Trump Jr. didn't recall telling father about Russia meeting

Trump Jr. didn't recall telling father about Russia meeting

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In releasing the testimony from Trump Jr. and others involved in the Trump Tower gathering, Sen. Chuck Grassley, R-Iowa, chairman of the Judiciary Committee, said he wanted Americans to have “unfiltered information” so they can draw their own conclusions about what happened.

The June 9, 2016, meeting is of keen interest to investigators probing Russian interference in the presidential election and possible links to the Trump campaign.

The sitdown was requested by Natalia Veselnitskaya, a Kremlin-linked Russian lawyer who was working to overturn the Magnitsky Act, which punished Russian officials.

It was brokered and attended by Rob Goldstone, a colorful music promoter who represented Russian pop star Emin Agalarov, the son of oligarch Aras Agalarov, who asked him to set it up on Veselnitskaya’s behalf.

Also in attendance were President Trump’s son-in-law and adviser, Jared Kushner; former campaign chair Paul Manafort, now under indictment; Rinat Akhmetshin, a former Soviet counterintelligence officer working as a lobbyist in Washington; Anatoli Samochornov, an interpreter; and Ike Kaveladze, an executive at the Agalarovs’ real estate company.

Image: Natalia Veselnitskaya
Russian lawyer Natalia VeselnitskayaDmitry Serebryakov / AP file

Details of the meeting were first reported by the New York Times in July 2017. Days earlier, according to an email released by the committee, Goldstone wrote in an email that Trump Jr.’s lawyers were worried about how disclosures about it would look.

“I have today been interviewed by attorneys for the second time about it,” Goldstone wrote to Emin Agalarov. “They are concerned because it links Don Jr. to officials from Russia — which he has always denied meeting.

“It’s a really potentially serious situation — so you and your father should be aware,” Goldstone added in the email.

In testimony, Goldstone told the Judiciary Committee that he told Agalarov from the start that he thought the face-to-face was a “really bad idea.”

“Emin simply said that all he knew was that there was some potentially damaging information re: Hillary, which could be of interest to the Trumps,” Goldstone said.

They are concerned because it links Don Jr. to officials from Russia — which he has always denied meeting.

They are concerned because it links Don Jr. to officials from Russia — which he has always denied meeting.

Goldstone said he concluded the lawyer, Veselnitskaya, must be politically connected and did not understand why he or his client would get involved.

“In the call at the end, [I said] that I believed it was a bad idea and that we shouldn’t do it,” Goldstone said.

“He said, ‘It doesn’t matter. You just need to get the meeting.’ And then I said, ‘I think this is a really bad idea,’ ” Goldstone added.

Trump Jr. told the committee he was skeptical that the meeting would pay off.

But, he added, “at the time, I thought I should listen to what Rob and his colleagues had to say.”

“As it later turned out,” he continued, “my skepticism was justified. The meeting provided no meaningful information and turned out to be not about what was represented. The meeting was instead primarily focused on Russian adoptions.”

Asked whether he felt like he had been “duped” into attending the meeting organized by Goldstone under “false pretenses” to grab his attention, Trump Jr. said, “I imagine there was an element of showmanship involved.”

Image: British publicist Rob Goldstone arrives at a closed door meeting with the House Intelligence Committee
British publicist Rob Goldstone arrives at a closed door meeting with House Intelligence Committee on Capitol Hill in Washington on Dec. 18, 2017. The committee is meeting with Goldstone for its ongoing investigation into Russian’s interference in the 2016 election.Alex Wong / Getty Images

Kaveladze, the real estate executive, told the Senate committee that Trump Jr. asked Veselnitskaya and Akhmetshin during the meeting “if they got anything on Hillary.”

Kaveladze and Goldstone also testified about an attempt to set up a meeting between the senior Trump and Russian President Vladimir Putin when Trump went to Russia for the Miss Universe pageant in 2013, which did not happen.

In 2015, during the campaign, Trump was invited to the elder Agalarov’s 60th birthday party in Moscow. Trump employee Rhona Graff responded to Goldstone that she doubted the candidate could make it, to which Goldstone responded that Trump might “welcome a meeting with President Putin, which Emin would set up.”

The committee previously released testimony from Veselnitskaya, who has also given extensive interviews to NBC News, and from Glenn Simpson, the founder of research firm Fusion GPS, who worked with Veselnitskaya on Magnitsky act matters and who also commissioned the infamous dossier that detailed Trump’s alleged Russian links.

Ken Dilanian, Garrett Haake, Leigh Ann Caldwell, Rebecca Shabad reported from Washington, and Tom Winter, Tracy Connor, Rich Gardella, Sarah Fitzpatrick, Courtney McGee, Anna Schecter and Kenzi Abou-Sabe, Noah Levy and Benjamin Pu reported from New York.

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