Trump Jr: Can’t re­call dis­cussing Rus­sia probe with fa­ther

The Times Herald (Norristown, PA) - - OBITUARIES - By Mary Clare Jalonick, Eric Tucker and Chad Day

WASH­ING­TON » Don­ald Trump Jr. told the Se­nate Ju­di­ciary Com­mit­tee last year he did not re­call ever dis­cussing the Rus­sia in­ves­ti­ga­tion with his fa­ther and said he didn’t think there was any­thing wrong with meet­ing a Rus­sian lawyer at Trump Tower ahead of the 2016 pres­i­den­tial elec­tion, ac­cord­ing to tran­scripts re­leased Wed­nes­day of his in­ter­view with the panel.

The com­mit­tee re­leased more than 1,800 pages of tran­scripts of in­ter­views with Trump’s son and oth­ers who at­tended a June 9, 2016, meet­ing at which they ex­pected to re­ceive dirt about Trump’s op­po­nent, Demo­crat Hil­lary Clin­ton.

Mean­while, the Se­nate in­tel­li­gence com­mit­tee said it stands be­hind a 2017 as­sess­ment by U.S. in­tel­li­gence agen­cies that Rus­sia in­ter­vened in the elec­tion to hurt Clin­ton and help Trump. Repub­li­can chair­man Richard Burr of North Carolina said in a state­ment that his staff had spent 14 months “re­view­ing the sources, trade­craft and an­a­lytic work, and we see no rea­son to dis­pute the con­clu­sions.”

The Ju­di­ciary Com­mit­tee tran­scripts re­leased Wed­nes­day re­veal new de­tails about how the meet­ing — cen­tral to spe­cial coun­sel Robert Mueller’s in­ves­ti­ga­tion into po­ten­tial col­lu­sion be­tween Trump aides and the Krem­lin — came to be ar­ranged and ef­forts afterward to mit­i­gate the pub­lic re­la­tions dam­age aris­ing from its dis­clo­sure.

The tran­scripts show the dis­sat­is­fac­tion of Trump Jr. and other cam­paign aides, in­clud­ing brother-in-law Jared Kush­ner, when the meet­ing failed to yield the harm­ful Clin­ton in­for­ma­tion they thought they’d get — as well as the in­creas­ing panic of one of the meet­ing par­tic­i­pants who feared his rep­u­ta­tion would be ru­ined for his role in hav­ing set it up.

In ad­di­tion, the tran­scripts re­flect an ag­gres­sive Rus­sian out­reach to Trump both be­fore and after the June 2016 meet­ing, in­clud­ing an ef­fort to ar­range a fol­low-up get-to­gether that Novem­ber with mem­bers of his tran­si­tion team. One year ear­lier, Trump was in­vited to the 60th birth­day party of a friend in Moscow at which the op­por­tu­nity to meet Rus­sian Pres­i­dent Vladimir Putin was dan­gled.

Trump Jr. de­flected mul­ti­ple ques­tions dur­ing the in­ter­view, say­ing “No, not that I re­call” when asked if he dis­cussed the Rus­sia probe with his fa­ther. He said he could not re­call the day the Trump meet­ing was ar­ranged but in­sisted that he had never dis­cussed the meet­ing with him.

Asked if he thought it would be a prob­lem to take a meet­ing de­scribed to him as part of a Rus­sian gov­ern­ment ef­fort to aid his fa­ther, Trump Jr. said no.

“I didn’t think that lis­ten­ing to some­one with in­for­ma­tion rel­e­vant to the fit­ness and char­ac­ter of a pres­i­den­tial can­di­date would be an is­sue, no.”

Se­nate Ju­di­ciary Democrats said the tran­scripts are just “one piece of a much larger puz­zle” and do not tell the en­tire story be­cause some par­tic­i­pants were not in­ter­viewed and Repub­li­can chair­man, Sen. Chuck Grass­ley, did not sub­poena them.

Though the wit­nesses were not un­der oath, they were nonethe­less re­quired to tell Congress the truth.

In ad­di­tion to Trump Jr., the com­mit­tee in­ter­viewed four other peo­ple who at­tended the Trump Tower meet­ing in New York — pub­li­cist Rob Gold­stone, who set up the meet­ing with the prom­ise of dirt on Clin­ton; Ri­nat Akhmetshin, a prom­i­nent Rus­sian-Amer­i­can lob­by­ist; Ike Kave­ladze, a busi­ness as­so­ciate of a Moscow-based de­vel­oper, and a trans­la­tor.

The com­mit­tee did not in­ter­view Natalia Ve­sel­nit­skaya, the Rus­sian lawyer at the cen­ter of the meet­ing. But the panel re­leased her writ­ten re­sponses to a let­ter that Grass­ley sent her last year.

The panel was also not able to in­ter­view Jared Kush­ner, Trump’s sonin-law, or Paul Manafort, Trump’s for­mer cam­paign chair­man, though both at­tended.

The com­mit­tee did re­lease one page of notes that Manafort took dur­ing the meet­ing.

His notes men­tion “Rus­sian adop­tion by Amer­i­can fam­i­lies” and Bill Brow­der, a Bri­tish ci­ti­zen who has spear­headed a U.S. sanc­tions law —known as the Mag­nit­sky Act— that tar­gets Rus­sian of­fi­cials over hu­man rights abuses. The rel­a­tively cryp­tic notes ap­pear to track with some of the de­tails con­tained in a pre­sen­ta­tion that Ve­sel­nit­skaya has given in an at­tempt to un­der­mine the sanc­tions law.

Manafort’s notes also con­tain ref­er­ences to “tied into Cheney” and “ac­tive sponsors of RNC” with­out any fur­ther ex­pla­na­tion.

Mueller has brought sev­eral un­re­lated charges against Manafort, in­clud­ing money-laun­der­ing con­spir­acy, false state­ments and act­ing as an un­reg­is­tered for­eign agent re­lated to Ukrainian po­lit­i­cal work.

The spe­cial coun­sel is in­ves­ti­gat­ing the Rus­sian med­dling in the elec­tion, whether Trump’s cam­paign was in­volved and pos­si­ble ob­struc­tion of jus­tice. The meet­ing, and the ad­min­is­tra­tion’s ini­tial re­sponse to re­ports of it, have been a 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 said: “I don’t know. I never spoke to my fa­ther about it.”

J. SCOTT APPLEWHITE - THE AS­SO­CI­ATED PRESS

From left, for­mer CIA Di­rec­tor John Bren­nan, for­mer Na­tional Se­cu­rity Agency Di­rec­tor Michael Rogers, and James Clap­per, for­mer di­rec­tor of Na­tional In­tel­li­gence, ar­rive to meet with the Se­nate In­tel­li­gence Com­mit­tee in their probe of Moscow’s med­dling in the 2016 cam­paign, on Capi­tol Hill in Wash­ing­ton, Wed­nes­day, May 16, 2018.

CAROLYN KASTER - THE AS­SO­CI­ATED PRESS

In this April 17, 2017 file photo, Don­ald Trump Jr., the son of Pres­i­dent Don­ald Trump, speaks to me­dia on the South Lawn of the White House in Wash­ing­ton. Don­ald Trump Jr. told the Se­nate Ju­di­ciary Com­mit­tee that he didn’t think there was any­thing wrong with meet­ing a Rus­sian lawyer who was promis­ing dirt on Hil­lary Clin­ton in 2016. That’s ac­cord­ing to tran­scripts of his in­ter­view with the panel ear­lier this year.

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