How does Donald Trump Jr. benefit from releasing the e-mails he released?



Trump Jr. recently disclosed emails suggesting he welcomed Russian help against Clinton (see for instance here and here). To a considerable extent, this seems a damaging move to him and to much of the team he is working with. As far as I understand, this is pretty much political self-harm.

Why would he do such a thing? How does this move serve his interest?


Posted 2017-07-12T07:23:52.743


58Asking why any Trump does what they do isn't a simple question. No one understands why they are doing what they are doing. We can only speculate. – None – 2017-07-12T17:05:20.837

1"this is pretty much political self-harm." I think so too, but I was thinking about it like "is he even that much into politics? AFAIK he isn't, so from a political pov he had not much to worry about harming (as long its not criminal content), while giving him some clean appearance. – dhein – 2017-07-14T09:11:50.533



According to CNN, the emails were released by Donald Trump Jr. shortly before they were going to be published by the New York Times. From this article, we read:

Trump Jr. tweeted that he was releasing the emails to be "totally transparent," but his release came moments before The New York Times published the content of the emails.

The only options for Donald Trump Jr. would be to deny it or try to accept that the mails were going to be public and working on that assumption.

In the face of the importance of the issues, it is to be expected that these e-mails are going to be included into the ongoing probes1 about Russian meddling in the presidential campaign and Trump's team collusion with Russia, and that would lead to -very likely- Donald Trump Jr. being forced to testify. If Donald Trump Jr. were to testify, his options would be either:

  1. Accept the evidence.

  2. Refuse to answer (use the 5th Ammendment).

  3. Lie under oath and risk perjury charges.

'#1 and #2 lead to admit (explicitly or implicitly) that the e-mails are indeed true.

So, (if we discard #3) claiming that the emails are false it would only lead to Trump Jr. being forced to rectify, only that at a later time (during which the issue would not be forgotten) and with yet more damage to his credibility.

By releasing the e-mail he may (attempt to) claim that he was "not hiding anything" and try to get as much of a positive spin2 from it as possible, under the current circumstances. For example, his release in twitter was accompanied by affirmations that what he did was ok and which (despite no legal expert agreeing with that) are already being repeated by his supporters.

Other possible advantages that I can think of (although I will admit that these are a little twisted; I would be surprised if those were the main reasons but they could have helped in making the decision):

  • It takes away the spotlight from the New York Times article that would (most probably) be very critical of the situation described in the emails. This allows the emails to be presented to the public through some news organizations that are known to justify everything the Trump government does and dismiss any criticism of it, no matter what.

  • It "steals" the New York Times part of the publicity/brand recognition it would have got for the publication of the emails.

1If such a story goes as far as to being published, it is reasonable to assume that the journalist has evidence enough to prove that the emails are indeed Donald Trump Jr.'s.

2This is usually called controlling the narrative.


Posted 2017-07-12T07:23:52.743

Reputation: 24 682

3Isn’t it really strange that he chose such a risky and extreme option, from which there is no exit, instead of just denying and blaming the NYT (which, as the past months have shown, would be more than enough)? – None – 2017-07-12T11:04:44.403

18@Brythan It's not far-fetched to assume that Trump Jr. would have to testify about this, at which point he would either have to admit he lied, or commit perjury. – tim – 2017-07-12T11:33:43.160

5@Zozor "more than enough"? There are several ongoings investigations, and even a special prosecutor has been appointed. The fact that Trump has not been indicted does not mean that things are going well for him. – SJuan76 – 2017-07-12T11:34:08.987

@Brythan You are right that lying to the press is not a crime, but as tim commented, this issue leads very clearly to testifying under oath. In any case I modified the answer to explain it with more detail, thank you. – SJuan76 – 2017-07-12T11:36:05.993

7One additional point would be by releasing all of the e-mails, he avoids the possibility of a partial release which could change the context or meaning. – Michael Richardson – 2017-07-12T17:23:05.793

12He's already lied under oath during his security clearance hearings. He's hosed either way. – Shadur – 2017-07-12T18:16:47.447

@MichaelRichardson It is a possibility, but in that position it seems more intelligent to wait to see what is released. If the contents are released in a manipulated way, Trump Jr. could then release a more complete version to show that the other part is being dishonest (challenging its credibility). He could even try to release only the data needed to discredit the other party while keeping the more damaging parts secret, or decide if it is better to let it as it is and do nothing. Releasing everything defuses the risk of partial releases but also removes Trump Jr. options. – SJuan76 – 2017-07-12T18:24:28.160


@Shadur I'm not aware the Trump Jr has a security clearance. Jared Kushner, on the other hand, failed to disclose the meeting originally, but then submitted a revised version which included it. It's also important that it is "deliberate omission, concealment, or falsification of relevant facts" which is grounds for a violation. It being "submitted prematurely" is not unless you can prove the above.

– TemporalWolf – 2017-07-12T18:50:48.533

2Because it does not fit the liberal media narrative, they do go out of their way to omit saying that the security forms are not exactly clear in many of the questions. There's no clear definition of "foreign agent", "terrorist" or "terrorist organization". There's no clear definition of "association". There's not even a clear definition of "had contact with". However, once a person has a clearance it is made very, very, very clear than you are LEGALLY responsible for reporting any and all security violations intentional or not; including self-reporting. Wonder who failed to do that? – Dunk – 2017-07-13T20:15:42.723


  • CNN has said plenty of things that have been proven to be false. 2) How exactly would the NYT have come by the emails, if no one had released them? I can assume the only way, unless there was a release that I missed, would be hacking, which is patently unethical, and calls into question the nature of the documents they released.
  • < – Ungeheuer – 2017-07-13T20:45:27.370

    2@Ungeheuer I'll explain it slowly so you can understand it: the documents were released by Donald Trump, Jr. When you say "calls into question the nature of the documents they released"... are you calling Donald Trump Jr. a lier? No matter how much you dislike him or his father, that is not a nice thing to do. And of course, even accepting 1), that means in no way proof that this is the current case, specially given how multiple sources are confirming it (including, guess what, Donald Trump Jr.) – SJuan76 – 2017-07-13T20:50:29.610

    2@SJuan76 my point was, if DTJr was releasing the emails only because NYT was going to publish them, how did NYT get ahold of those documents? If they hacked someone's email account, then it would have called into question the veracity of the emails they would have released. – Ungeheuer – 2017-07-13T21:20:11.260

    "It is a possibility, but in that position [snip] Releasing everything defuses the risk of partial releases but also removes Trump Jr. options." What if the only change was that they add the following (in bold): " If it's what you say, I know it is super illegal but, I love it." That's really, really, bad for him and almost impossible to correct after the fact. Hell, he could have edited what he released to make himself look better. No one would believe the NYT version. – Shane – 2017-07-14T15:00:52.143

    3@Ungeheuer There's another way of getting documents. Namely, security services, which are known to perform a massive surveillance campaign in US, with access to most networks and email providers. If any of these services got the mails, and somebody working there wanted to share them with the press (which happened before), that's how NYT could get them. Leaks coming from various "anonymous officials" are pretty much common occurrence now, so this case may be one of them. – StasM – 2017-07-14T20:41:51.107

    1@SJuan76 "I'll explain it slowly so you can understand" isn't particularly nice, either. – Fund Monica's Lawsuit – 2017-07-16T14:02:19.207


    It's reported that The New York Times already had gotten the emails and Trump Jr. published the emails to preempt their publication.

    As the NYT mentions in an article:

    After being told that The Times was about to publish the content of the emails, instead of responding to a request for comment, Donald Trump Jr. posted images of them on Tuesday on Twitter.

    Also, the Deputy Managing Editor of the NYT Clifford Levy acknowledged that in a tweet:

    .@DonaldJTrumpJr posted these emails after being informed that The New York Times was doing a story on them.

    Basically, by doing this, it will allow him to claim that he is transparent with the meeting which is the reason he mentioned on Twitter when he released the emails. He stated that he wants to be "totally transparent" and that is the reason he released the full chain of emails, as seen below.


    From @DonaldJTrumpJr's tweet

    The White House spokesperson also read a short statement from Trump that emphasised on Trump Jr.'s "transparency".

    I’ve got a quick statement that I will read from the President: "My son is a high-quality person and I applaud his transparency."


    In this case, it is more advantageous for him to publish the emails himself since he can claim he is transparent. By letting the NYT publish it, he won't be able to do that but the contents of the email are still revealed.

    So, in this circumstance, it is a better move for him to do that.


    Posted 2017-07-12T07:23:52.743

    Reputation: 41 470


    It was a way to deny the New York Times a scoop. When a news outlet gets a story like this you have to do a lot of investigative journalism to validate and verify your sources. If you've managed to keep it quiet, your paper stands to make a lot of money because you are now the source for all of this information.

    By tweeting out the emails ahead of the story, Trump Jr. literally gave to every other news outlet what the NYT had worked for over a year to compile and corroborate. It's what you would call a pyrrhic victory. It was coming out anyways, so Trump Jr got some measure of revenge. This summary of another journalist's tweets (who was also working on this story) pretty much says it all (read from the bottom up)


    Posted 2017-07-12T07:23:52.743

    Reputation: 33 727

    6Why does he say the same thing four times? – Lightness Races in Orbit – 2017-07-13T14:41:20.410

    5@LightnessRacesinOrbit It's disbelief. I mean, the typical political reaction to stories like this is to deny and cover up. Trump Jr. went the opposite direction. I don't know that this has ever happened. – Machavity – 2017-07-13T14:43:37.723

    10@Machavity - To be fair, Trump Jr. denied the exact thing the emails proved multiple times first. He only went this "opposite direction" because the NYT was about to do it for him. So he did do the typical thing as well. – T.E.D. – 2017-07-13T15:18:22.127

    @T.E.D. True, but how many times have you seen this done to preempt a story? – Machavity – 2017-07-13T15:20:46.300


    @Machavity - I believe typical crisis management advice these days is to get everything on the table at once, to avoid the "drip drip" news effect. (see Tell it Early, Tell it All, Tell it Yourself). What's perhaps a bit unusual is that in this case, "everything" appears to include serious criminal violations of election law. Its as if he is concerned with the media implications of this matter, but completely unconcerned with the legal implications. Perhaps that's legit, when your dad can hand out pardons at will?

    – T.E.D. – 2017-07-13T15:30:48.223

    @Machavity: "I don't know that this has ever happened" Really? I don't have any examples to hand but it seems like a fairly common thing to me – Lightness Races in Orbit – 2017-07-13T15:48:25.247

    @Machavity Alexander Hamilton and The Reynolds Pamphlet immediately comes to mind. Granted, that was 200 years ago, so maybe it kind of proves your point. – Mike – 2017-07-14T19:56:55.473

    3Does US have elections laws that prohibit meeting with Russians? That would be news. – StasM – 2017-07-14T20:43:44.457

    @StasM A question on that: Why is it a problem for Trump Jr to have met with Russians?

    – Izkata – 2017-07-17T01:12:47.027


    This isn't actually a political question; it's more a social one.

    When damaging information about yourself is about to be made public, you have two choices:

    1. Wait for someone else to tell everybody about your actions
    2. Tell everybody yourself

    It's human nature to give somebody a bit of a reprieve for owning up to their mistakes; you look a lot worse if you insist upon your innocence right up until the time that somebody proves you are lying.

    Think of it like a plea deal with the public — I'll come clean to you now, before the media rats me out, and you give me a little bit of credit for that.

    It's an attempt to gain sympathy by being honest, even though in truth it's an entirely self-serving maneuver.

    Lightness Races in Orbit

    Posted 2017-07-12T07:23:52.743

    Reputation: 337


    Since a meeting like this is not illegal or unusual, the best way to respond is to be transparent and play open card. This will prevent further rumours and accusations and remove the opportunity for media outlets to exploit the situation by releasing small bits of information over a long period of time in order to get ratings.


    Posted 2017-07-12T07:23:52.743

    Reputation: 206

    16From what I heard, that meeting would have been illegal, and therefore unusual. It is illegal to accept anything of value from a foreign national during an election, and negative information about one candidate's rival is surely of value. – gnasher729 – 2017-07-12T10:28:46.277

    1@gnasher729 it's trickier seeing as who received the value is difficult to determine, as is the actual value (which would be nil if they claimed the information was already known to them). – Weckar E. – 2017-07-12T11:21:23.157

    14@WeckarE. even if nothing of value was received (as currently claimed by Donald Trump Jr.) the fact that the meeting happened and that those involved expected to get something of value (information) from a foreign government might lead to a charge of conspiracy to commit a crime. – SJuan76 – 2017-07-12T11:38:09.193

    3There is no law against attempting to find dirt on another candidate during a campaign. That's what expected from both parties. So releasing all information about this meeting is the logical thing to do. – Arne – 2017-07-12T11:44:21.427

    16This is not about finding dirt, this is about accepting a foreign government help to influence elections, and THAT is, without any doubt, totally illegal. This is pretty clear in every article about this story. – SJuan76 – 2017-07-12T11:48:37.317


    @SJuan76 Most newspapers seem to agree, but at least the NYT seems to have some doubt. That's not to say that "well, technically, it may not have been illegal" is a good argument for anything, and this issue will likely be relevant in other ongoing investigations. But either way, this is a poor answer as it's mainly opinion-based and unsourced. Those who are upvoting it should be more responsible with their votes

    – tim – 2017-07-12T12:21:33.217

    13@Arne - There is a big difference between "not breaking a law" and "acting ethically". When Gore's campaign in 2000 received from anonymous source tapes with info about GW Bush debate preparations, they turned them to FBI and the person who opened the package recused himself from debate preparation. This kind of honest ethical conduct is the saddest casualty of the 2016 campaign, and I am not sure how it could even be revived. – Peter M. - stands for Monica – 2017-07-12T14:07:58.533

    1Your answer would greatly improve if you could add a source which shows that this was Trump Jr.'s reasoning. Right now it's rather hard to see if this is an attempt to explain Trump Jr.'s reasoning (which would make it a good answer) or just some random commentary on the matter (which would make it a bad answer). – None – 2017-07-12T14:37:37.530

    4@Ame The legality will be decided by the investigating attorneys and judges, but I think it is safe to say that a campaign adviser agreeing to meet with someone alleged to be the representative of a hostile government who wants to help a candidate win a presidential election is HIGHLY unusual, if not unprecedented. If you disagree, please add sources that document other occasions when this occurred. – jalynn2 – 2017-07-12T17:02:41.200

    2The first sentence is entirely incorrect. – None – 2017-07-12T17:07:23.913

    3In the emails, where Trump Jr says "that would be great," or something to that effect, shows both knowledge, and encouraging the foreign entity to act this way. Even if there is no quid pro quo, that, itself, is illegal. You know what, Arne? Trump or Trump Jr claiming it's not a big deal should probably not be the basis of your statements about legality. – PoloHoleSet – 2017-07-13T14:05:55.560

    @PoloHoleSet Yes, in fact he says "I Love it" – Black – 2017-07-17T05:31:06.163