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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

Scoop: Stephanie Ruhle to replace Brian Williams on MSNBC

Photo: Nathan Congleton/NBCU Photo Bank/NBCUniversal via Getty Images via Getty Images

MSNBC will soon announce plans to move morning anchor Stephanie Ruhle to the 11 pm ET hour that Brian Williams turned into an elite destination, two sources familiar with the move tell Axios.

Details: The 9 am ET hour, currently hosted by Ruhle, will become part of MSNBC's flagship morning show, "Morning Joe," which currently runs from 6 am to 9 am ET.

Oath Keepers leader denied bail on Capitol riot sedition charge

Oath Keepers co-founder Elmer Stewart Rhodes. Photo: Susan Walsh/AP

A federal judge ordered Oath Keepers leader Stewart Rhodes to remain jailed Wednesday until trial on charges stemming from the Capitol riot.

Why it matters: The judge said the most prominent far-right figure charged in the Jan. 6, 2021, insurrection had access to weapons and his alleged "continued advocacy for violence against the federal government" gave credence to prosecutors' view that, if released, Rhodes could endanger others.

Who in Congress is talking about Ukraine the most

Data: Quorum; Chart: Will Chase/Axios

Mentions of Ukraine or Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky in congressional statements and social media posts have been on the rise — with nearly 1,000 already this month, according to data from Quorum.

Why it matters: The growing threat of a Russian invasion has been mirrored by a growth in Ukraine-related chatter.

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