Trump Jr. reveals his email chat
Writings cite Russia’s ‘support for Mr. Trump’
WASHINGTON — Donald Trump Jr. was offered “high level and sensitive information” in June 2016 as “part of Russia and its government’s support for Mr. Trump,” according to emails he released Tuesday.
The emails said a person described as a Russian government attorney had “official documents and information” that would “incriminate” the Democratic nominee, Hillary Clinton, “and be very useful to your father.”
“If it’s what you say I love it especially later in the summer,” Trump Jr. responded.
The messages were from Rob Goldstone, a music promoter with business dealings in Russia who is a friend of Trump Jr.’s. Within days, a meeting commenced at Trump Tower with Trump Jr. and two other high-level campaign officials — Jared Kushner, President Donald Trump’s son-in-law and adviser, and Paul Manafort, who was the campaign chairman at the time.
The emails provide evidence that well-connected Russians were reaching out to the Trump campaign at least as early as June 2016, using the offer of damaging information against Clinton to gain access to the top levels of the campaign.
Notably, nothing in the emails shows any surprise on Trump Jr.’s part over the reference to official Russian “support for Mr. Trump” — something the Trump campaign and administration
have vehemently denied for nearly a year.
The new evidence is likely to be scrutinized closely by Robert Mueller, the special counsel who is heading the federal investigation into the Russia affair.
In a statement read by White House spokesman Sarah Huckabee Sanders, the president said his son is a “high-quality person, and I applaud his transparency.”
Trump Jr. said he released the emails in the interest of transparency, but he did so only after The New York Times obtained copies and informed him that the newspaper was about to publish them.
Asked when the president first learned about his son’s meeting with the Russian lawyer, Sanders said, “I believe in the last couple days, is my understanding.”
She referred most other questions about the matter to Trump Jr.’s attorneys.
As the emails released Tuesday reverberated across the political world, Trump Jr. defended his actions in an interview with Fox News, blaming the decision to take the meeting on the “million miles per hour” pace of a presidential campaign and his suspicion that the lawyer might have information about “underreported” scandals involving Clinton.
Trump Jr. said the meeting “really went nowhere” and that he never told his father about it because there was “nothing to tell.”
“In retrospect, I probably would have done things a little differently,” Trump Jr. said.
The emails show that top campaign officials were eager to receive the information, even after being told that it came from a foreign government.
The emails undermine several of Trump Jr.’s previous statements.
On Sunday, Trump Jr. said in a statement that he had “asked Jared and Paul to attend” the meeting with the attorney, Natalia Veselnitskaya, “but told them nothing of the substance.”
The email chain, however, shows that he sent Kushner and Manafort a message with the subject line “Russia-Clinton-private and confidential.” The message they received may have included the full email chain, although the emails Trump Jr. released do not make that entirely clear.
2016, several weeks after the meeting, Trump Jr. denounced Democratic claims that Russians were helping the Trump campaign, calling the allegations “disgusting” and “phony.”
It remains unclear whether the Trump campaign ultimately did receive information from the Russian government that was intended to damage Clinton or whether anyone involved in the campaign shared information with the Russians.
But a U.S. intelligence assessment released in January concluded with “high confidence” that Russian President Vladimir Putin personally authorized a campaign to interfere in the American vote with the goal of aiding Trump.
Democrats quickly denounced Trump Jr.’s actions.
In a statement, House Democratic leader Nancy Pelosi said the latest disclosures show that “the Trump campaign’s inner circle met with an agent of a hostile foreign power to influence the outcome of an American election.”
“The American people face a White House riddled with shadowy Russian connections and desperate to hide the truth,” she wrote.
Sen. Ron Wyden, D-Ore., a member of the Senate Intelligence Committee, said the emails make clear that “the highest levels of the Trump campaign walked, eyes open, into a meeting designed to advance the Russian government’s support for Donald Trump.”
“There is no longer a question of whether this campaign sought to collude with a hostile foreign power,” he added. “The question is how far the coordination goes.”
Republican lawmakers’ initial response was to seek to change the subject.
“That’s the very thing we need to not get distracted by,” said Sen. Thom Tillis, R-N.C.
Sen. Orrin Hatch, R-Utah, referred to Trump Jr. as a “nice young man” and insisted that the accounts of the meeting with the Russian lawyer were “overblown.”
Members of Arkansas’ congressional delegation steered clear of the subject.
Spokesmen for Sen. Tom Cotton and Reps. Steve Womack, Rick Crawford, French Hill and Bruce Westerman said the lawmakers had no comment about the emails.
House and Senate committees have been investigating Russian interference in the 2016 presidential election, and Patrick Creamer, a spokesman for Arkansas’ U.S. Sen. John Boozman, said the lawmaker has “full confidence” in the committees.
CLINTON AIDES’ VIEW
Clinton’s former top campaign aides said Tuesday’s revelations about Trump Jr.’s meeting with the Russian lawyer proved collusion between the Trump campaign and Moscow during the 2016 race.
Clinton remained mum on the subject, refraining from commenting on the developments Tuesday. But her former running mate, U. S. Sen. Tim Kaine, D-Va., told reporters that the investigation had moved “beyond obstruction of justice in terms of what’s being investigated. This is moving into perjury, false statements and even into potentially treason.”
Clinton’s former campaign manager, Robby Mook, said he thought the “case is closed at this point on whether Don Jr. and Paul Manafort and Jared Kushner are either colluding or seeking to collude on the Russians.”
While Clinton, the former secretary of state, has taken some responsibility for her loss in the 2016 election, she has also blamed her loss on the FBI’s handling of her email investigation, Russia’s interference and on bias against women.
She also has said Russia’s role in hacking into her campaign’s internal emails and coordinating their release by WikiLeaks were damaging to her campaign. Campaign officials noted that Trump Jr.’s June meeting with the Russian attorney came shortly before the Democratic National Committee acknowledged that its email system had been hacked.
The former Democratic presidential nominee has said Putin purposefully interfered to hurt her campaign and help Trump, an accusation that Putin has denied.
But Clinton’s top advisers said Tuesday that they were stunned by Trump Jr.’s use of email to set up the meeting, leaving a paper trail, and the brazen manner with which he met with the attorney.
“We shouldn’t be surprised, but we still should be shocked. Shocking is generally an overused word, but that’s what this is,” said Jake Sullivan, a former Clinton campaign adviser.
Brian Fallon, who served as a top Clinton campaign spokesman, called the evidence “damning” but said it would still take special counsel Mueller time to carry out his investigation.
Goldstone alerted Trump Jr. to the offer of help from the Russian government in a June 3, 2016, email that said he was acting on behalf of a client, Emin Agalarov, an aspiring pop star living in Moscow.
Goldstone runs a public relations company called Oui 2 Entertainment and met the Trumps while working on the Trump-owned Miss Universe pageant, which held a competition in Moscow in 2013.
Agalarov’s father, Aras Agalarov, is a wealthy oligarch originally from the former Soviet Republic of Azerbaijan. He had met with Russian officials who offered to provide the Trump campaign with damaging information about Clinton, Goldstone said in the initial email.
“Emin just called me and asked me to contact you with something very interesting,” Goldstone wrote. “The Crown prosecutor of Russia met with his father Aras this morning and in their meeting offered to provide the Trump campaign with some official documents and information that would incriminate Hillary and her dealings with Russia and would be very useful to your father.”
It was unclear what the reference to the “crown prosecutor” was intended to mean. There is no such office in Russia, although that is the term used for prosecutors in Britain, which is where Goldstone is from.
Trump Jr. initially responded to the offer of information by suggesting a telephone call with Emin Agalarov, the emails show. Four days later, he agreed to a face-to-face meeting with Veselnitskaya after Goldstone said “the Russian government attorney” was “flying over from Moscow.”
“Great,” Trump replied, noting that Manafort and Kushner would likely attend the meeting.
In a statement accompanying the emails, Trump acknowledged knowing that information about Clinton was the intended reason for the meeting.
“The information they suggested they had about Hilary Clinton I thought was Political Opposition Research,” he wrote. “I decided to take the meeting.”
He added that Veselnitskaya “had no information to provide” and shifted the conversation to the Magnitsky Act, a U. S. law imposing sanctions on Russian businessmen. For several years, Veselnitskaya has been involved in lobbying efforts to overturn the law. Putin bitterly opposes that law.
In an interview Tuesday on NBC’s Today show, Veselnitskaya said it was the Trump campaign that was eager for information about Clinton.
“It’s quite possible that maybe they were looking for such information. They wanted it so badly,” she said, speaking in Russian from Moscow. “I never had any damaging or sensitive information about Hillary Clinton.”
Information for this article was contributed by David S. Cloud of the Tribune News Service; by Chad Day, Eric Tucker, Ken Thomas, Vivian Salama, Nekesa Mumbi Moody, Julie Bykowicz, Mary Clare Jalonick, Michael Biesecker, Stephen Braun, Matthew Daly and Nataliya Vasilyeva of The Associated Press; and by Frank E. Lockwood of the
Russian lawyer Natalia Veselnitskaya speaks with reporters Tuesday in Moscow. Donald Trump Jr. has admitted that he and others met with Veselnitskaya at Trump Tower in June 2016.
White House spokesman Sarah Huckabee Sanders said Tuesday that President Donald Trump learned about his son’s June 2016 meeting with a Russian lawyer “I believe in the last couple days, is my understanding.”