On Wednesday, the Senate Judiciary Committee has released a 2,500-page trove of testimony related to Russian influence in the 2016 presidential election. The report contains a 224-page transcript of an interview with Donald Trump Jr. about his June 2016 meeting with a delegation of Russian and Russian-connected figures. The testimony, which Trump Jr. said in a statement was “candid and forthright,” provides a insight into the nature of the meeting, but mostly raises additional questions, particularly as to what was known by the future president at the time.
The meeting, which took place June 9th, 2016 inside Trump Tower, was the result of an email sent to Trump Jr. by a music promoter and publicist, Rob Goldstone. One of Goldstone’s clients was Russian pop star Emin Agalarov, whose father Arad Agalarov promised Goldstone he could provide the Trump campaign with, as he relayed to Trump Jr., “some official documents and information that would incriminate Hillary and her dealings with Russia and would be very useful to your father.” The gesture, Goldstone wrote, would be “part of Russia and its government’s support for Mr. Trump.”
The implication that a foreign adversary was attempting to interfere in the election did not seem to concern Trump Jr., who infamously replied, “If it’s what you say I love it especially later in the summer.”
The statement was one of many points of interest to the Senate investigators. In his testimony, Trump Jr. described his use of “I love it” as a “colloquial way of saying that I appreciated Rob’s gesture,” while admitting that he understood what “it” referred to.
Question: “What was the ‘it’ that you loved in that e-mail?”
Trump Jr: “Potential information about an opponent.” pic.twitter.com/495f2Xnm49
— Natasha Bertrand (@NatashaBertrand) May 16, 2018
The biggest question hanging over the June 9th meeting is whether Donald Trump had any knowledge of it. (Those involved have denied he did.) As the testimony lays out, after being contacted by Goldstone, Trump Jr. received a call from Emin Agalarov to discuss the meeting. Following the call, Trump Jr. placed a call to a blocked number, and, after that call concluded, dialed Agalarov back. Speculation has swirled that Trump was on the other end of the unknown call, and Trump Jr.’s amnesia-ridden testimony doesn’t exactly quash suspicion that Trump knew of the meeting.
When asked who he called between the two calls with Agalrov, Trump Jr. replied, “I have no idea.”
Corey Lewandowski testified separately that Trump’s primary residence uses a blocked number, but Trump Jr. – whom one would assume would also possess this information – didn’t seem so sure. When asked if his father uses a blocked number “on his cellphone or on any phones that you call him on,” Trump Jr. replied, “I don’t know.” When asked to clarify that he doesn’t know if the call to the blocked number was to his father, Trump Jr. replied, “I don’t.”
Though it may be difficult to find proof that Trump knew of the meeting ahead of time, the Washington Post reported last July that he masterminded his son’s explanation: that the summit was held to discuss a program concerning the adoption of Russian children. This was quickly proven to be false when Trump Jr. admitted he took the meeting after receiving the email promising damaging information about Clinton, and the possible cover-up attempt could be used as part of an obstruction of justice case. The testimony released Wednesday notes that Trump Jr. saidhis father “may have commented through [then-White House communications aide] Hope Hicks.” Trump Jr. also said that he believes the input from his father made it into the final statement.
Though it still may be possible to take at face value the claim that Trump had no knowledge of the meeting, the testimony confirms Trump Jr. willfully sought to gather information harmful to Clinton.
Ike Kaveladze says that Don Jr. asked Rinat Akhmetshin and Natalia Veselnitskaya “if they got anything on Hillary” during the Trump Tower meeting. (Page 45) pic.twitter.com/DtpYHZawe1
— Kyle Griffin (@kylegriffin1) May 16, 2018
Veselnitskaya is a Kremlin-connected lawyer and Akhmetshin is a lobbyist with ties to Russian intelligence who has been implicated in a hacking conspiracy. Also present at the meeting was Irakly Kaveladze, the vice president at Agalarov’s real estate company who in 2000 was investigated for money laundering. In an email sent the same day Trump Jr. released the email correspondence setting up the meeting, a redacted colleague of Kaveladze’s expressed confusion over the decision.
??? Amazing email included in Trump Tower meeting docs:
“Why did he release this e-mail admitting to collusion?”
Senate Judiciary redacted who sent this …. pic.twitter.com/SiyrJeaLFy
— Kate Brannen (@K8brannen) May 16, 2018
In addition to the headline-worthy revelations, the testimony released by the Senate Intelligence Committee is riddled with inconsistencies and dubious statements from the players involved.
Trump Jr. says he doesn’t remember Akhmetshin being present, despite Kaveladze recalling the lobbyist’s “highly inappropriate” pink attire, which one would assume would probably have been a rather memorable detail. Goldstone testified that Jared Kusher – who was also present along with then-campaign manager Paul Manafort – became “agitated” and “infuriated” when Veselnitskaya was unable to provide dirt on Hillary. In a statement released in July 2017, Kushner portrayed himself as out of place, confused and polite. Kaveladze couldn’t get his story straight as to whether he flew to California or Moscow following the meeting.
The Senate Intelligence Committee on Wednesday said they agree with what the testimony makes obvious.
THEY CONCUR: Senate Intelligence Committee agrees with intelligence community’s assessment that Russia interfered in the 2016 election to help Donald Trump
This contradicts Republicans on House Intelligence Committee
— Kasie Hunt (@kasie) May 16, 2018
Tomorrow marks the one-year anniversary of Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s appointment to lead an investigation into Russian interference in the 2016 election.