National Security

Judiciary transcripts offer detailed account of Trump Tower meeting

Greg Nash

Thousands of pages of interview transcripts released by the Senate Judiciary Committee on Wednesday offer the most detailed account to date of the June 2016 meeting at Trump Tower between Donald Trump Jr., and a Russian lawyer who has since admitted to being an “informant” to Moscow.

The documents show a constellation of efforts over several years by two powerful Russian real estate developers, Aras and Emin Agalarov, to arrange meetings and provide assistance to Trump.


The Agalarovs’ outreach efforts culminated in setting up the 2016 meeting with Trump Jr. on the promise to the president’s eldest son that it would deliver political dirt on Hillary Clinton.

While the documents reveal the willingness of the Trump campaign to accept the Agalarovs’ help when it was convenient, they do not show the extent to which Trump himself was aware of the meeting’s stated purpose.

Trump Jr. testified that he “never discussed [the meeting] with [Trump] at all,” and that he did not know if anyone else did. He said he chose not to involve his father in the drafting of his first, misleading statement about the nature of the meeting because “I didn’t want to bring him into something that he had nothing to do with.”

The Trump Tower meeting has long been a point of fierce political and media interest as evidence that Trump campaign members had met with people connected to the Russian government about the 2016 election — something that those close to Trump, including Trump Jr., had denied. 

The meeting took place shortly before the release of the first tranche of stolen Democratic emails on the anti-secrecy platform WikiLeaks, and critics see the meeting as clear evidence of collusion to throw the election. 

But the release of the transcripts is unlikely to bring consensus on or off Capitol Hill about what happened, however.

Although the documents fleshed out some details, the broad contours of the circumstances surrounding the meetings had been previously reported and digested.

The promise of dirt on Clinton was made by Rob Goldstone, a music promoter who represents Emin Agalarov, Aras’s son who is a pop music star in Russia. 

Goldstone told the committee that Emin Agalarov overrode his warnings that setting up the meeting would be a bad idea, telling him, “It doesn’t matter. You just have to get the meeting.”

Phone records examined by the committee have raised speculation that Trump Jr. discussed the meeting with his father before it took place.

Several days before the meeting, phone records indicate that Trump Jr. had two phone calls with Emin Agalarov. In between the two calls, he placed a four-minute call to a blocked number.

Trump Jr. testified that he did not recall to whom he spoke between the two calls with Agalarov, nor did he recall speaking with Agalarov.

Former Trump campaign manager Corey Lewandowski had previously testified before the House Intelligence Committee that Trump’s “primary residence has a blocked [phone] line.” Asked by Judiciary committee investigators whether his father uses a blocked number on any phones that Trump Jr. used to contact him, Trump Jr. said he didn’t know.

Several days after those phone calls, Trump Jr. walked into the meeting with Natalia Veselnitskaya, the woman Goldstone had described as a Russian government lawyer offering dirt on Clinton.

“So I believe you have some information for us,” another participant in the meeting, a Russian-American lobbyist, said Trump Jr. said.

When it became clear that Veselnitskaya was more focused on lobbying against a U.S. sanctions law for human rights violations, participants said that Trump Jr. quickly became annoyed.

According to the lobbyist, Trump Jr. asked, “So can you show us how does this money go to Hillary?”

When Veselnitskaya said that it was “not her issue,” Goldstone, the lobbyist and another employee of the Agalarovs who was also present, variously described Trump Jr. as becoming “somewhat agitated,” “very frustrated” and even “infuriated.”

After the meeting became public, Goldstone vented to the younger Agalarov, “I hope this favor was worth it for your dad.”

Goldstone’s efforts to reach Trump on behalf of the Alagarovs dates back several years before the launch of Trump’s candidacy and continued into the campaign. 

In July of 2015, Goldstone emailed Trump’s longtime assistant Rhona Graff offering for the pop star to set up a meeting between Trump and Russian President Vladimir Putin.

Graff turned down the meeting, citing Trump’s busy campaign schedule.

During the primary season, Goldstone reached out on behalf of the elder Agalarov “offering his support and that of many of his important Russian friends and colleagues.”

Goldstone also put top campaign aides in touch with a senior executive from the Russian equivalent to Facebook, who offered to build a page for Trump to court Russian-American voters.

The father-and-son team even gave Trump “a fairly sizeable birthday gift” — an expensive painting, according to previous congressional reports.

Trump’s relationship to the Agalarovs dates to 2013, when his Miss Universe pageant was held at one of their properties. The Agalarovs had also previously explored partnering with the Trump Organization to build a Trump Tower in Moscow.

The release of the transcripts comes just one day before the year-anniversary of the appointment of special counsel Robert Mueller, who has also been probing the 2016 meeting.

The White House in recent weeks has taken an increasingly aggressive stance towards the federal probe into Russia’s election meddling. Vice President Pence said last week that it was time for the probe to end “in the interest of the country.”

Trump for the first time has begun to launch Twitter broadsides against Mueller by name, and his personal lawyer, former New York Mayor Rudy Giuliani, told Politico that he plans to “raise the pressure to try to get this thing over with.”

Democrats immediately blasted committee Republicans for failing to adequately examine the meeting, calling the investigation to date “limited.”

“We still do not know the full story about the June 9 meeting at Trump Tower or, more broadly, the degree to which the campaign cooperated or communicated with Russia,” Democrats said in a document of preliminary findings.

The panel released five testimonies — Trump Jr., Goldstone, a translator for Veselnitskaya, an Agalarov employee named Ike Kaveladze, and the lobbyist, Rinat Akhmetshin.

The committee did not interview either former Trump campaign manager Paul Manafort — currently under indictment for a host of white collar crimes not related to the election — or senior White House aide Jared Kushner, both of whom were present for the meeting.

Chairman Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa) has said little about the status of the committee’s broader investigation into Russian meddling, which has been bogged down by partisan disagreements over what to investigate.

He told reporters Wednesday that the public had a right to judge the material for itself, rather than have it deciphered by Congress.

Across the Capitol, the House Intelligence Committee recently shut down their own probe into the matter amidst bitter partisan bickering.

The Senate Intelligence Committee is continuing to investigate, largely behind closed doors.

Tags Corey Lewandowski Donald Trump Donald Trump Jr. Hillary Clinton Jared Kushner Paul Manafort Robert Mueller Russia Russian interference in the 2016 election Senate Judiciary Committee Trump Tower meeting
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