The White House and its supporters are turning to Hillary Clinton to defend Donald Trump Jr.'s meeting

The White House and its allies are turning to a familiar boogeyman to defend Donald Trump Jr.'s meeting with a Russian lawyer in Trump Tower in the heart of the 2016 campaign: Hillary Clinton.

Several White House aides and backers of President Donald Trump have in the days since the Trump Jr. bombshell dropped have pointed to a story involving a Democratic operative to claim that the Democratic presidential nominee was the beneficiary of information that originated in Ukraine.

Politicians, pundits sound off on Donald Trump Jr.'s emails

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Politicians, pundits sound off on Donald Trump Jr.'s emails
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Politicians, pundits sound off on Donald Trump Jr.'s emails
If this isn't treasonous, I'm not sure what is. https://t.co/QrBaaf4psM
Is this Hillary Collusion?? https://t.co/JMX4kqIbt7
Quick reminder: something doesn't have to be illegal for it to be foolish, wrong and un-American. @DonaldJTrumpJr https://t.co/nnWxmryCKV
.@LindseyGrahamSC on CNN: I know Don Jr and Jared Kushner are new to politics but this is going to require a lot of questions to be answered
.@realDonaldTrump’s son & aides met w/ Russian agent to influence our election. That is a fact.… https://t.co/Enf0NK8AGj
.@MerriamWebster definition of #collusion: secret agreement or cooperation especially for an illegal or deceitful p… https://t.co/Rqo26PD5Xw
Liberal media in a frenzy because Donald Trump Jr released all his emails. Should've just deleted them. We know that's fine with them!
What seems interesting: Email tells Trump Jr. the effort is part of Russia government's efforts to help Trump. He doesn't ask questions.
"On its face, this email chain is proof of a willingness expressed by @DonaldJTrumpJr to collude with Russia" --@JakeTapper on @CNN
So...this is it right?
I consider my friend @DonaldJTrumpJr a honorable man in every sense of the word . 🇺🇸✌️
Former Watergate prosecutor Nick Akerman says Trump Jr. emails are "almost a smoking cannon." Told me "there's no question this is treason."
.@matthewamiller: I don't know how anyone can come out and defend what is in these emails, whether republican or democrat #AMR
Graham: Trump Jr. "definitely has to testify" https://t.co/SzwEwq9LLE
Sen. Hatch says the Don Jr. emails are not "relevant" and "all this stuff about Trump's sons and daughter -- it's a bunch of bunk."
Statement from @VPPressSec on Donald Trump Jr meeting and @VP's knowledge https://t.co/iYiyoWfHRx
There's NO way Don Jr, Jared & Paul Manafort met w/ the Russian Gov't operative without advising Donald Trump in advance. HE'S GUILTY, TOO!
Tapper: "This can't be dismissed as people out to get Donald J. Trump Jr. or fake news. This is evidence of willing… https://t.co/oSaRNQBtLb
So, I just talked to Mark Warner: https://t.co/eXm4ECI3OW
Sen @ChrisMurphyCT on Don Jr: "For a long time we saw a lot of smoke but no fire, you're seeing the fire today."
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The story: a Politico report from January.

The report detailed how veteran Democratic operative Alexandra Chalupa, a former Clinton administration staffer who maintained "strong ties to the Ukrainian-American diaspora and the US Embassy in Ukraine," met with Ukrainian Ambassador Valeriy Chaly and Oksara Shulyar, one of his aides, at the Ukrainian embassy in March 2016 to discuss revealing information on Paul Manafort's connections to Russia. The conversation happened just days before Manafort, a former adviser to ousted Ukrainian President Viktor Yanukovych, was brought on as Trump's campaign chairman.

"The day after Manafort's hiring was revealed, she briefed the DNC's communications staff on Manafort, Trump and their ties to Russia, according to an operative familiar with the situation," Politico reported.

SEE ALSO: CNN's Navarro wondered if Trump Jr. had been 'dropped on his head as a child'

The report said Chalupa attempted to arrange an interview with Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko to discuss Manafort, but the embassy did not arrange such an interview.

But Chalupa told Politico the embassy was still "helpful."

"If I asked a question, they would provide guidance, or if there was someone I needed to follow up with," she said, but added that "there were no documents given, nothing like that."

White House push

White House rapid response director Andy Hemming blasted out the story to a press email list on Monday.

This, he said, was "active coordination" with a foreign government.

"Given the news that has been swirling today, I just wanted to remind everyone that the DNC explicitly worked with the Ukrainian government to undermine then-candidate Trump," he said of the Politico report. "This constitutes clear, active coordination between the DNC and a foreign government."

RELATED: Donald Trump and his son, Donald Trump Jr. through the years

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Donald Trump and his son, Donald Trump Jr. through the years
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Donald Trump and his son, Donald Trump Jr. through the years
FILE PHOTO: Donald Trump Jr. (L) gives a thumbs up beside his father Republican U.S. presidential nominee Donald Trump (R) after Trump's debate against Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton at Hofstra University in Hempstead, New York, U.S. September 26, 2016. REUTERS/Mike Segar/File Photo
Donald Trump, flanked by his son Donald Jr. (R), addresses the media in Chicago May 10, 2006. Trump was in Chicago to speak about his Trump International Hotel and Tower Chicago that is being built on the old site of the Chicago Sun-Times building on the north side of the Chicago River. Trump also stated in the news conference that he has given the project oversight to the children.
FILE PHOTO: Donald Trump Jr. (C) hugs his father, Republican Presidential candidate Donald Trump, as Donald Jr's wife Vanessa (L) walks past after Trump accepted the Republican presidential nomination at the 2016 Republican National Convention in Cleveland, Ohio U.S. July 21, 2016. REUTERS/Mike Segar/File photo
Donald Trump Jr. and Donald Trump during 1988 U.S. Open - September 3, 1988 at Flushing Meadows Corona Park in Queens, New York, United States. (Photo by Ron Galella, Ltd./WireImage)
Donald Trump Jr. (L) walks off stage with his father Republican U.S. presidential nominee Donald Trump after Trump's debate against Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton at Hofstra University in Hempstead, New York, U.S. September 26, 2016. REUTERS/Brian Snyder
Donald Trump and Donald Trump Jr. during 'Veranda: New York's Best at Trump Park Avenue, The Ultimate Showcase Penthouse' Opening Night Reception at The Trump Park Avenue in New York, New York, United States. (Photo by Robin Platzer/FilmMagic)
Donald Trump (C), entrepreneur and host of the television reality series "The Apprentice" poses with his wife and children (L-R) Donald Trump, Jr., Tiffany, Donald Trump, wife Melania, and daughter Ivanka at the party following the live telecast of the finale of season five in Los Angeles June 5, 2006. REUTERS/Fred Prouser
Donald Trump and Donald Trump Jr. (Photo by Ron Galella, Ltd./WireImage)
NEW YORK, NY - OCTOBER 12: Donald Trump (C) and his sons Eric F. Trump (L) and Donald Trump Jr. (R) attend the 'Celebrity Apprentice All Stars' Season 13 Press Conference at Jack Studios on October 12, 2012 in New York City. (Photo by Desiree Navarro/WireImage)
Donald Trump (2nd L), entrepreneur and host of the television reality series 'The Apprentice', poses with his children, (L-R) son Donald Trump, Jr., and daughters Tiffany and Ivanka at the party following the live telecast of the finale of season five in Los Angeles June 5, 2006.
CLEVELAND, OH - JULY 20: Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump (C) speaks with Donald Trump Jr. (L) and Ivanka Trump (R) during the third day of the Republican National Convention on July 20, 2016 at the Quicken Loans Arena in Cleveland, Ohio. Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump received the number of votes needed to secure the party's nomination. An estimated 50,000 people are expected in Cleveland, including hundreds of protesters and members of the media. The four-day Republican National Convention kicked off on July 18. (Photo by Joe Raedle/Getty Images)
Donald Trump (R) waves to a fan as his son Donald Jr. looks on after Trump received a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame in Los Angeles January 16, 2007. REUTERS/Chris Pizzello (UNITED STATES)
(L-R) Eric Trump, Donald Trump Jr., and Ivanka Trump and Donald Trump attend the ground breaking of the Trump International Hotel at the Old Post Office Building in Washington July 23, 2014. The $200 million transformation of the Old Post Office Building into a Trump hotel is scheduled for completion in 2016. REUTERS/Gary Cameron (UNITED STATES - Tags: BUSINESS POLITICS REAL ESTATE)
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NEW YORK - SEPTEMBER 19: Donald Trump Jr., Donald Trump, Ivanka Trump and Eric Trump at the Trump Soho Launch on September 19, 2007 in New York City. (Photo by Mark Von Holden/WireImage)
COO Trump International Hotels, Jim Petrus, Ivanka Trump Donald Trump Jr. and Donald Trump at Donald Trump, Ivanka Trump, Donald Trump, Jr.and Eric Trump Launch the N on October 10, 2007 at Jean Georges, Trump International Hotel & Tower in New York City. (Photo by Shawn Ehlers/WireImage)
DATELINE NBC -- Pictured: (l-r) Donald Trump, Natalie Morales, Donald Trump Jr. -- (Photo by: Heidi Gutman/NBC/NBCU Photo Bank via Getty Images)
INDIANAPOLIS, IN - APRIL 27: Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump (L) introduces his son Donald Trump Jr. (R) as he addressing the crowd during a campaign rally at the Indiana Farmers Coliseum on April 27, 2016 in Indianapolis, Indiana. Trump is preparing for the Indiana Primary on May 3rd. (Photo by John Sommers II/Getty Images)
ST LOUIS, MO - OCTOBER 09: Donald Trump, Jr. (R) greets his father Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump during the town hall debate at Washington University on October 9, 2016 in St Louis, Missouri. This is the second of three presidential debates scheduled prior to the November 8th election. (Photo by Rick Wilking-Pool/Getty Images)
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Some conservative outlets began to latch on. The report was highlighted in pieces from The Daily Caller and The Washington Times, as well as far-right, pro-Trump sites like The Gateway Pundit.

Trump Jr. himself voiced his opinion on the story, sharing The Daily Caller's write-up on Twitter.

"No outrage???" he wrote Tuesday morning, just hours before he self-published an email exchange that suggested he was promised damaging information on Clinton as part of the Russian government's support for Trump's candidacy.

Trump backers in and out of the White House repeated that sentiment in a number of settings.

Fox News host Sean Hannity asked on his Monday program "why" media outlets and Democrats didn't "freak out in January at a story that had real evidence."

"None of them will talk about" the Politico story, he said.

During an interview with NBC News host Stephanie Ruhle on Tuesday, Sebastian Gorka, a deputy assistant to Trump, cited the Politico story to deflect questions about Trump Jr.

SEE ALSO: Here's the truth behind that viral photo of Donald Trump Jr. and Eric Trump

After being asked about comments the Russian lawyer made about Trump Jr. hoping to glean damaging information on Clinton, Gorka said he could not speak to it. But what he did "know for a fact" was "that Democratic Party operatives went to the Ukrainian Embassy to coordinate oppositional research and attacks against our campaign."

"So that's a story that's not somebody meeting under false pretenses to talk about another issue," he continued. "That is Democratic operatives meeting with representatives of another government not people."

White House deputy press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders also pointed to the story on Monday and Tuesday.

"I've been on several campaigns and people call offering information," she said in Monday's press briefing. "As I know many of you receive similar calls of people offering information. Don Jr. took a very short meeting from which there was absolutely no follow-up. Frankly, I think something that may make sense is looking at the Democrat National Committee coordinated opposition research directly with the Ukrainian Embassy."

SEE ALSO: Report: Melania Trump and Putin discussed gender equality at G-20 banquet

"This is not an accusation, that's an on-the-record action that they took," she said. "So if you're looking for an example of a campaign coordinating with a foreign country or a foreign source, look no further than the DNC who actually coordinated opposition research with the Ukrainian Embassy. And no one in this room to my knowledge really had a big problem with that."

On Tuesday, when pressed deeper about her comments, she said she was "talking about simply the process and nothing beyond that."

'I don't even want to justify it with a response'

While multiple White House sources did not respond to requests for further comment from Business Insider, Democrats were quick to shoot down the comparisons.

"Meeting with Russians during the peak of their interference campaign is a betrayal of our country, and it should be fully investigated by the House Intelligence and Judiciary Committees," Democratic Rep. Eric Swalwell, who sits on the House Intelligence Committee, told Business Insider. "I don't even want to justify it with a response because the order of magnitude of what the Trump campaign is alleged to have done and what he is using as a defense — there's such a difference there."

One Clinton campaign veteran said "there is just no equivalence whatsoever," calling the latest defense a "haphazard attempt to muddy the waters."

SEE ALSO: Details in Donald Trump Jr.'s emails align with parts of the explosive Trump-Russia dossier

The former Clinton staffer said he was unaware of any coordination between Clinton aides and Ukrainian officials on anti-Trump efforts. He said Clinton herself met with Poroshenko once in New York at the United Nations General Assembly last September, "the one contact I know the campaign had with Ukrainian officials."

"Separately, it's worth noting that unlike Russia, Ukraine is an American ally — and it's not surprising that they would've preferred Hillary Clinton win the presidency rather than a man who constantly praised Putin and whose campaign manager had an unsavory history in Ukraine," the former staffer added.

Jesse Ferguson, a Democratic staffer who was a top spokesperson for the Clinton campaign, told Business Insider in an email that "it's honestly just sad" the Trump team "can't explain partnering with a hostile foreign power to win the White House, so they're trying to distract with conspiracy theories about someone who isn't in the White House."

"Can you imagine if Nixon defended himself during Watergate by talking about how the McGovern campaign visited offices?" he continued. "Not only don't the American people buy it, but it confirms for everyone that the Trump administration has no defense for recruiting the aid and comfort from our enemies to help get elected."

It was that last point on which Liz Mair, a Republican communications consultant who has been critical of Trump, zeroed in as important in this debate.

"The big difference between Clinton/Ukraine and Trump/Russia is that Ukraine is not our enemy; Russia pretty obviously is, per common sense," she tweeted.

Maxwell Tani contributed to this report.

More from Business Insider:
THE EMAILS: Trump Jr. posts exchange that promised dirt on Clinton as 'part of Russia and its government's support for Mr. Trump'
'You're inflaming everybody!': Watch reporters clash with Sanders over press coverage
'They wanted it so badly': The Russian lawyer who met with Trump Jr. denies having information on Hillary Clinton

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