hillary Clinton's 2016 presidential campaign. We've also reached out to the White House requesting an interview with someone from the Trump administration. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.