Now It’s Donald Trump Jr. in the Middle of the Russia Probe


Andy-Blum-headshotAndrew Blum, Principal, AJB Communications

What’s the Crisis Strategy and Who’s Next?

When news broke that Donald Trump Jr. was the latest to come under scrutiny for Trumpworld’s alleged role in colluding with Russia in the 2016 election, it marked the second person in the President’s inner circle dragged into the widening PR and political crisis.

As President Trump, campaign associates and top advisors have found out, the Russia probe continues in Congress and the Special Counsel’s office no matter how many tweets and denials the administration makes. And the media continues following the story and breaking news as The New York Times did on Donald Jr.

All Don Jr. had to do was to look to his brother-in-law, Kushner, who recently came under scrutiny after reports he attended a meeting aimed at setting up back channel communications with the Russians. And now Don Jr. is getting the Russia Beltway treatment over a meeting he had with a Russian lawyer linked to the Kremlin in 2016. The agenda: depending on who you believe, was to get dirt on Hillary Clinton or to discuss Russian policy on adoption. Kushner was also reported at the meeting.

In a crisis, you always want to be honest. But credibility is key and the Trump administration appears to be losing that battle. A majority of Americans believe President Trump has done something either illegal or unethical when it comes to Russia, according to a new NPR/PBS NewsHour/Marist poll. The poll results were reported July 6 on NPR.

According to the poll, the 54% of people who believe something untoward has gone on include a quarter who believe the president has done something illegal in regards to dealings with Russia, and 29% who think he has done something unethical, but not illegal. Thirty-six percent believe Trump has done nothing wrong. That reflects an increase in the number believing something either illegal or unethical went on compared to a February 2017 Marist survey when 49% thought the president had done something either illegal or unethical regarding Russia.

To address the charges, Don Jr. hired New York white collar attorney Alan Futerfas, who issued a statement calling the meeting “much ado about nothing.” He said Don Jr. believed he was being offered information about “alleged wrongdoing” by Clinton in dealings with Russia.

Senate Intelligence Committee Vice Chairman Mark Warner (D-Va.) has already said he wants to hear from Don Jr.

While all this plays out, the PR and credibility battle continues in the media.

In an appearance on CNN with Chris Cuomo, White House counselor Kellyanne Conway defended Don Jr.’s meeting with the Russian lawyer. In a 35-minute interview, she said there was “no information provided that was meaningful.”

“Let’s focus on what did not happen in that meeting,” she said, adding there was “no action taken. Nothing.”

According to media reports, Don Jr. changed his account when presented with new reporting by the Times. When the paper first reported on the meeting — but not about the promise of information about Democrats — he said it was a “short, introductory meeting” about adoption.

But when the Times reported about the lawyer offering to provide information about the DNC before he took the meeting, he acknowledged that Democrats and Clinton were discussed.

Cuomo challenged Conway on the changes in Don Jr.’s story.

She shot back: “I admire your moxie, sitting there with the CNN chyron next to you.” To which Cuomo replied, “I could not be more proud to have that CNN chyron next to me.”

No matter the spin, the old Yogi Berra quote prevails here: It ain’t over till it’s over.

About the Author: Andrew Blum is a PR consultant and media trainer and principal of AJB Communications. He has directed PR for professional services and financial services firms, NGOs, agencies and other clients. As a PR executive, and formerly as a journalist, he has been involved on both sides of the media aisle in some of the most media intensive crises of the past 25 years. Contact him at or follow him on Twitter: @ajbcomms


  1. Ronald N. Levy on at 8:14 AM

    Andrew Blum is correct that the Trump side “appears to be losing” on this one. It’s because the Trump side needs a clear and appealing answer to the Big Question: What does your side have to say. A good answer should relate the client to the public interest as by saying: “Like most Americans we believe that when someone has something they want to tell us, we should listen. Even bad guys can have good information that America deserves to know.”

  2. Richard Kuritz on at 5:41 PM

    For the majority of historically and factually illiterate poll respondents; for those others who did not get the memo or just slept through history, and for anyone who is interested in governmental function instead of bureaucratic flatulence; please note as follows.

    There is a serious difference between dissent and disruption. Dissent exercises our rights, disruption precludes them. Disruption makes media money but costs American taxpayers money.

    Those pesky Russians, the same ones from the 1966 movie “The Russians Are Coming, The Russians Are Coming “with an exceptional cast and an exceptional lesson- that not everyone from a hostile nation has a hostile intent” and the corollary: Not every contact with a hostile country is treason.

    That being said, the ideologues in control of USSR/Russia are openly and clandestinely hostile to the USA; so everyone who does not share their ideology needs to be on guard…but not in a Def-con 4 state of alert. And commerce with America erodes their ideology; military capacity provides security for open commerce-worldwide. The greater the commercial vesting, the less likely use of military force.

    As to the main-stream media, of late an embarrassing open sewer of abuse of the 1st Amendment, exemplified by CNN as the fallacy factory du jour; please finish the sentence with this and honor and social, NOT sensational purpose:
    “Americans have a right to know… and the press has a responsibility to be accurate and ethical!”

    And from the Russian horse’s mouth…words of Nikita Krushchev: “ The press is our chief ideological weapon. “

    Russia has and always will attempt to disrupt our open American society, The press and the left are their hopefully unwitting, yet hopelessly witless co-conspirators.

    We have yet to have a perfect President. But as a matter of simple comparability, please note:

    For 3 decades, Trump made billions, that was his job, he did it well, and legally.

    For 3 decades, Hiliary made millions, but her job was taking care of the USA, she did that poorly; and the public jury is still out on the legality.

    Obama came to the Presidency with average assets, and left with openly over $20M, and who knows how much more from un-audited lousy US tax dollar expenditures; and left us quite a mess.

    The irony here is that if they just let Trump do the job for which he was hired, with zero financial incentive; then if he fails or succeeds the left and the press will be better off as Americans.
    Instead, they disrupt…assisting the Russians.

  3. Ronald N. Levy on at 6:52 PM

    Even if the Russians had a shameful disease and violate all Ten Commandments, if they say they have a cure for cancer, a way to turn smog
    particles into fertilizer or evidence of serious crime done by a national leader, Trump and his people should listen eagerly. The PR stance for Trump’s people should be emphasis not on “we’re innocent” but on “she’s guilty as hell we suspect and we’re hungry for evidence from anyone who has it.”

    Anyone who claims to have dirt on a national leader of either party would–and should–be listened to by the FBI, by the leaders of both parties, and by the media. The validity of information about guilt depends not on the source of the information but on its accuracy, the ability of a source to back up the charge. My sense is that Mrs. Clinton did a magnificent job for our country but if anyone told me they had information showing guilt, I’d listen. Would any of us not listen to the opinion of a doctor who was born in Russia? Or not listen to Russian music?

    All have sinned and come short of the glory of God, but even sinners can be saintly if they reveal valid dirt about a trusted national servant who should be neither trusted nor verified. If you can help one side or the other by being a valid whistle-blower, then even if you’re Russian, come to the aid of the party!

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