Why does it look like somebody close to the White House is trying to destroy Don Jr.?

Trump pence
President-elect Donald Trump stands with Vice President-elect Mike Pence at a news conference at Trump Tower on January 11, 2017 in New York City. Spencer Platt/Getty Images

The call is coming from inside the White House — or near it, at least.

A remarkable fact about the New York Times’ Sunday report of the meeting of a Kremlin-linked lawyer and Donald Trump Jr., Jared Kushner, and Paul Manafort is that story was sourced to “three advisers to the White House briefed on the meeting and two others with knowledge of it.”

Subsequently, the Times obtained Trump Jr.’s email exchange with the publicist Rob Goldstone to set up said meeting. That is the exchange during which Goldstone promised damaging information on Hillary Clinton that was obtained as “part of Russia and its government’s support for Mr. Trump” — and Trump Jr. responded by saying not, “What Russian effort to support my dad?” but rather, “I love it especially later in the summer.”

The Times cannot have gotten the emails from Goldstone. After all, the Times knew that Trump Jr. had “forwarded the entire email chain to Mr. Kushner’s company work email, and to Mr. Manafort at his Trump campaign email.” Goldstone wasn’t included on that forward, as we can see from Don Jr.’s publication of the email chain on Twitter after the Times called him for comment about it.

So, five people in or around the White House have been spilling highly incriminating information to the Times about Trump Jr.’s meeting, and an email chain that was originally possessed only by Kushner, Manafort, and Trump Jr. also somehow made its way to the Times.

This raises a bunch of interesting “why?” questions.

Why are some people close to the White House trying to destroy Don Jr. in a way that risks destroying the whole Trump presidency?

Why are they dribbling it out in a manner designed to inflict maximum political damage?

And is it a coincidence that this is happening right after the president’s long meeting with Vladimir Putin?

I don’t know exactly what’s going on here. But I can only imagine that there must be some group of people in or around the administration who believe they stand to gain from these disclosures.

I guess it’s also possible they’re disclosing this effort at collusion for altruistic or patriotic reasons, but I don’t think that’s very likely.

A theory I saw some people floating Sunday was that Kushner was putting information out to throw his brother-in-law under the bus, getting everyone to think of this as “Don Jr.’s meeting” rather than “Jared’s meeting.” And that was maybe plausible before we learned that Trump Jr. had been told the meeting would be part of a Russian operation to support his father, and before we learned that Trump Jr. forwarded Kushner and Manafort an email saying as much.

Disclosure of this email exchange is a disaster for both Kushner and Trump Jr. It’s hard to imagine why Kushner would have seen any advantage in getting it out.

Of course, the other person who initially had the email chain was Manafort. I don’t know what Manafort’s interests are right now. Manafort doesn’t work at the White House, but given this Politico story from May, it does seem that one might be able to describe him as an adviser to the White House.

It does also occur to me that, when then-candidate Trump was itching to put Chris Christie on the ticket and his offspring were pushing him for some reason toward Newt Gingrich, Manafort was the prime mover behind the Mike Pence choice. One report alleged Manafort faked a mechanical problem with Trump’s plane so Trump would be forced to spend a night in Indianapolis where Pence could pitch himself for the job.

The person in the West Wing who is most plausibly a winner in this episode is Pence, who stands to become president if Trump is forced from office. Pence, who has an unusually vigorous fundraising operation for a first-term vice president, has been putting out ice cold statements about this story.

“The vice president is working hard to advance the president’s agenda every day,” said his spokesman Marc Lotter on Tuesday. “He was not aware of the meeting. He is also not focused on stories about the campaign — especially those that pertain to the time before he joined the campaign.”

I’m not saying it’s Pence or people aligned with Pence. Maybe there’s someone else close to the White House with an incentive to put the screws to Trump’s whole family. But clearly, someone is doing it for some reason. And whatever the reason is, it has to be interesting.

This column does not necessarily reflect the views of Business Insider.