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Evan Vucci / AP

The new story about Trump's inner circle meeting a Russian is damaging because of who was there, when it happened, what they were up to, and the fact that the explanation changed radically over the weekend.

Be smart: Intent will be a crucial consideration in whatever special counsel Bob Mueller comes up with. So the reason for this meeting, the changing story, and the foot-dragging on disclosure are all going to matter. It's why veteran Republicans operatives remain mystified that Trump's orbit is going the drip-drip route rather than disclosing all at once what's known about meetings with Russians.

On Saturday, N.Y. Times had disclosed that the Trump Tower meeting last June with "a Russian lawyer with ties to the Kremlin" had been convened by Don Trump Jr., the president's eldest son, and included son-in-law Jared Kushner and campaign chairman Paul Manafort.

A day later, the bombshell: The meeting was not primarily about adoption policy, as Trump Jr. had suggested in a statement. Don Jr. had been "promised damaging information about Hillary Clinton."

The NYT's Maggie Haberman pointed out on Twitter: "This meeting took place at a pivotal moment for Trump, winning Indiana but facing delegate slog prospect."

Under the for-history headline of "TRUMP TEAM MET RUSSIAN OFFERING DIRT ON CLINTON," The Times says: "The accounts of the meeting represent the first public indication that at least some in the campaign were willing to accept Russian help."

  • From Don Jr.'s statement: "[T]he woman stated that she had information that individuals connected to Russia were funding the Democratic National Committee and supporting Mrs. Clinton. Her statements were vague, ambiguous and made no sense. No details or supporting information was provided or even offered. It quickly became clear that she had no meaningful information."
  • Just hours before the new story, White House Chief of Staff Reince Priebus said on "Fox News Sunday" that it was "a nothing meeting": "[I]t was a meeting apparently about Russian adoption."
  • Intrigue, tweeted by Axios' Jonathan Swan: "Sources close to Trump are discussing which 'advisers to the White House' [how The Times described sources] might want revenge against Don Jr."

Email du jour, from a top Republican: "[T]ranquilize the president so he does not tweet about it."

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Go deeper

Updated 3 hours ago - Politics & Policy

U.S. sounds alarm on Ukraine

Conscripts line up at a Russian railway station yesterday before departing for Army service. Photo: Sergei Malgavko/TASS via Getty Images

The Biden administration is "deeply concerned" by new intelligence — detailed for Axios and other outlets — showing Russia stepping up preparations to invade Ukraine as soon as early 2022.

Why it matters: Most of this was known from public sources and satellite imagery, but the administration is sending a stronger signal by releasing specific details from the intelligence community.

CNN fires Chris Cuomo

Photo: Kevin Mazur/Getty Images for CNN

CNN said Saturday evening it has fired one of its star anchors, Chris Cuomo, following new revelations from a legal review made by the company into Cuomo's involvement in the management of his brother's sexual harassment scandal.

Why it matters: Saturday's firing speaks to how much pressure CNN was under by employees and critics to address Cuomo's behavior.

Updated 6 hours ago - Energy & Environment

Electric car prices could go up before they come down

Illustration: Eniola Odetunde/Axios

The secret to affordable electric vehicles is cheaper batteries. But after years of falling prices, battery costs are now headed in the wrong direction.

Why it matters: Costlier batteries could drive up the price of electric vehicles — threatening the auto industry's transition away from fossil fuels, and, in turn, society's fight against climate change.

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