The June 9, 2016 Trump Tower meeting just refuses to leave the news cycle, as we have a new bombshell on it today. The meeting consisted of Donald Trump Jr., Jared Kushner, Paul Manafort, Rob Goldstone, Rinat Akhmetshin (a man suspected of being a former Russian intelligence officer), Natalia Veselnitskaya, her translator Anatoli Samochornov and Ike Kaveladze, the senior VP at a real estate development company run by the Russian oligarch, Aras Agalarov (pictured next to his son Emin and Trump in the photo at the top of my longread on how Trump’s own words connect him to the Kremlin).
According to e-mails released by Donald Trump Jr., the reason for the meeting can be found in this exchange between Trump Jr. and Emin Agalarov’s publicist, Rob Goldstone, that occurred on Friday, June 3rd:
Goldstone: Good morning, Emin just called and asked me to contact you with something very interesting. 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.
This is obviously very high level and sensitive information but is part of Russia and its government’s support for Mr. Trump – helped along by Aras and Emin. What do you think is the best way to handle this information and would you be able to speak to Emin about it directly? I can also send this info to your father via Rhona, but it is ultra sensitive so wanted to send to you first.
*Editor’s note: there is no such thing as the Crown Prosecutor of Russia, but Rob Goldstone is British, and that term is used in the Commonwealth realm of Queen Elizabeth II (so the U.K., Australia, Canada, etc…) to describe a high-level government attorney who conducts criminal prosecutions.
Trump Jr.: Thanks Rob I appreciate that. I am on the road at the moment but perhaps I just speak to Emin first. Seems we have some time and if it’s what you say I love it especially later in the summer. Could we do a call first thing next week when I’m back?
Goldstone: Hi Don
Let me know when you are free to talk with Emin by phone about this Hillary info – you had mentioned early this week so wanted to try to schedule a time and day.
So Trump Jr. “loved” the information coming from “Russia and its government’s support for Mr. Trump,” and asked to set up a phone call “first thing next week.” On Thursday of the next week, the meeting took place. That’s damning enough as is, but BuzzFeed has a new report from their ace investigative team of Anthony Cormier and Jason Leopold detailing some supremely sketchy finances surrounding this meeting. Per BuzzFeed:
But secret documents reviewed by BuzzFeed News reveal a previously undisclosed aspect of the meeting: a complex web of financial transactions among some of the planners and participants who moved money from Russia and Switzerland to the British Virgin Islands, Bangkok, and a small office park in New Jersey.
The documents show Aras Agalarov, a billionaire real estate developer close to both Vladimir Putin and Donald Trump, at the center of this vast network and how he used accounts overseas to filter money to himself, his son, and at least two people who attended the Trump Tower meeting. The records also offer new insight into the murky financial world inhabited by many of Trump’s associates, who use shell companies and secret bank accounts to quickly and quietly move money across the globe.
Now, four federal law enforcement officials told BuzzFeed News, investigators are focused on two bursts of transactions that bank examiners deemed suspicious: one a short time after the meeting and another immediately after the November 2016 presidential election.
Part of what is fueling Trump’s especially unhinged behavior as of late are reports that he is worried that his son could go to prison, as The Washington Post highlighted last month:
Still, Trump has confided to friends and advisers that he is worried the Mueller probe could destroy the lives of what he calls “innocent and decent people” — namely Trump Jr., who is under scrutiny by Mueller for his role organizing a June 2016 meeting at Trump Tower with Russians promising dirt on Hillary Clinton. As one adviser described the president’s thinking, he does not believe his son purposefully broke the law, but is fearful nonetheless that Trump Jr. inadvertently may have wandered into legal jeopardy.
In a tweet early Sunday, Trump called it “a complete fabrication” that he was worried about his eldest son. “This was a meeting to get information on an opponent, totally legal and done all the time in politics — and it went nowhere,” the president wrote. “I did not know about it.”
I’m of the opinion that President Trump was very aware of the meeting, and not just because Trump Jr. called a blocked phone number before and after, but because the doofus-in-chief has practically told all of us—as I theorized in a column last July. Every single tweet or speech that Trump made regarding Hillary’s deleted e-mails up to that point referenced the number 30,000—like this one he sent out three weeks before the Trump Tower meeting.
Forty minutes after the famed Trump Tower meeting began (we know when it started because Rob Goldstone checked in to the meeting on Facebook at 4 pm), Trump tweeted out his familiar attack on Hillary, but this time with a different number.
So we have e-mails from Trump Jr. saying that he “loved” getting dirt on Hillary from high-level sources in the Russian government, and after the meeting, Trump slightly changed the number of e-mails he claimed Hillary deleted, and has not used the 30,000 figure in any tweets since. I think it’s pretty clear that the Russians offered to find those “33,000” e-mails deleted by Hillary, and Trump Jr. told his father about it right after the meeting, who then tweeted it out. That sounds incredibly dumb, but hey, no one ever said these folks were criminal masterminds—I mean, the guy who set this whole thing up publicly checked in to a secret meeting.
Given that Michael Cohen was running a slush fund with payments from massive conglomerates like AT&T and Novartis that sure seemed like down payments just to get their issues on Trump’s radar, this new BuzzFeed report about the Feds tracking suspicious financial transactions connected to the Trump Tower meeting really adds up to a compelling and frankly, familiar picture at this point. The question is not whether Russian interference happened with the blessing of the Trump camp—I think it’s pretty clear from Trump Jr.’s e-mails alone that something happened—the question is how far that interference went.
Jacob Weindling is a staff writer for Paste politics. Follow him on Twitter at @Jakeweindling.