Senate Committee Releases Documents Related To Trump Tower Russia Meeting

The Senate Judiciary Committee has released a treasure trove of documents related to the June 2016 meeting between Trump campaign officials and a Russian lawyer, and they raise far more questions than they answer.

The Senate Judiciary Committee today released thousands of pages of documents regarding the June 2016 Trump Tower meeting between officials and a Russian lawyer linked to the Kremlin and those documents raise as many questions as they answer:

WASHINGTON — Six months after the June 2016 meeting at Trump Tower between Trump campaign officials and a self-described Kremlin informant, an intermediary contacted Donald J. Trump’s office asking for a follow-up, according to documents released on Wednesday by a Senate committee.

The intermediary, Rob Goldstone, told the Senate Judiciary Committee that he proposed a second meeting between the Russian lawyer, Natalia V. Veselnitskaya, and members of Mr. Trump’s team in November 2016. He said he contacted Mr. Trump’s longtime executive assistant at the behest of Aras Agalarov, a Russia-based billionaire who knows President Vladimir V. Putin of Russia.

The follow-up overture is one of the kernels of new information contained in more than 2,000 pages of testimony and exhibits released by the committee, which has been conducting one of the investigations into the Trump campaign’s contacts with Russians.

The release of the records showed how far Republicans and Democrats on the committee have diverged since they first began the bipartisan inquiry last summer.

Republicans, who control the committee, declined to draw conclusions from their work, but described the documents as “the most complete public picture” yet that would allow Americans to determine what happened based on “unfiltered information.”

Democrats offered a starkly different assessment, repeatedly asserting that the investigation had been “limited” by Republicans more interested in accusations of F.B.I. misconduct than Russian interference. Too many questions remain unanswered to draw conclusions, they said.

“We still do not know the full story about the June 9 meeting at Trump Tower or, more broadly, the degree to which the campaign cooperated or communicated with Russia,” they wrote in a summary of preliminary findings also made public.

The second session never took place. But the invitation shows the determination of Russians with close Kremlin connections to convince the Trump team that the Magnitsky Act, which imposed sanctions on a host of Russian officials for human rights abuses, was a mistake. The 2012 law, which froze the bank accounts of some Russian officials and barred them from entering the United States, infuriated Mr. Putin.

More from The Washington Post:

A music promoter who promised Donald Trump Jr. over email that a Russian lawyer would provide dirt about Hillary Clinton in June 2016 made the offer because he had been assured the Moscow attorney was “well connected” and had “damaging material,” the promoter testified to the Senate Judiciary Committee.

Rob Goldstone told the committee that his client, the Russian pop star and developer Emin Agalarov, had insisted he help set up the meeting between President Trump’s son and the lawyer during the campaign to pass along material on Clinton, overriding Goldstone’s own warnings that the meeting would be a bad idea.

“He said, ‘it doesn’t matter. You just have to get the meeting,’ ” Goldstone, a British citizen, testified.

The intensity with which Agalarov and his father, the billionaire Aras Agalarov, sought the Trump Tower meeting, which has become a key point of scrutiny for congressional inquiries and special counsel Robert S. Mueller III, was revealed in more than 2,500 pages of congressional testimony and exhibits released by the Senate Judiciary Committee on Wednesday morning.

The testimony shows that attendees at the June 9, 2016, Trump Tower meeting largely agreed with Trump Jr.’s long-standing contention that the lawyer, Natalia Veselnitskaya, did not transmit dirt about Clinton. She has denied she was acting on behalf of the Russian government.

But the new information helps explain why Goldstone had written the candidate’s son before the meeting that Veselnitskaya would bring “very high level and sensitive information” that was part of “Russia and its government’s support for Mr. Trump” — and why Trump Jr. responded, “if it is what you say, then I love it.”

The testimony also sheds light on the anxiety that rippled through President Trump’s orbit a year later, as news of the meeting became public and his aides and lawyers tried to manage the story.

(…)

Shortly after his election, President Trump’s spokeswoman had said that no campaign officials had dealings with Russians during the campaign. The newly released testimony shows that the president’s lawyers and associates were anxious about any reports on Trump Jr.’s meeting, which contradicted that claim.

“[Trump’s lawyers are] concerned because it links Don Jr. to officials from Russia, which he has always denied meeting,” Goldstone wrote in an email to Emin Agalarov on June 26, 2017, a few weeks before the New York Times first reported on the meeting.

Ultimately, lawyers working for the Trump Organization crafted statements they asked other participants in the meeting to distribute, a move that could draw scrutiny from Mueller if it involved communicating with witnesses or otherwise hiding the true purpose of the meeting from investigators.

Trump himself contributed to an initial statement about the meeting released by his son, Trump Jr. told the committee. It misleadingly stated said the meeting had been “primarily” about the adoption of Russian children by Americans. The Kremlin halted adoptions in retaliation for the Magnitsky Act, the policy issue that appeared to be at the heart of Veselnitskaya’s presentation.

Further analysis of the documents can be found at the links above, and you can access all of the documents that have been released, including exhibits, records obtained from third parties, and transcripts and statements submitted by Trump campaign officials including Donald Trump Jr. Jared Kushner, and Paul Manafort at the Committee’s website.

This story began, of course, with the initial New York Times report about the meeting in June 2016 that included Donald Trump Jr., Jared Kushner, and Paul Manafort, who was Trump’s campaign manager at the time as well as Natalia  Veselnitskaya, a Russian attorney linked to the Russian government who has since admitted to being a Russian government informant. That meeting was scheduled after Trump Jr. and others in the campaign were told that Veselnitskaya had access to damaging information about Hillary Clinton. When the meeting was first reported, both Trump Jr. and the White House claimed that the meeting’s purpose was to discuss issues including the adoption of Russian orphans by Americans as well as sanctions imposed by Russia in the wake of its seizure of the Crimean Peninsula from Ukraine. That claim was made most prominently in a statement released by the White House while the President was returning from a visit to Europe. It soon became apparent, though, that this claim was false.

Just days after the initial report, for example, Trump Jr. released a string of emails between himself and other campaign officials regarding the meeting. Those emails made it clear that the purported purpose of the meeting was based on the claim that the Kremlin-linked lawyer could deliver allegedly damaging information about Hillary Clinton. Later, Veselnitskaya said in interviews that Trump Jr. offered a quid pro quo in exchange for information about Clinton. In one of those emails, Trump Jr. responded “That’s great” when informed that the lawyer had access to damaging information about Clinton and the Democrats. In other words, the initial explanation for the meeting provided by the White House was a fabrication. This is significant because we learned soon after news of the meeting broke that the President himself participated in drafting that initial statement on the way home from a trip to Europe on Air Force One. On its surface, that statement seemed questionable since it didn’t make sense that three of Trump’s closest campaign advisers would take a meeting on such an esoteric topic. The fact that we now know it was false makes the President’s involvement in what may constitute an attempted cover-up extremely significant. Adding to all of this the fact that we now know that Veselnitskaya is a Russian agent of some kind makes this meeting all the more interesting and the White House response to the reports about it that came out last year all the more interesting.

Reviewing Trump Jr.’s testimony before Committee staffers, there are several questions that are raised that need to be answered. For example, the President’s oldest son stated that he could not recall if he ever communicated with his father regarding the Trump Tower meeting. However, phone records apparently show that Trump Jr. spoke at length to someone on a blocked number immediately following the meeting. It is well-known that Trump Sr. typically uses a phone with a blocked number for privacy reasons so this raises the rather obvious questions of who, other than his father, Trump Jr. would have been talking to so soon after the meeting. There are also apparently records of Trump Jr. calling a blocked number prior to the meeting, which adds further weight to the supposition that he was in frequent contact with his father regarding what was going on during the campaign and that it would have been unusual for him to not discuss a matter such as this meeting with his father either before or after it took place. This is especially notable given the fact that, in a speech just days before the meeting, Trump said in a stump speech that there would be some damaging information about Clinton released within days. One could argue that this was just a coincidence, but as the saying goes I believe in coincidences, I just don’t trust coincidences.

What all this means for the overall Russia investigation is hard to say, but it does tell us a few things. First of all, it tells us that the Trump campaign was so eager to get “dirt” on Hillary Clinton that it was willing to send three of its senior representatives, including the Campaign Manager, the President’s son, and the President’s son-in-law to meet with a lawyer with connections to the Russian government. Taking that into account along with evidence showing that other people involved in the campaign such as Carter Page and George Papadopoulos had contacts with Russian officials regarding allegedly damaging information about Trump’s General Election opponent. Second, it suggests that Russian officials and people linked to the Russian government were aware of the Trump’s campaign interest in such material and used that to get access to the inner workings of the campaign on a level that would be unusual for a foreign government. Finally, if these documents are any indication then it seems fairly clear that there’s far more for Robert Mueller’s investigation to take a look at than the people calling for it to end want to admit to. This is far from the end of the matter.

FILED UNDER: Campaign 2016, Donald Trump, Politicians, Russia Investigation, US Politics, , , ,
Doug Mataconis
About Doug Mataconis
Doug holds a B.A. in Political Science from Rutgers University and J.D. from George Mason University School of Law. He joined the staff of OTB in May 2010. Before joining OTB, he wrote at Below The BeltwayThe Liberty Papers, and United Liberty Follow Doug on Twitter | Facebook

Comments

  1. An Interested Party says:

    If this is what is being released publicly, can you imagine what Mueller has? Those who have been saying that the Orange Blob, his family, and his lackeys are all innocent and that the Mueller investigation is nothing may soon be eating an awful lot of crow…




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  2. gVOR08 says:

    This may be the sort of thing we see, amateurish attempts to “collude” but no huge smoking gun. Attempted bank robbery is pretty much as serious as bank robbery. This meeting would seem to be an attempt to gain something of value for the campaign from a representative of a foreign government and to receive stolen goods, the emails. IANAL. What might the legal charges be and would any of them be serious? It may be true that the President* can’t be indicted. Jared and Jr., not so much.




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  3. Daryl and his brother Darryl says:

    Russia wanted to help.
    The Dennison Campaign was open to that help.
    Many people associated with the Dennison Campaign lied about contacts with Russians, then when caught, said they never told Dennison himself about those contacts. (Does anyone actually believe that?)
    It’s only a matter of time…Mueller Time




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  4. Kathy says:

    @gVOR08:

    This may be the sort of thing we see, amateurish attempts to “collude” but no huge smoking gun. Attempted bank robbery is pretty much as serious as bank robbery.

    For the Branch Trumpidians, though, if Mangolini robbed a bank but gave the money back, they’d say there was no crime.

    Meanwhile in the real world, the nothingburger is approaching the size of Jupiter.




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  5. gVOR08 says:

    if Mangolini robbed a bank// , they’d say there was no crime.

    We’ve lost the strikeout font, but I didn’t think you’d mind a suggested edit. In fact, I expect the SDNY will be saying something close to that, bank fraud, like his buddy Cohen.




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  6. CSK says:

    @Kathy: @gVOR08:

    There was an article in the WaPo yesterday about the fanatical loyalty Trump’s fans have to their man. What it boils down to is that they love Trump because not only because they see him as one of them (one of the interviewees said that when he voted for Trump, he voted for himself) but that he’s the only politician, Republican or Democrat, who doesn’t sneer at them as lesser beings.

    It’s the same response they had to Sarah Palin (“She’s just like me!”), only on steroids.

    It’s terribly sad, really, because Trump has nothing but contempt for them.




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  7. Guarneri says:

    Silly Trumps. Didnt they know that if you want dirt on the opposing party’s candidate you go to Brennan? He can manufacture it like making pies.

    Rookies.




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  8. Kathy says:

    @gVOR08:

    I’m sure the Grand Cheeto could admit tomorrow he colluded with Russia, China and North Korea, then blame it on Clinton, and be hailed by his supporters as the greatest man ever in the history of history.

    To be fair, many politicians have such followers. Reagan is a virtual saint in the GOP, who never, ever did anything wrong. There was a touch of cult of personality to many Obama supporters (though not to the degree we see in regards to the Cheeto). And the actions Bill Clinton was zealously defended for were well beyond the pale.

    But in the second place, all those others I’ve mentioned were much more competent than Trump, and in the first place, none of them lied as regularly as Trump nor refused to back down (or change the spin) once a lie was exposed.




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  9. Kathy says:

    @CSK:

    It’s terribly sad, really, because Trump has nothing but contempt for them.

    What con man has ever felt any respect for his marks?




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  10. Daryl and his brother Darryl says:

    An interesting, in-depth, break-down of this document release from a UNH Law Professor.
    https://twitter.com/SethAbramson?ref_src=twsrc%5Egoogle%7Ctwcamp%5Eserp%7Ctwgr%5Eauthor




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  11. Mister Bluster says:

    @Guarneri:..Didnt (sic) they know that if you want dirt on the opposing party’s candidate…

    So you are conceding that the Trump Campaign actively solicited help from a foreign power to defeat his opponent in the election of the President of the United States.




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  12. gVOR08 says:

    @CSK:

    What it boils down to is that they love Trump because not only because they see him as one of them (one of the interviewees said that when he voted for Trump, he voted for himself) but that he’s the only politician, Republican or Democrat, who doesn’t sneer at them as lesser beings.

    Last Friday Doug did a post on a National Review proposal for a compromise on transgender rights. I commented that the demand that liberals stop their “totalitarian” demands was unreasonable, as our totalitarian demands are largely in their imaginations. Today LGM links to a long piece by Paul Waldman in WAPO making this point, that the supposed liberal disrespect of conservatives is mostly a creation of FOX et al.

    So what are Democrats to do? The answer is simple: This is a game they cannot win, so they have to stop playing. Know at the outset that no matter what you say or do, Republicans will cry that you’re disrespecting good heartland voters.




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  13. al Ameda says:

    @Guarneri:

    Silly Trumps. Didnt they know that if you want dirt on the opposing party’s candidate you go to Brennan? He can manufacture it like making pies.

    That’s right.
    Even someone as hapless as Donald Trump Jr. realized that colluding/conspiring with the Russians made the most sense given his family connections and financial business dealings with Russians.




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  14. MBunge says:

    So, some Russians said they had “dirt” on Hillary Clinton. The Trump campaign was interested. They had a meeting. It turns out the Russians had no “dirt” on Hillary and the whole thing was just a scam to whine about The Magnitsky Act. The Trump campaign figured that out and then blew the Russians off.

    Does it ever occur to anyone that after all this time and bother, it looks like the absolute worst you might be able to pin on Donald Trump is some campaign finance violations?

    Mike




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  15. An Interested Party says:

    Silly Trumps. Didnt they know that if you want dirt on the opposing party’s candidate you go to Brennan? He can manufacture it like making pies.

    Rookies.

    Do share this alleged dirt digging by Brennan…

    Does it ever occur to anyone that after all this time and bother, it looks like the absolute worst you might be able to pin on Donald Trump is some campaign finance violations?

    Does it ever occur to you that you have no clue as to what Robert Mueller has and that it’s possible that what he has may involve conspiracy, money laundering, and many other illegal acts? No, being the Trump cultist that you are, of course such things never occurred to you…




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  16. michael reynolds says:

    From the New Yorker, just for Bung and Guarneri:

    Last week, several news outlets obtained financial records showing that Michael Cohen, President Trump’s personal attorney, had used a shell company to receive payments from various firms with business before the Trump Administration. In the days since, there has been much speculation about who leaked the confidential documents, and the Treasury Department’s inspector general has launched a probe to find the source. That source, a law-enforcement official, is speaking publicly for the first time, to The New Yorker, to explain the motivation: the official had grown alarmed after being unable to find two important reports on Cohen’s financial activity in a government database. The official, worried that the information was being withheld from law enforcement, released the remaining documents.

    The payments to Cohen that have emerged in the past week come primarily from a single document, a “suspicious-activity report” filed by First Republic Bank, where Cohen’s shell company, Essential Consultants, L.L.C., maintained an account. The document detailed sums in the hundreds of thousands of dollars paid to Cohen by the pharmaceutical company Novartis, the telecommunications giant A.T. & T., and an investment firm with ties to the Russian oligarch Viktor Vekselberg.

    Now we have your boy on ordering Treasury officials to commit a felony and those officials in turn being on the hook for following the order. Trump is using the US government to cover up his criminal activities. But, hey, Hillary, amiright? Hill-a-ry! Hill-a-ry! Lock her up! Build the wall! Blah blah blah.




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  17. Daryl and his brother Darryl says:

    @MBunge:

    Does it ever occur to anyone that after all this time and bother, it looks like the absolute worst you might be able to pin on Donald Trump is some campaign finance violations?

    Nice resuscitation of Fox talking points…but absolutely not true.




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  18. HarvardLaw92 says:

    @MBunge:

    Does it ever occur to anyone that after all this time and bother, it looks like the absolute worst you might be able to pin on Donald Trump is some campaign finance violations?

    Did it ever occur to you that campaign finance violations of this variety are federal felonies which carry an absolute minimum penalty of 15 to 21 months – for each offense – in a federal penitentiary? The factors involved in this particular scenario raise the offenses to Zone D – as bad as it gets in the federal sentencing guidelines.

    Note: the imprisonment factor would be mandatory upon conviction (no probation allowed for this scenario), and the defendant(s) would be required to serve out the entire sentence.

    Given what I know about this man’s business dealings, we’ll eventually get him (and his entourage …) on a great deal more than campaign finance violations, but the campaign finance violations alone would put his ass where it belongs:

    in a federal prison …

    I’m not sure you grasp the gravity of where this will lead …




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  19. TM01 says:

    Interesting sidenote:
    Two of the people in that meeting with Russian connections were also quite tight with the Clintons. Rinat Akmetshin is best buds with Ed Lieberman, whose wife was a Clinton WH staffer. And Ike Kaveldze is a big fan of Hillary.

    Investigate!

    Big nothing burger about Trump tho.




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  20. HarvardLaw92 says:

    @TM01:

    “Why, this Watergate thing will go nowhere, you mark my words …”

    Mmhmm 🙂




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  21. HarvardLaw92 says:

    @michael reynolds:

    We had our Butterfield already, we’re probably going to get our John Dean sometime soon, and now Mark Felt shows up.

    Did somebody put us all in a time machine back to 1973? 😀




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  22. michael reynolds says:

    @HarvardLaw92:
    First as tragedy, then as farce.

    More apt than people might think, since it’s a reference by Marx (probably Karl and not Groucho) to Napoleon 3, contrasting him with Napoleon 1. Napoleon 1 was an amoral, ruthless, ambitious but very intelligent man of genuine accomplishment. (Nixon.) Napoleon 3 was a two-bit demagogue who exploited political divisions to become ruler of France and promptly ran the country into a ditch called the Franco-Prussian War, setting the stage for WW1 etc… (Trump.)

    We’re even getting the farcical replay of Nixon to China: Trump to North Korea.




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  23. Steve V says:

    So Guarneri, who seems to style himself as a cynic and the liberals as the ones who believe in fairy tales, has signed on to the theory that a massive number of government intelligence officials created a fake Russian “active measure” campaign just to bring down Trump, whom they did everything they could to prevent from being elected (like constantly talking about the Clinton email investigation).

    I swear, this really is Hannity’s crowning masterpiece. The suspension of disbelief that millions of people have bought completely just boggles the mind.




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  24. TM01 says:

    @HarvardLaw92:
    Watergate is nothing compared to warrantless spying on a Presidential campaign.

    Obama, Comey, McCabe, all spying on a political campaign.

    But you keep saying Trump is authoritarian.

    But don’t worry…it’ll all blow over.




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  25. An Interested Party says:

    Watergate is nothing compared to warrantless spying on a Presidential campaign.

    Obama, Comey, McCabe, all spying on a political campaign.

    Obviously someone’s internet privileges at the asylum have yet to be revoked…




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  26. al Ameda says:

    @TM01:

    Two of the people in that meeting with Russian connections were also quite tight with the Clintons.

    Well that explains why Donald Trump Jr. met with Hillary’s Russian connections.




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  27. HarvardLaw92 says:

    @TM01:

    Lol, I dub thee King of Whataboutism.

    As for the rest, the surveillance of Page was authorized by a warrant. Try harder.




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