By Daniel J. McLaughlin
Every time Donald Trump unleashes his latest social media diatribe, his tweets are pulled apart and examined by amateur sleuths. What does the president mean by his rant? What does his attack actually reveal? They don their imaginary deerstalkers and brandish their make-believe magnifying glasses to investigate the truth behind the 140 characters on Twitter.
It could fit in the world of Sherlock Holmes, where the Great Detective is called upon to find the hidden meaning behind Trump's words. We join Holmes and his friend, Dr John Watson, in 'The Adventure of the Trump Tower Meeting'.
Sherlock Holmes was in deep thought, rummaging through his mind attic. The mind, he surmises, offers only a finite amount of space, and therefore he limited the amount of datum he could store. The Great Detective was sat on a large lounge chair with his eyes closed as he slipped deeper and deeper. His trusty companion, John Watson, tried to entertain himself, whilst his friend was in this trance, by reading a newspaper he had picked up before entering 221B Baker Street.
His eyes lit up as they caught the latest headline printed in bold lettering. "Holmes!" Watson shouted, "We have a new case."
With his eyes still closed, Holmes raised an eyebrow. "Data, John. Give me the data. Data, data, data! I cannot make bricks without clay!" he murmured.
"It appears that the President of the United States has been engaging in provocative correspondence once again. This time, it concerns the meeting between his son, Donald Trump Jr., campaign officials, and elusive Kremlin-linked lawyer, Natalia Veselnitskaya in 2016."
In the early hours of Sunday morning, Trump tweeted: "Fake News reporting, a complete fabrication, that I am concerned about the meeting my wonderful son, Donald, had in Trump Tower. This was a meeting to get information on an opponent, totally legal and done all the time in politics - and it went nowhere. I did not know about it!"
Holmes was alert now, sitting upwards and placing tobacco in his pipe. As he lit his pipe with a match, he asked Watson, "Remind me of this previous case. Once you eliminate the impossible, whatever remains, no matter how improbable, must be the truth."
Watson sighed. "At first, Trump Jr. said he never met with Russians about the campaign. However, in 2016, Trump's top advisers met with several Russians at Trump Tower. Trump Jr. then claimed that the meeting was about Russian adoption policy."
"Ah yes," Holmes interjected, "This was a statement concocted by Trump Sr, was it not? On Air Force One, I believe. A deception, of course."
"Correct. And then the New York Times published a story about the Russian lawyer Veselnitskaya. When pressed with those details released, he admitted in a new statement that there was an offer of potentially damaging information on Hillary Clinton and the Democratic Party. He released his electronic correspondence about the meeting."
Holmes furrowed his brow, absorbing the information. "Trump Jr appeared before Congress, didn't he?" Watson nodded. "I need his words, ad verbum please. It's somewhere in my notes over there, underneath my monograph on different kinds of tobacco ash."
The pile of papers was huge, and it looked ready to topple. Watson burrowed through them, and found what Holmes was looking for. Appearing before the Senate Judiciary Committee in September 2017, Trump Jr. said: "I did not collude with any foreign government and did not know anyone who did."
"If he lied before the committee, it is a felony - it is perjury. His father may have inadvertently imperiled his son with his latest rant. And, under the Federal Election Campaign Act, Section 30121 of Title 52, a provision broadly outlaws donations or other contributions of a "thing of value" by any foreigner in connection with an American election. Whether it is directly or indirectly, even it is an expression or implied promise," Holmes said.
"Holmes, you cannot remember mine or Mrs Hudson's birthday, so how on Earth were you able to remember all of that?" Watson enquired.
The Great Detective smiled, smug in knowledge that he read it in the New York Times only a day before.
He continued, "The same statute also makes it illegal for an American to solicit a foreigner for such illicit campaign help - even indirectly. If a grand jury were to interpret the evidence as solicitation, Trump Jr. could be vulnerable to direct charges."
"Junior seems to be in hot water, but what about Senior? What does his latest correspondence reveal?"
"In my own time, Watson." He took a puff from his pipe. "This is, I think, a two-pipe problem. Our Baker Street Irregulars at the Washington Post have been deciphering his latest comments on the Trump Tower meeting. Not only do they think he is a nuisance for his lawyers, calling him a "client from hell" who lacks self-control, cannot tell the truth, and will not take legal advice he doesn't like, his rant is also a gift to prosecutors."
Watson stood up and walked toward the drinks cabinet, pouring himself a whiskey from a lovely crystal decanter. He nodded to Holmes to carry on, preparing a drink for the sleuth.
"They agree with our friends at the Times that Trump Sr. has confirmed that the meeting was designed to obtain something valuable, and therefore could violate federal law."
"But Holmes, the president has reiterated that he did not know about the meeting," Watson interrupted.
"Ah, you see, but you do not observe. Why insist that he did not know about the meeting, the same meeting he called "totally legal"? Why distance himself? It suggests that he knew it would be a problem if he did. The Post also recalls that he made a promise at a campaign event at the same time of the meeting that he would have a speech on Clinton's nefarious conduct. He perhaps knew what the Russians had promised his top officials."
"By Jove, Trump is acknowledging, whether he knows it or not, that the meeting was collusion to break campaign finance laws! The president has been saying for more than a year that there was no collusion - and if there were, it came from Clinton and the Democrats."
As CNN argues, the new defence seems to be: "okay, maybe collusion, but that's not a crime and, besides, the man at the top knew nothing."
Taking a sip from his glass of whiskey, Watson slumped down into his chair and looked at Holmes, still puffing his pipe. "What now, Holmes? To America?"
"No," smiled the Great Detective, "There's already somebody on the case."
"Robert S. Mueller III. He is already underway with his investigation into Russian interference in the 2016 presidential election, and alleged collusion with the Trump campaign. The game is afoot!"