Trump Organization Lawyers Tried To Control Messaging With Attendees Of The Trump Tower Meeting
A month before the infamous Trump Tower meeting became public, a lawyer with the Trump Organization contacted the organizer of the June 9, 2016, meeting “out of the blue” to talk about the day, newly released documents show.
Rob Goldstone, a music promoter who has played an unexpected role in the investigation into whether the Trump campaign colluded with Russia to influence the election, told Senate investigators about that “interesting” call — and his follow-up with the US-based employee of the wealthy Russian family behind the Trump Tower meeting, the Agalarovs.
On June 3, 2017, Goldstone messaged Ike Kaveladze, the US-based employee of Aras Agalarov’s Crocus Group, to tell him about the call. Trump Organization lawyer Alan Garten had contacted him, Goldstone told Kaveladze, about “that meeting we attended at Trump Tower last year.”
Garten was in touch with Goldstone multiple times in June 2017 — weeks before the New York Times broke the news of the meeting on July 9, 2017 — emails and other information released by the Senate Judiciary Committee on Wednesday show.
“Hope all is well,” Garten wrote to Goldstone in a June 26, 2017, email. “Was wondering if you were free to talk tomorrow? Let me know what works for you.” Goldstone testified that Garten and Alan Futerfas, the outside lawyer who has represented the Trump Organization and Donald Trump Jr., “asked me if I could help them understand my recollection of the meeting.” The next day, Goldstone replied to the email with the contact information for Kaveladze — who attended “the meeting” as well, as Goldstone put it.
Later, once news of the meeting became public, Trump Organization lawyers attempted to control the narrative about the meeting.
Goldstone told Emin Agalarov, Aras’s son and the musician that Goldstone represented, that “[T]rump lawyers” wanted him to issue no comment initially. Both Garten and Alan Futerfas, the outside lawyer who has represented the Trump Organization and Donald Trump Jr., were in contact with Goldstone, per his testimony and emails. Later, the Trump Organization’s lawyers suggested that Goldstone release a statement that included language that “the statements I have read by Donald Trump Jr. are 100 percent accurate.”
Goldstone did not release the proposed statement because, he told Senate investigators, it did not sound like his voice, adding, “I thought it was ludicrous.”
Asked if he believed the proposed statement contained inaccuracies, he replied, “Not necessarily.”
Neither Futerfas nor the Trump Organization immediately responded to requests for comment.
The discussions — emails, text messages, and phone calls — were among those more than 1,500 pages of documents the Senate Judiciary Committee released Wednesday as part of its investigation into Russian interference in the 2016 election.
The documents are mostly transcripts of interviews with some of the participants of the June 2016 meeting in Trump Tower between senior officials from now-President Donald Trump’s campaign and Russians, but also contain exhibits that include emails and screenshots of text messages. Previously released emails show Trump Jr., the president’s eldest son, agreed to take the meeting with a Kremlin-linked lawyer after being promised compromising information on Hillary Clinton.
Goldstone, who arranged the meeting, had told Trump Jr. that the information was “part of Russia and its government’s support of Trump.” Trump Jr. responded, “if that’s what you say I love it.”
In a September interview with the committee, Trump Jr. told investigators that “[a]s much as some have made of the phrase ‘I love it’, it was simply a colloquial way of saying that I appreciated Rob’s gesture.”
The documents shed more light on Trump Jr.’s actions and purported thinking before the infamous meeting. Trump Jr. told investigators that he was “somewhat skeptical” of Goldstone’s initial email offering incriminating material on Clinton because he knew Goldstone “as Emin’s somewhat colorful music promoter who had worked with famous pop singers such as Michael Jackson.”
“Nonetheless, at the time I thought I should listen to what Rob and his colleagues had to say,” Trump Jr. said, according to a transcript of the interview. “To the extent that they had information concerning the fitness, character, or qualifications of any presidential candidate, I believed that I should at least hear them out. Depending on what, if any, information that they had, I could then consult with counsel to make an informed decision as to whether to give it any further consideration.”
Democrats and others have criticized Trump Jr. for failing to inform the FBI or other authorities about what appeared to be an attempt by a foreign power to influence the election.
Trump Jr. told the committee that Natalia Veselnitskaya, the Russian lawyer at the center of the meeting, began the discussion by “telling the group very generally something about individuals connected to Russia supporting or funding” Clinton or the Democratic National Committee. Trump Jr. said he and his colleagues then “politely asked” if Veselnitskaya “could provide more clarity about her objective for the meeting.”
“At that point Ms. Veselnitskaya pivoted and began talking about the adoption of Russian children by U.S. citizens and something called the Magnitsky Act,” Trump Jr. said, adding that it was then clear to him that “her real purpose in asking for the meeting all along was to discuss Russian adoptions.” Trump Jr. also said he received no documents from Veselnitskaya.
After that, Trump Jr. “just instantly lost interest,” Russian lobbyist Rinat Akhmetshin told Senate Judiciary investigators in his own interview. Jared Kushner, the president’s son-in-law who was also present, “appeared somewhat agitated” by the meeting, according to Goldstone’s testimony. Trump Jr. testified that Kushner and then-campaign chairman Paul Manafort, another attendee, did not know what the meeting would be about.
Goldstone apologized to Trump Jr. after the meeting, Kaveladze told the committee. “While exiting the room, I saw Mr. Goldstone approaching Donald Trump, Jr., and apologizing for — I mean I don’t remember the wording, but for stupid meeting, or something like that, he has set up. And Mr. Trump said, ‘It’s okay’. And so we exited the room,” Kaveladze testified.
The committee released transcripts of its interviews with translator Anatoli Samochornov as well. Though she was not interviewed by the committee, Veselnitskaya provided written responses to the panel’s questions, which the committee also released on Wednesday.
The committee also released materials submitted by Kushner and Manafort, who the committee says refused interviews. Manafort now faces a host of charges as part of special counsel Robert Mueller’s criminal probe into potential collusion between the campaign and Russia.
Democrats on the committee also released a 22-page document listing their initial findings in the investigation. “In its limited investigation so far, the Committee has found evidence of multiple contacts between the Trump campaign and Russian government officials or their intermediaries, including offers of assistance and purported overtures from Vladimir Putin, which warrant further investigation,” the Democrats said in a joint statement Wednesday.
However, disagreements with Republicans on how to handle the probe have essentially stalled the investigation, Democrats said.
Republicans, meanwhile, said the committee “has been working to get to the bottom of what actually happened.”
“Americans rightly have many questions about this meeting, and today, we are releasing the transcripts and exhibits from interviews we’ve conducted to allow the public to know what we know,” committee chairman Chuck Grassley said in a statement. “These materials, taken in their entirety, provide the most complete public picture of the events surrounding the meeting to date. Americans can now review this unfiltered information and arrive at their own conclusions.”