And the hits keep on coming for the Trump team.
Let’s go back to July 2017, only 7 months ago, but 7 years in Trump scandal time. I wrote on July 11:
With a few days off for breathless recovery, the Trump-Russia collusion scandal has been a steady stream of bombshells.
A big one dropped yesterday: Donald Trump Jr (a minor player up until this point) met with a Kremlin-connected Russian lawyer to acquire damaging information about Hillary Clinton in June 2016 at Trump Tower in New York City. On Saturday, Trump Jr. said the meeting was about the issue of US adoptions of Russian children and not the campaign.
However, in March, Trump Jr. claimed he never met with any Russians while working in a campaign capacity. The meeting – attended by Trump Jr., Paul Manafort, and Jared Kushner – was disclosed when Kushner filed a revised form in order to obtain a security clearance. Manafort also recently disclosed the meeting, and Trump Jr.’s role in organizing it, to congressional investigators looking into his foreign contacts.
Trump Jr. tried to downplay his meeting while hiring a lawyer to represent him in the Russia probe. He tweeted that “obviously I’m the first person on a campaign to ever take a meeting to hear info about an opponent.” He added that there was “no inconsistency” in his two statements, saying the meeting ended up being primarily about adoptions (specifically, the Magnitsky Act — sanctions against Russia which prevented adoptions from Russia to the US). Trump Jr. hired Alan Futerfas, a criminal defense attorney that’s represented organized crime and cybercrime cases. I know Alan a little bit, and I know his wife Bettina (who is apparently also on the defense team) very very well from my days as an NYC attorney.
The New York Times had the actual emails from Rob Goldstone, a promoter, who set the meeting up, so this morning, Don Trump Jr. tweeted them all in a pre-emptive attempt to show how stupid he is.The Russian attorney, Natalia Veselnitskaya, denied in an interview with NBC News having ever acted on behalf of the Russian government.And despite Goldstone’s promises, both Veselnitskaya and Trump Jr. say the lawyer offered no consequential information on Clinton.
As for the President’s knowledge, I subsequently wrote that Trump lied about knowledge of the meeting. In fact, we learned that he signed off and ultimately crafted the initial statement from Don Jr that the Trump Tower meeting was just about adoptions.
The New York Times sheds more light today, further implicating obstruction:
Aboard Air Force One on a flight home from Europe last July, President Trump and his advisers raced to cobble together a news release about a mysterious meeting at Trump Tower the previous summer between Russians and top Trump campaign officials. Rather than acknowledge the meeting’s intended purpose — to obtain political dirt about Hillary Clinton from the Russian government — the statement instead described the meeting as being about an obscure Russian adoption policy.
The statement, released in response to questions from The New York Times about the meeting, has become a focus of the inquiry by Robert S. Mueller III, the special counsel investigating Russian interference in the 2016 election. Prosecutors working for Mr. Mueller in recent months have questioned numerous White House officials about how the release came together — and about how directly Mr. Trump oversaw the process. Mr. Mueller’s team recently notified Mr. Trump’s lawyers that the Air Force One statement is one of about a dozen subjects that prosecutors want to discuss in a face-to-face interview of Mr. Trump that is still being negotiated.
The revelation of the meeting was striking: It placed the president’s son and his top campaign officials in direct contact with a Russian lawyer who promised damaging information on Mrs. Clinton, and an email to the president’s son emerged saying that the information was part of Russia’s effort to help the Trump campaign. The special counsel is investigating how those revelations were handled in real time in part because the president was involved in his administration’s response.
Some lawyers and witnesses who have sat in or been briefed on the interviews have puzzled over Mr. Mueller’s interest in the episode. Lying to federal investigators is a crime; lying to the news media is not. For that reason, some of Mr. Trump’s advisers argue that Mr. Mueller has no grounds to ask the president about the statement and say he should refuse to discuss it.
This is very true, and I’m glad to see it writing, as I have said this often. Lying to investigators is a crime; lying to America is not. BUT…
The latest witness to be called for an interview about the episode was Mark Corallo, who served as a spokesman for Mr. Trump’s legal team before resigning in July. Mr. Corallo received an interview request last week from the special counsel and has agreed to the interview, according to three people with knowledge of the request.
Mr. Corallo is planning to tell Mr. Mueller about a previously undisclosed conference call with Mr. Trump and Hope Hicks, the White House communications director, according to the three people. Mr. Corallo planned to tell investigators that Ms. Hicks said during the call that emails written by Donald Trump Jr. before the Trump Tower meeting — in which the younger Mr. Trump said he was eager to receive political dirt about Mrs. Clinton from the Russians — “will never get out.” That left Mr. Corallo with concerns that Ms. Hicks could be contemplating obstructing justice, the people said.
In a statement on Wednesday, a lawyer for Ms. Hicks strongly denied Mr. Corallo’s allegations.
Yeah. Hope Hicks is like, 26 years old. I have a feeling she has no idea how deep she is in this.
Contacted on Wednesday, Mr. Corallo said he did not dispute any of the account shared by his colleagues but declined to elaborate further.
Even if Mr. Corallo is correct and Ms. Hicks was hinting at an attempt to conceal the emails, doing so would have been nearly impossible. Congress had requested records from Paul Manafort, Mr. Trump’s campaign chairman; Mr. Kushner; and other Trump campaign officials about meetings with Russians. And lawyers had already copied and stamped the emails for delivery to Capitol Hill.
When the president began questioning Mr. Corallo about the nature of the documents, Mr. Corallo cut off the conversation and urged the president to continue the discussion with his lawyers.
Mr. Corallo told colleagues that he immediately notified the legal team of the conversation and jotted down notes to memorialize it. He also shared his concerns with Stephen K. Bannon, then the president’s chief strategist.
Mr. Corallo left the job shortly after the phone call. The recent book “Fire and Fury: Inside the Trump White House,” by Michael Wolff, which was met with angry denunciations by the president, linked Mr. Corallo’s resignation to concerns he had about obstruction, but provided no details.
Again, with the contemporaneous notes. We lawyers know what to do.
Corallo has clearly flipped (he flipped when he resigned) and is going to come off well., Hope Hicks has clearly swallowed the Trump Koolaid, and is choking on it. She will have to flip soon too, if she said what she said about the emails not getting out.