Trump Jr., lawyer’s meet­ing has ’13 link

Northwest Arkansas Democrat-Gazette - - FRONT PAGE - In­for­ma­tion for this ar­ti­cle was con­trib­uted by Chad Day, Nekesa Mumbi Moody, Eric Tucker, Stephen Braun, Julie Bykow­icz and Nataliya Vasi­lyeva of The As­so­ci­ated Press; by Ros­alind S. Hel­der­man, Tom Ham­burger, David Filipov, Natalya Ab­baku­mova, Brian Murp

WASH­ING­TON — Pres­i­dent Don­ald Trump’s el­dest son ac­knowl­edged Mon­day that he met a Rus­sian lawyer dur­ing the 2016 pres­i­den­tial cam­paign to hear in­for­ma­tion about his fa­ther’s Demo­cratic op­po­nent, Hil­lary Clin­ton, as a link to the 2013 Miss Uni­verse pageant in Rus­sia emerged.

The meet­ing was set up at the re­quest of Emin Agalarov, a Rus­sian pop star whose Krem­lin- con­nected fam­ily has done busi­ness with Trump in the past, ac­cord­ing to the per­son who ar­ranged

the meet­ing — Rob Gold­stone, a mu­sic pub­li­cist who rep­re­sents Agalarov, who helped spon­sor the Trumpowned Miss Uni­verse pageant in Rus­sia.

The rev­e­la­tions about the meet­ing come as fed­eral pros­e­cu­tors and con­gres­sional in­ves­ti­ga­tors ex­plore whether the Trump cam­paign co­or­di­nated and en­cour­aged Rus­sian ef­forts to in­ter­vene in the elec­tion to hurt Clin­ton and elect Trump.

Trump Jr. tried to brush off the sig­nif­i­cance of the meet­ing, tweet­ing, “Ob­vi­ously I’m the first per­son on a cam­paign to ever take a meet­ing to hear info about an op­po­nent … went nowhere but had to lis­ten.”

He later tweeted to re­but the no­tion that his ex­pla­na­tion for the meet­ing had changed.

“No in­con­sis­tency in state­ments, meet­ing ended up be­ing pri­mar­ily about adop­tions,” Trump Jr. said. “In re­sponse to fur­ther Q’s I sim­ply pro­vided more de­tails.”

Af­ter that, New York­based at­tor­ney Alan Futer­fas

said he had been re­tained to rep­re­sent the pres­i­dent’s son. And Trump Jr. said on Twit­ter he was will­ing to work with the Sen­ate In­tel­li­gence Com­mit­tee, one of the pan­els prob­ing pos­si­ble cam­paign col­lu­sion, “to pass on what I know.”

Law­mak­ers on the com­mit­tee from both par­ties said they in­deed wanted to talk with the pres­i­dent’s son. Sen. Susan Collins, R-Maine, said the panel “needs to in­ter­view him and oth­ers who at­tended the meet­ing.”

Sen. Mark Warner of Vir­ginia, the top Demo­crat on the panel, said, “This is the first time that the public has seen clear ev­i­dence of se­nior-level mem­bers of the Trump cam­paign meet­ing with Rus­sians” to ob­tain in­for­ma­tion dam­ag­ing to Clin­ton.

Warner wouldn’t say whether he al­ready knew about Trump Jr.’s meet­ing as part of his panel’s in­ves­ti­ga­tion into Rus­sian med­dling in the 2016 elec­tion.

Warner said the rev­e­la­tions “move us for­ward, and we ex­pect much more to come.”

The White House on Mon­day flatly de­nied that any Trump cam­paign of­fi­cials col­luded with the Rus­sian gov­ern­ment to in­flu­ence the elec­tion, while re­fer­ring most ques­tions about Trump Jr.’s meet­ing with the lawyer to out­side at­tor­neys.

“The only thing I see in­ap­pro­pri­ate about the meet­ing was the peo­ple that leaked the in­for­ma­tion on the meet­ing af­ter it was vol­un­tar­ily dis­closed,” White House spokesman Sarah Huck­abee San­ders said.

In a brief­ing with re­porters that was not broad­cast on tele­vi­sion, San­ders said the pres­i­dent learned ad­di­tional de­tails only this week­end about the meet­ing his el­dest son had with a Rus­sian lawyer.

“I’ve been on sev­eral cam­paigns, and peo­ple call of­fer­ing in­for­ma­tion, as I know many of you re­ceive calls of peo­ple of­fer­ing in­for­ma­tion,” she said. “Don Jr. took a very short meet­ing from which there was ab­so­lutely no fol­low-up.

Dmitry Peskov, a spokesman for Rus­sian Pres­i­dent Vladimir Putin, said Mon­day that the Krem­lin doesn’t know the lawyer, Natalia Ve­sel­nit­skaya, and “can­not keep track” of ev­ery Rus­sian lawyer who holds meet­ings in Rus­sia or abroad. Al­though she has not been pub­licly linked with the Rus­sian gov­ern­ment it­self, Ve­sel­nit­skaya rep­re­sented the son of a vice pres­i­dent of sta­te­owned Rus­sian Rail­ways in a New York money-laun­der­ing case set­tled in May be­fore a trial.

MAG­NIT­SKY ACT

The se­quence of events that led to the June 2016 meet­ing high­lighted the web of re­la­tion­ships that in­ves­ti­ga­tors now are sort­ing through.

The pres­i­dent’s son said the meet­ing was ar­ranged by an ac­quain­tance he knew through the 2013 Miss Uni­verse pageant

Trump held in Moscow. Trump Jr. didn’t name the ac­quain­tance. Gold­stone has said he was the ac­quain­tance.

Gold­stone said the Rus­sian lawyer stated that she had in­for­ma­tion about pur­ported il­le­gal cam­paign con­tri­bu­tions to the Demo­cratic Na­tional Com­mit­tee that she thought Trump Jr. might find help­ful.

Gold­stone had pre­vi­ously told The Wash­ing­ton Post that he set up and at­tended the meet­ing for Ve­sel­nit­skaya so that she could dis­cuss the adop­tion of Rus­sian chil­dren by Amer­i­cans.

Jared Kush­ner, Trump’s son-in-law and now White House se­nior ad­viser, and then-cam­paign chair­man Paul Manafort at­tended the meet­ing. Gold­stone said he and a trans­la­tor also par­tic­i­pated.

Dur­ing the meet­ing, Gold­stone said, Ve­sel­nit­skaya made com­ments about cam­paign fund­ing “that were not spe­cific,” then turned the sub­ject to a dis­con­tin­ued Rus­sian adop­tion pro­gram.

She then pro­ceeded to dis­cuss the Mag­nit­sky Act, a 2012 U.S. law that im­posed sanc­tions on Rus­sia for its al­leged hu­man-rights abuses. An­gered over the law, Rus­sia re­tal­i­ated by halt­ing U.S. adop­tions of Rus­sian chil­dren.

The acts are named for Sergei Mag­nit­sky, a Rus­sian au­di­tor who died un­der mys­te­ri­ous cir­cum­stances in a Moscow prison in 2009 af­ter ex­pos­ing a cor­rup­tion scan­dal.

Over the week­end, Trump

Jr. ini­tially omit­ted any men­tion of Clin­ton from his ac­count of the meet­ing, de­scrib­ing it as a “short in­tro­duc­tory meet­ing” fo­cused on adop­tions.

A day later, Trump Jr. ac­knowl­edged he was told be­fore­hand that Ve­sel­nit­skaya might have in­for­ma­tion “help­ful” to the Trump cam­paign, and was told by her dur­ing the meet­ing that she had some­thing about Clin­ton.

Agalarov and his fa­ther, Aras Agalarov, a wealthy Moscow real es­tate de­vel­oper, helped spon­sor the Trumpowned Miss Uni­verse pageant in Rus­sia.

Dur­ing his 2013 visit to Moscow, Trump spent time with Emin Agalarov, ap­pear­ing in a mu­sic video with him and sev­eral con­tes­tants in the pageant. Aras Agalarov sought to part­ner with Trump on a ho­tel project in Moscow and tried to set up a meet­ing be­tween Trump and Putin dur­ing the Miss Uni­verse con­test. The ho­tel deal has been on hold since Trump be­gan run­ning for pres­i­dent.

Ac­cord­ing to The Wash­ing­ton Post and sev­eral other me­dia ac­counts, the elder Agalarov paid Trump $14 mil­lion to $20 mil­lion to stage the pageant in Moscow, but he was un­able to per­suade Putin to meet with Trump. Putin can­celed the ses­sion, send­ing Trump a friendly let­ter and a lac­quered box in ap­pre­ci­a­tion, the Post has re­ported.

Mean­while, the Agalarovs

are also close to Putin. Aras Agalarov’s com­pany has been awarded sev­eral large state build­ing con­tracts, and shortly af­ter the pageant, Putin awarded the elder Agalarov the “Or­der of Honor of the Rus­sian Fed­er­a­tion,” a pres­ti­gious des­ig­na­tion.

Emin Agalarov told the Post last year that he had spo­ken with Trump nu­mer­ous times about the need to build stronger ties be­tween Rus­sia and the United States.

A spokesman for the Agalarovs did not re­spond to re­quest for com­ment, nor did a spokesman for Trump Jr.

RAISES RED FLAGS

The cir­cum­stances sur­round­ing the meet­ing fueled new ques­tions about the Trump cam­paign’s pos­si­ble ties to Rus­sia, which are be­ing scru­ti­nized by fed­eral and con­gres­sional in­ves­ti­ga­tors. Some elec­tion law ex­perts said a dis­cus­sion of po­ten­tially dam­ag­ing in­for­ma­tion on Clin­ton could prompt scru­tiny from Spe­cial Coun­sel Robert Mueller in light of fed­eral laws bar­ring for­eign con­tri­bu­tions to cam­paigns.

Larry Noble, a for­mer gen­eral coun­sel at the Fed­eral Elec­tion Com­mis­sion, said the sit­u­a­tion “raises all sorts of red flags.”

“You do not want your cam­paign to be in­volved with for­eign na­tion­als, pe­riod,” said Noble, now se­nior di­rec­tor at the Cam­paign Le­gal Cen­ter.

For­eign na­tion­als are pro­hib­ited

from pro­vid­ing “any­thing of value” to cam­paigns, and that same law also bars so­lic­i­ta­tion of such as­sis­tance. The law typ­i­cally ap­plies to mon­e­tary cam­paign con­tri­bu­tions, but courts might con­sider in­for­ma­tion such as op­po­si­tion re­search to be some­thing of value.

Bradley A. Smith, a for­mer Bill Clin­ton-ap­pointed Repub­li­can Fed­eral Elec­tion Com­mis­sion mem­ber, said that based on what’s known about the meet­ing, Trump Jr.’s ac­tions are un­likely to be con­sid­ered il­le­gal so­lic­i­ta­tion. “It’s not il­le­gal to meet with some­one to find out what they have to of­fer,” Smith said.

But Derek Muller, an as­so­ciate pro­fes­sor at Pep­per­dine who fo­cuses on elec­tion law, said, “It makes per­fect sense to in­ves­ti­gate this sit­u­a­tion fur­ther.”

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