Donald Trump Jr. released emails suggesting ‘incriminating information” about his father’s Democratic campaign rival, Hillary Clinton. USA TODAY
While the buzz around a 2016 meeting between President Donald Trump’s oldest son and a Russian lawyer might have reached a crescendo in Washington, the reception has been a bit different on the Shore.
For one, in this season of sand sculptures and endless boardwalk distractions, there are other preoccupations besides the vagaries of treason claims, impeachment gossip and special counsel inquiries, all the subject of ample talk since the New York Times’ and Donald Trump Jr.’s bombshell disclosures Tuesday.
The Shore, a GOP enclave in blue New Jersey, is also home to some of the Republican president’s staunchest supporters, backers who have largely been restrained and forgiving, even if a California Democrat has already introduced articles of impeachment in the House of Representatives, not waiting for various inquiries to run their course.
Long Branch resident David Cohen, a Republican, told the Press that Trump Jr. was guilty of immaturity, not any lawbreaking.
“Why would he think that unless, like all sons, he wanted to impress his father,” said Cohen. “I think it was full immaturity on his part.”
ANALYSIS: Was it just opposition research?
Trump, Jr. — the president’s oldest son and a senior adviser — released emails ahead of a Times report that showed Trump Jr. gleefully setting up a meeting — with his father’s then campaign manager and son-in-law in tow — with a Russian “government” lawyer.
The stated purpose was to get “incriminating” information about Democratic candidate Hillary Clinton — a storyline President Trump has long dismissed as “fake news.” The meeting came just after Trump secured the Republican nomination.
All hell has broken loose since, including U.S. Rep. Brad Sherman, D-Calif., becoming the first on the Hill to draft and circulate articles of impeachment against the president.
Watch the video above to learn more about Trump Jr.’s meeting with a Russian lawyer.
“In retrospect, I probably would have done things a little differently,” Trump Jr. told an interviewer, as Republican and Democratic lawmakers, political advisers and others took to the airwaves to debate what laws, if any, he might have broken.
At the Shore, though, the critiques have been far from damning.
Ocean and Monmouth counties are two of the state’s biggest Republican strongholds. There are more than 126,000 registered Republicans in Ocean County, compared with fewer than 83,000 Democrats. Last year, Trump won the counties with 58 percent of the vote. Clinton secured just 37 percent.
But how is the scandal playing among these supporters? Here are three common refrains:
1. ‘Trump Jr. should have been smarter.’
In previous interviews with the Press, Long Branch’s Cohen was among the most outwardly vocal supporters of Trump’s campaign and presidency.
And while he lamented that the media “never did this to (former President Barack) Obama,” Cohen said “a lot of people are disappointed.”
“He should have been smarter. He should have called the FBI. His father was already (presumptively) nominated,” Cohen said. “Why should he need more stuff if his father got the nomination and overwhelmed America with his style and techniques?”
In a comment on the Asbury Park Press Facebook page, Middletown resident Tom Dooley took a similar path: “It was a teaching moment for him and he will learn by this experience,” Dooley said.
But not everyone took Trump Jr.’s reasoning in stride. As one reader joked on the Press Facebook page: “Trump supporters should be like, ‘In retrospect, I should have voted for someone else.'”
2. ‘All he did was listen.’
A special counsel and multiple congressional panels are investigating potential collusion between the Trump campaign and Russians who sought to influence the election by hacking Democrats.
Sen. Tim Kaine, D-Virginia, said the investigation was “moving into perjury, false statements and even into potentially treason.” On Wednesday came Sherman’s articles of impeachment.
Despite this, Toms River Councilman Brian Kubiel, a Trump delegate at the 2016 Republican National Convention, said Trump Jr. was in the clear.
“They were in political mode. They were campaigning and trying to win an election,” he said. “All he did was listen.”
MEANWHILE: Late night hosts bash Trump Jr.
Donald Trump Jr. released emails that showed him setting up a meeting to get ‘incriminating’ information about Hillary Clinton during the campaign. His father said his transparency makes Don Jr. a “high quality person.” USA TODAY
That’s the conclusion also reached by Neptune resident James Zago. In a comment on the Press’ Facebook page, Zago said Trump Jr. “didn’t do anything wrong.
“He didn’t receive any information. It was a brief meeting and that was it. End of story,” he wrote.
Kubiel, however, said the investigation into Russian hacking of the election and potential collusion should go forward.
“They have to let this investigation go on, do whatever they need to do and get onto the business of the people,” Kubiel said . “All we hear about is Russia, Russia, Russia.”
3. “Hillary Hillary Hillary.”
Almost immediately after Trump Jr. released his emails, the comparisons to Clinton began.
Clinton deleted emails that were kept on a private server during her time in the Obama administration and many Trump supporters drew a line between her actions and those of Trump Jr.
“Thank you, Donald Jr., for being transparent and providing all your emails to the public,” said Lakewood resident Yoeli Oshri. “Thank you for NOT doing what Hillary did. Thank you for NOT deleting your emails.”
Mike Davis: 732-643-4223; firstname.lastname@example.org