July 10, 2017: Donald Jr. Center Stage | Tillerson Fail | Climate Denial Watch

Happy Monday. Russia is the story that just keeps on giving.

We have the latest reactions to everything from Donald Jr.’s escapades in collusion to our president’s suggestion that we share a cyber technology team with Russia. Also, do you know the difference between and a meteorologist and climatologist? If not, we explain below why it’s relevant. Finally, we profile The Donald -- not the man, the Reddit.  If you have thoughts or comments please send them to us at contact@redfortheblue.

1. Donald Jr.’s Long Weekend

Perhaps Trump and his aides left Europe hoping the meeting with Putin put the Russian collusion story behind them. Fat chance. On Sunday, The New York Times ran a scoop saying that Donald Jr. and Jared Kushner and other campaign officials met with a Russian lawyer with ties to the Kremlin because she promised them damaging information on the Clinton campaign. Amazingly, Donald Trump Jr. confirmed the meeting and in such a way that it implied it was indeed held in the hope of getting damaging information, although the results were disappointing.

We’ve noted that Trump supporters have become more and more comfortable defending the idea that Russia collusion is all smoke and no fire. At least, as of this morning, The Times articles didn’t sway them from this viewpoint.

The Drudge Report kept leading with “Dirty Tricks on Donald Jr.?” -- a day-old story from Circa, a publication of conservative Sinclair Media,  in which the president’s legal team suggested that the meeting was a set-up by the Democrats.

Writing in The New York Post, Michael Walsh revived one of our favorite terms -- “nothingburger” -- to describe the Times’s reporting. “No campaign in its right mind would turn down an offer of information on their opponent,” he said. Skipping over Russia’s stature as a foreign power, he wrote: “After all, the Clinton campaign lobbied the comedian Tom Arnold two days before the election to release potentially embarrassing footage from Trump’s TV show, ‘The Apprentice.’ Arnold declined.”

The Red Twittersphere mounted a fast defense of Donald Jr., which basically came down to: Even if it’s true, it is no big deal.

Jeff Lord‏ @realJeffreyLord, with 27k, followers, wrote:

Newsflash? Campaigns of all stripes collect dirt on opponents. It's called "oppo research" as in "opposition". HRC and Dems did to Trump.

Harlan Z. Hill‏ @Harlan, with 150k followers, said dismissively:

So @DonaldJTrumpJr wanted dirt on Hillary... 
Seriously, THAT'S the bombshell MSM & Left were looking for!?

Stefan Molyneux‏ @StefanMolyneux, with 214k followers, wrote:

After months of lies and manipulation, the Fake News latest "bombshell" is that @DonaldJTrumpJr once went to a meeting. Absolutely pathetic.

In Case You Missed It:

Even before the Russian lawyer meeting leaked, Donald Trump Jr. was in the public eye late last week with unfiltered tweets defending his father, including a retweet of an edited “Top Gun” clip featuring his father blowing up CNN. Real Clear Politics wrote on Friday: “The president's eldest son is carving a role in the new administration as an attack dog against Democrats and the media.”

2. Cyber Security Plan Panned. Tillerson Takes a Hit.

And what about sharing a cyber security team with Russia? On Sunday morning, Trump tweeted that the U.S. and Russia plan to work together on cybersecurity so that "election hacking, & many other negative things, will be guarded and safe." (Later around 8 p.m., he seemed to take it back, tweeting: “The fact that President Putin and I discussed a Cyber Security unit doesn’t mean I think it can happen. It can’t-but a ceasefire can, & did!)

Perhaps his change of heart had to do with the horrified response from his own party. Senator Lindsay Graham told “Meet the Press” on Sunday that the idea of pairing up with Russia was “not the dumbest idea I’ve ever heard but it’s pretty close.” Senator Mark Rubio was even harsher, tweeting: “Partnering with Putin on a ‘Cyber Security Unit; is akin to partnering with Assad on a ‘Chemical Weapons Unit.’”

Meanwhile, on CNN’s “State of the Union,” U.S. Ambassador to the U.N., Nikki Haley, tried to spin it as a way to keep our enemies close: We can't trust Russia and we won't ever trust Russia. But you keep those that you don't trust closer so that you can always keep an eye on them and keep them in check.”

What We’re Watching:

The Washington Examiner and The Daily Caller reported that Senator John McCain didn’t just have words for Trump and his cybersecurity idea, but also for Secretary of State Rex Tillerson. McCain took issue with Tillerson’s recent comment that seemed to suggest that Russia’s approach to Syria could be right and the U.S. could be wrong. McCain said of Tillerson in a CBS segment:

"He is divorced from a fundamental of American democracy. The reason we are the shining city on the hill as Ronald Reagan used to say, is because of our principles.”

Tillerson was also criticized by Stephen F. Hays of The Weekly Standard for his comments on Trump’s meeting with Putin. (Tillerson said that after a “robust and lengthy exchange…” Putin denied involvement in influencing the U.S. presidential election.) Wrote Hays:

If Secretary of State Rex Tillerson’s readout of Donald Trump’s meeting with Vladimir Putin is a preview of the Trump administration’s approach to Russia, it’s going to be a rough three and a half years. In a diplomatic depantsing that will have repercussions far beyond Russia, Tillerson’s comments did more to further Russia’s interests than Russian propaganda outlets could have possibly hoped to accomplish themselves.

He continued:

Putin’s denials are false, of course, and the offenses are grave. Russia’s election meddling is part of a longer pattern of provocation largely ignored by the Obama administration and now tolerated by Trump. But the president apparently didn’t want to let reality intrude on his desire for better relations (he began his meeting by telling Putin that he was “honored” to meet him) and Tillerson didn’t seem to care. “So, more work to be done on that regard,” Tillerson said, dismissively.

Also of Note:

The Weekly Standard wasn't the only place where skepticism was expressed about Trump’s meeting with Putin. Here was Real Clear Politicsassessment:

With Putin, it’s never the first meeting or the early phone calls that set a mood. He has a record of publicly exploiting opportunities to appear to offer Western leaders some of what they seek, only to take assertive actions in the opposite direction later on.

“Putin sees geopolitics as a zero-sum game in which, if someone is winning, then someone has to be losing,” Clinton wrote in “Hard Choices,” her book about her years as secretary of state.

3 . Poll Watch: Trust Is a Declining Asset

As the Trump administration slogs on, we are finding that trust in all institutions is waning. A poll released last week by the Marist organization for NPR/PBS NewsHour found that 6 in 10 Americans say they don’t have very much, if any, trust in the Trump administration. A 37 percent plurality of Americans say they have no trust in the media.

On this we can all agree, however: A full 70 percent of adults said that since Donald Trump was elected, incivility between the parties had increased.

What We’re Noticing:

Sometimes, Melania Trump is so quiet we forget she is there in the background. A new Fox News poll finds the silent strategy is working well for the First Lady:

Fifty-one percent of voters view Melania Trump favorably. That’s up 14 points since December and up 16 points from the first time the Fox News Poll asked about her last summer. At that time, 35 percent viewed the wife of the controversial candidate favorably and 40 percent unfavorably (August 2016). Twenty-four percent couldn’t rate her.

4. Trend Watch: Climate Denial Rising

Since Trump and his team pulled out of the Paris climate agreement, we’ve seen a real uptick in stories ferociously denying the science of climate change. Some on the Right are now claiming that “real” science backs the idea that climate change is false. Here is a typical screed as published in The Daily Caller:

So, even if the man-made climate change problem were real, the actions specified by the Paris Agreement would solve nothing. And since the climate alarm is not based on sound science, no treaty based on the UNFCCC makes any sense. Kyoto, Paris, Copenhagen, Durban, Cancun, Warsaw, and all the other U.N. climate deals are merely political solutions to a non-existent problem without scientific justification……..

The focus therefore must be on educating the public about the realities of climate science. This is especially important now since Trump is talking about the possibility of the U.S. agreeing to a new version of the Paris Agreement, but one “on better terms, fairer terms.” There is no need for a deal at all since there never was a problem in the first place.

Going one step further, The Blaze announced it had a “bombshell” study that would prove all of manmade climate change wrong. The “study by “3 scientists and a statistician” attacks the way major institutions like NASA collect temperatures. The paper points out that such numbers are usually adjusted to take into account warming caused by urban areas that might throw the real warming number off. It then purports to find, however, that these numbers have been adjusted incorrectly to exaggerate climate change.

FYI: The “scientists” behind the study were meteorologists not climatologists. The former tend to have far less (if any) college-level scientific training than the latter, who usually have PhDs. The “peer reviewers” were neither selected at random nor anonymous, but were sympathetic scientists who put their names on the paper. Finally, the “study” was not published in any scientific journal or associated with any institution.

5. A Reddit Group That’s Causing Mayhem


Last week, r/the_donald, a subreddit group with 453,000 followers, was in the news again. This time around, the group of slavish Trump fans was in trouble for boasting that it was the source of the CNN-bashing wrestling GIF that the president himself tweeted.

Although the White House denied the group was the source (it would not say who was), a story published by FiveThirtyEight in March found that “the Trump campaign team monitored the subreddit for messages that resonated.”

In fact, the Trump administration's relationship with the subreddit is well documented. And Trump openly did a question-and-answer session with the site’s members during the campaign.

Since r/the_donald is back in the news we thought we’d make other reporting about the site available as well. A year ago, Vice reported on the racist and misogynist tilt to the site. Similarly, The Washington Post found that the site’s users also called Muslims “animals” and promoted eugenics.

After the site was involved in promoting the conspiracy theory that Clinton aides were running a pedophile ring out of a pizzeria, Reddit itself tried to rein in this group and faced backlash. The Guardian reported last November that even the moderators of r/ the donald had grown worried about the extremist conspiracy theories cropping up on their site. Apparently, they have tried to clamp down and failed.