A Nothing Burger
Donald Trump Jr. on Tuesday released a stunning chain of emails detailing his conversations about setting up a campaign meeting with a Russian lawyer who had offered compromising information on Hillary Clinton.
The information “would incriminate Hillary and her dealings with Russia and would be very useful to your father,” reads one of the emails from Rob Goldstone, who acted as an intermediary to set up the meeting.
“This is obviously very high level and sensitive information but is part of Russia and its government’s support for Mr. Trump,” wrote Goldstone.
In one of the emails released on Twitter, referring to the information on Clinton, Trump Jr. told Goldstone: “If it’s what you say I love it.”In another email, Goldstone suggested the information about Clinton could be given to then-candidate Donald Trump through Rhona Graff, his longtime aide.
“I can also send this info to your father via Rhona, but it is ultra sensitive so wanted to sent to you first,” Goldstone wrote.
The White House has not responded to the latest disclosure from the president’s son. Spokeswoman Sarah Huckabee Sanders said Monday that Trump only learned of the meeting in the last few days.
She has denied that Trump Jr. colluded with the Russians in any way. American intelligence agencies have determined that Moscow meddled in the 2016 election on Trump’s behalf.
Trump has not commented publicly on the meeting.
Goldstone, a music producer who represents a Russian pop star named Emin Agalarov, has connections to both Russian President Vladimir Putin and President Trump. Agalarov’s father was Trump’s partner in bringing the Miss Universe pageant to Russia in 2013.
Trump Jr.’s release of the emails comes after The New York Times reported that he was told beforehand that the lawyer promising dirt on Clinton was part of a Russian government effort to help his father’s presidential campaign.
The Times also had the emails and was preparing to post a story.
The meeting took place on June 9, 2016. In addition to Trump Jr., Trump’s son-in-law, Jared Kushner, and his then-campaign chairman, Paul Manafort, attended. Trump Jr. forwarded the email chain to both Manafort and Kushner before the meeting.
Trump Jr. has said that the Russian lawyer, Natalia Veselnitskaya, did not have the promised opposition research and instead arranged the meeting to press for changes on a U.S. policy that restricts adoptions of Russian children.
But the emails reveal new details about how the meeting at Trump Tower in New York came to be and show that Trump Jr. appeared eager to receive damaging information on Clinton obtained by the Russian government.
The messages are likely to come under scrutiny from federal and congressional investigators probing Russia’s 2016 election interference and whether any Trump associates colluded with the effort.
Trump Jr. has hired his own attorney, Alan Futerfas, to handle matters related to the investigation.
The president’s eldest son has claimed that he did not know about Veselnitskaya’s ties to Moscow, though Goldstone explicitly stated in one of the emails that she was a “Russian government attorney who is flying over from Moscow.”
The subject line on the email chain between Trump Jr. and Goldstone was “Russia — Clinton — private and confidential.”
“The woman, as she has said publicly, was not a government official,” Trump Jr. said in a Tuesday statement. “And as we have said, she had no information to provide and wanted to talk about adoption policy and the Magnitsky Act.
“To put this in context, this occurred before the current Russian fever was in vogue. As Rob Goldstone said just today in the press, the entire meeting was ‘the most inane nonsense I ever heard. And I was actually agitated by it.’”
Trump Jr. downplayed the meeting earlier Tuesday before he disclosed the emails.
“Media & Dems are extremely invested in the Russia story,” he tweeted. “If this nonsense meeting is all they have after a yr, I understand the desperation!”
He was scheduled to sit for an interview with Fox News host Sean Hannity Tuesday night.
In a Tuesday interview with NBC News, Veselnitskaya offered a different account of the meeting.
She said she never had any damaging information on Clinton and it was never her intention to secure the meeting under the impression that she did.
“It is quite possible that maybe they were longing for such an information. They wanted it so badly that they could only hear the thought that they wanted,” Veselnitskaya said.
Veselnitskaya also denied any connection to the Russian government. The Kremlin has said it does not know anything about the meeting.
But the Moscow lawyer has extensive ties to close allies of Putin. She came to the United States last year in connection to a $230 million tax fraud case initially exposed by Sergei Magnitsky — an accountant who died in a Russian prison after accusing prosecutors in that country of the fraud.
Veselnitskaya has represented a man alleged to have been involved in the fraud scheme and has lobbied against the Magnitsky Act, a U.S. law designed to punish Russians accused of human rights abuses.
Putin blocked Americans from adopting Russian children in response to the 2012 law.
Lawmakers have been rattled by the rapidly unfolding events and their proximity to the White House.
“That email is disturbing,” Sen. Lindsay Graham (R-S.C.) said on MSNBC. “I know Donald Trump Jr. is new to politics, I know that Jared Kushner is new to politics, but this is going to require a lot of questions to be asked and answered.”
Democrats such as former President Obama’s ethics czar, Norm Eisen, believe the emails are the smoking gun proving that Trump campaign officials colluded with Russia to swing the election.