10 Questions About Donald Trump Jr’s Meeting With The Russians
On June 9, 2016, three of President Donald Trump’s closest advisers met a Russian lawyer. One of the advisers — Trump’s son, Donald Trump Jr — arranged the meeting after he was told the Russians could provide dirt on then-Trump opponent Hillary Clinton. When the New York Times said it had received emails exchanged between Trump Jr and an intermediary who helped set up the meeting, the president’s son went public with the emails. This raises so many questions.
1. Is Rob Goldstone Source D in MI6 spy’s Trump dossier?
The Steele memos were compiled during the 2016 presidential election campaign by Christopher David Steele, a former British intelligence officer hired by a Washington, D.C. research firm to dig up information on Trump. The documents contained allegations about Trump and his connections to Russia, Mother Jones reported. The first memo, based on Steele’s conversations with Russian sources, stated, “Russian regime has been cultivating, supporting and assisting TRUMP for at least 5 years. Aim, endorsed by PUTIN, has been to encourage splits and divisions in western alliance.”
Rob Goldstone is the Trump intermediary who facilitated a meeting in 2016 between Donald Trump Jr. and Natalia Veselnitskaya, a Russian lawyer and Moscow insider. They promised information that “would incriminate Hillary (Clinton) and her dealings with Russia,” New York Times reported.
Born in Manchester and a New York resident, Goldstone travels to Moscow so often that he referred to it on Instagram as his “second home,” according to NYT. He runs the public relations company Oui 2 Entertainment.
Steele’s June 20 memo stated:
Source A confided that the Kremlin had been feeding TRUMP and his team valuable intelligence on his opponents, including Democratic presidential candidate Hillary CLINTON, for several years…This was confirmed by Source D, a close associate of TRUMP who had organized and managed his recent trips to Moscow, and who reported, also in June 2016, that this Russian intelligence had been “very helpful”.
2. Who was the interpreter — the sixth person in the room?
Donald Trump Jr’s attorney has confirmed that a sixth person attended the Russian meeting with Russian lawyer Natalia Veselnitskay, MSNBC reported. A previously unknown fifth person who attended the discussion has been identified as Rinat Akhmetshin, a former Soviet counterintelligence worker who currently acts as a Russian-American lobbyist. Trump Jr. and his father’s campaign staff were expecting to learn sensitive Russian information that could damage Hillary Clinton, Mediaite reported.
A sixth person at the meeting was there as an interpreter, according to Trump Jr’s representative.
The Russian-born, partly U.S.-educated Samochornov is a former project manager at the Meridian International Center, a subcontracted nonprofit hired by the U.S. State Department where, according to his LinkedIn profile, he worked on programs to “establish an understanding of U.S. foreign policy goals and objectives for current and future international leaders,” and served as an interpreter at “high level UN and private sector meetings for the Secretary of State and other VIPs.”
Samochornov was also apparently a “program officer” at the FBI’s field office in New York, according to an FBI press release, The Daily Beast reported on May 18, 2016.
3. How did a Russian government lawyer get into the U.S. when her visa was denied?
Natalia Veselnitskaya, the Russian lawyer who met with Donald Trump Jr. in June 9, 2016 meeting had been denied a visa to the enter the U.S. months earlier, but she got in anyway, Fox News reported on July 12, 2017.
Also present in the meeting with Trump Jr. was then-campaign chairman Paul Manafort and senior aide Jared Kushner, President Trump’s son-in-law, among others. So far, at least six people are reported to have been in the meeting, though not all have been identified as of this writing.
“She shouldn’t have been in the country,” Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Chuck Grassley, R-Iowa, told “Fox & Friends.” The senior lawmaker is raising questions about how Natalia Veselnitskaya was able to gain access to the U.S. The Russian lawyer would have been granted entry under the Obama administration, and Grassley said he’s sent inquiries to the relevant agencies.
“And if there’d been enforcement of the immigration laws she wouldn’t have been in the country,” he said. “The other thing, if she was representing a foreign government…she wasn’t registered under the Foreign Agents Registration Act as well.”
He added, “We do have a responsibility to congressional oversight to get to the bottom of it.”
4. Who leaked the email and why?
Donald Trump Jr. released a chain of emails on Tuesday, July 11 revealing his plans to meet a Russian lawyer in June 2016. He anticipated getting dirt on Hillary Clinton, who was running against his father in the U.S. presidential election, Market Watch reported. “If it’s what you say, I love it,” Trump Jr. wrote. He went public on Twitter with the email chain after The New York Times said it had seen the emails and contacted him for comment ahead of its own story. Trump Jr’s email chain with publicist Rob Goldstone said the Russian government had information that would incriminate Clinton.
The story — which the NYT broke Sunday — relied on five unnamed sources confirming the existence of those emails. At least two of those came from inside the White House.
What could possibly be the motive? Here are a few possibilities gathered by the San Diego Tribune:
- One-time Trump campaign manager Corey Lewandowski emerged as a possible source. He was running the campaign in June 2016, when Trump Jr. met with the Russian lawyer, and was fired less than two weeks after the meeting.
- Trump adviser Jared Kushner also emerged as a possible source, according to BuzzFeed News and others reporting the search for those sources. After all, Kushner had knowledge of those emails and the meeting because he attended it along with one-time campaign manager Paul Manafort. But what motivations would Kushner have to disclose that meeting? Such a leak would seemingly complicate things for Kushner, who is already under scrutiny for not previously disclosing his contacts with Russians when he sought security clearance.
- Trump adviser Steve Bannon does not appear to fit in the picture, but given his history of speaking anonymously to the press, it’s possible the former Breitbart chief could be the source. A few theorized that the emails and the meeting implicated another Kushner, believed to be a foe of Bannon.
- The Russians: Were the Russians mad that the U.S. didn’t lift its sanctions after the G20 summit meeting between Trump and Vladimir Putin? Even if there was no suggestion of a Russian source at play in The Times story, the motive of retaliation would fit the action. Another possible Russian motive: the hope of bringing chaos to American politics with the leak.
- Mike Pence: Conservative writer Allahpundit was willing to point to the vice president himself.Pence. And that theory was promptly followed by a vote of confidence from political writer Josh Barro. Pence is not known to speak to the press anonymously. The vice president has distanced himself from the story. But of course Pence has the ultimate motivation — to be the 46th president if the 45th president is forced out.
5. Why is Kushner being protected?
This means that Kushner’s SF-86 changed a number of times: First, the inaccurate form, which left blank the foreign contacts section. Next (and the next day), the form was amended to say that he had multiple contacts and would disclose those. The process of gathering information progressed throughout the winter and spring. Then the form was amended yet again to include the Trump Jr. meeting as soon as it was discovered, a source with knowledge of the process.
On Saturday, Kushner’s attorney Jamie Gorelick gave this statement: “Mr. Kushner has submitted additional updates and included, out of an abundance of caution, this meeting with a Russian person, which he briefly attended at the request of his brother-in-law, Donald Trump Jr. As Mr. Kushner has consistently stated, he is eager to cooperate and share what he knows.”
But the emails released by Trump Jr. Tuesday offered the most concrete evidence yet that Trump campaign associates and family members were willing to consider receiving support purportedly from the Russian government during the 2016 presidential campaign.
6. Did President Trump himself attend the meeting with the Russians in Trump Tower?
Trump Jr says his dad had no knowledge of the meeting with Natalia Veselnitskaya, held at Trump Tower in June 2016. Jared Kushner, Paul Manafort and a growing number of people attended — some as yet unidentified.
“We know this about the Trump operation — it was tight, it was small, and Donald Trump was at the center of it,” CNN political commentator David Axelrod said Friday. “The fact that no one would come to him and say ‘hey, we just got a tip that we may have some information that could really be dynamite in this campaign’ seems implausible to me.'”
Trump has defended his son, saying “most people would have taken that meeting” if offered opposition research.
“I have only been in politics for two years, but I’ve had many people call up: ‘Oh, gee, we have information’ on this factor or this person or, frankly, Hillary,” Trump said in Paris on Thursday during a joint press conference with French President Emmanuel Macron, The Hill reported.“That’s very standard in politics. Politics is not the nicest business in the world. But it’s very standard where they have information and you take the information.”
7. The email chain say this is “part” of Russian support for Donald Trump. What are the other parts?
The email exchange between Trump Jr. and Rob Goldstone includes a key passage that suggests a bigger picture about Russian support, Slate reported. Goldstone tells Trump Jr he’s been told that a Russian prosecutor “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.” Goldstone writes that “this is obviously very high level and sensitive information but is a part of Russia and its government’s support for Mr. Trump.”
— Kyle Griffin (@kylegriffin1) July 12, 2017
On 9 June 2016, three of Donald Trump’s closest advisers met a Russian lawyer after one of them, Donald Trump Jr, was told the Russian could provide “information that would incriminate Hillary (Clinton)”.
Over the next 13 months, the future president and associates including Donald Jr denied at least 20 times that their campaign team had had any contact with Russians seeking to influence the presidential election. (From The Guardian)
8. Why is the FBI so behind the curve on the systematic Russian attack on American democracy?
The U.S. intelligence community revealed publicly six months ago that Russia stole Democrats’ emails and gave them to WikiLeaks to be released.
On Oct. 26, former New York Mayor Rudy Giuliani predicted on Fox News that the Trump campaign had “a surprise or two that you’re going to hear about in the next few days,” according to the NY Post:
“We’ve got a couple of things up our sleeve that should turn this thing (Trump’s foundering run for president) around.”
Two days later, then-FBI Director James Comey confirmed that the FBI was conducting an internal investigation into whether agents leaked information to Giuliani and others about the probe into Hillary Clinton during the presidential campaign.
A small group of FBI agents with close ties to Giuliani and Trump’s campaign are using their office as a partisan tool to attack Clinton, DailyKos reported on Nov. 6, 2016.
They are abusing their positions and power and have been calling on the FBI to investigate the Clinton Foundation based on hearsay and alt-right wing
They are abusing their positions and power and have been calling on the FBI to investigate the Clinton Foundation based on hearsay and alt-right wing Brietbart conspiracy theories, including the Clinton Cash book … The only reason Comey wrote the letter to Congress about the review of the new emails was because he knew the New York partisan FBI agents with ties to Giuliani and Trump would leak the information to try to influence the election.
9. Did the Russian agent get a sweetheart deal in a money-laundering settlement with DOJ?
Democratic congressmen on the House Judiciary Committee want to know why Attorney General Jeff Sessions settled a money laundering case in May involving the same Russian attorney who met with Donald Trump Jr. in June 2016.
Preet Bharara, former U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of New York, filed a civil forfeiture case in 2013. Trump fired him in March, Foreign Policy reported. The case alleged that 11 companies were involved in tax fraud in Russia and then laundered a portion of the $230 million proceeds into expensive Manhattan real estate.
Instead of going to trial as scheduled, the Trump Justice Department settled the case two days before it was due to begin. By then, Bharara had already been fired.
“Tthe Department may have settled the case at a loss for the United States in order to obscure the underlying facts,” wrote 17 Democratic Congressmen on the House judiciary panel in a letter to Sessions on Wednesday.
Sergei Magnitsky, the Russian attorney who exposed the tax fraud scheme, died in prison. As a result, U.S. lawmakers passed the Magnitsky Act which levied sanctions on Russian officials. Russian attorney Natalia Veselnitskaya was working to reverse the Magnitsky Act, Foreign Policy reported. She’s the same attorney who organized the meeting with Donald Trump, Jr. saying she had information that could “incriminate” Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton.
10. What is on U.S. surveillance tapes between Trump associates and Russian officials going back to 2015?
Before Trump declared his candidacy for president, U.S. intelligence agencies detected conversations starting in the spring of 2015 between Russian government officials and Trump associates, according to current and former U.S. officials, Wall Street Journal reported on July 12. The conversations were vague and left intelligence agents saying “huh?”. Now agents are revisiting the conversations. Some of the conversations were about meetings held outside the U.S. Intelligence agencies routinely monitor Russian espionage against the U.S. Such efforts can include monitoring phone calls, emails and information from informants:
The U.S. intelligence agencies weren’t sure what to make of the vague and inconclusive information, given that Mr. Trump had done business in Russia and was a global celebrity well-known to prominent people there. The names of Americans do sometimes show up in conversations involving Russian officials that are overheard by U.S. intelligence. In light of the release of emails Tuesday by Donald Trump Jr., the president’s eldest son, investigators are going back to those early reports to see if they can understand them better. Now, the FBI and several congressional committees are probing Mr. Trump’s ties to Russia over the years, as is special counsel Robert Mueller.