New Information About The “Trump Tower Meeting” With The Russians

Ken AshfordL'Affaire Russe, Trump & AdministrationLeave a Comment

More than 2,500 pages of congressional testimony and exhibits that were released by the Senate Judiciary Committee this morning, all relating to the now-infamous “Trump Tower Meeting” in June 2016. As you may recall, Rob Goldstone, a music promoter, promised Donald Trump Jr. over email that a Russian lawyer (Natalia Veselnitskaya) would provide dirt about Hillary Clinton.  Goldstone told the committee that his client, the Russian pop star and developer Emin Agalarov (son of Russian billionaire oligarch Aras 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.

Testimony from the participants show that there was no “dirt” on Hillary offered at the meeting. Instead, Veselnitskaya used the session to press her view that the sanctions imposed on Russia for human rights abuses, known as the Magnitsky Act, should be lifted.

The president’s son acknowledged he was disappointed that the Russian lawyer did not provide more information that could be used in the campaign: “All else being equal, I wouldn’t have wanted to waste 20 minutes hearing about something that I wasn’t supposed to be meeting about,” he told the committee.

The testimony also includes new details about Trump’s long interest in building business ties to Russia and a relationship with President Vladi­mir Putin.  An Agalarov employee testified to the committee that the Russian mogul tried to get Trump a meeting with Putin when the Miss Universe pageant, which Trump owned, was held in Moscow in 2013.

The committee was not able to interview Jared Kushner, Trump’s son-in-law, or Paul Manafort, Trump’s former campaign manager, even though both attended.  We do have Manafort’s notes:

Much sleuthing will be done on those.

Trump Jr is still in trouble, even if there was no “smoking gun” about Hillary.  Just because no information on Hillary was shared does not negate the intent of the meeting to get dirt on Hillary from the Russians. Conspiracy is the legal issue here, not collusion. Conspiracy is in itself a crime, and the proposed crime that is being conspired doesn’t have to be actually carried out once there is proof of the conspiracy. Several times a year we see reports of someone trying to hire a hitman, that ‘hitman’ often being undercover law enforcement. The fact that there is no actual attempt on anyone’s life won’t keep the plotter out of prison.

To be a conspiracy, all that is required is a plan between two or more persons to engage in criminal conduct plus one overt act in furtherance of the plan to constitute the crime of conspiracy. The intent to engage in the conduct is enough even if the persons did not know that the conduct was unlawful. There is no doubt that Trump Jr. etc. intended to participate in this meeting to obtain information from the Russian government on Clinton and they did meet. There was a plan to engage in conduct that was illegal, and there was an overt act in furtherance of the plan. Their conduct was criminal conspiracy. And to be clear, there is no crime of collusion, and the word’s continued usage just causes confusion. The proper term is conspiracy.

Then there is the cover-up. Trump’s campaign was involved in the drafting of the Don Jr.’s statement once the meeting was exposed.  That statement was false and serves as a possible obstruction of justice. The meeting, and the administration’s initial response to reports of it, have been one focus of the probe.

The White House has said the president was involved in drafting an initial statement after news of the meeting broke last year. The statement said the meeting primarily concerned a Russian adoption program, though Trump Jr. later released the emails showing he agreed to the sit-down after he was promised information on Clinton. The emails also show he accepted the meeting despite it being described as part of a Russian government effort to aid his father’s campaign. Asked in the interview if his father was involved in drafting the statement, Trump Jr said: “I don’t know. I never spoke to my father about it.”

But that might be testimonial parsing.  The Washington Post has reported that the president dictated some of the misleading explanations for the meeting— which aides worried could open him up to charges of a coverup.  Trump Jr. said he didn’t know about his father’s direct involvement and actively discouraged it, but he said he thinks Trump may have influenced the messaging about the meeting through then-White House communications aide Hope Hicks:

Q. To the best of your knowledge, did the president provide any edits to the statement or other input?

A. He may have commented through Hope Hicks.

Q. And do you know if his comments provided through Hope Hicks were incorporated into the final statement?

A. I believe some may have been, but this was an effort through lots of people, mostly counsel.

Finally, there is the mystery of the phone call. Pn pp 26-28 of the testimony below, Don Jr. “believes” on the day of the Trump Tower meeting he spoke with Emin Agalarov (this call was also described in House Intel report). Following that, Don Jr. had a call lasting four minutes to a blocked number. Don Jr. couldn’t remember to whom he spoke. Hmmmmmmm…..

Here is Trump Jr testimony and exhibits: