May 16, 2018

Senate Judiciary Committee Releases Interview Transcripts

Involving
Rob Goldstone
Irakly (“Ike”) Kaveladze
Jared Kushner
Paul Manafort
Donald Trump Jr.
Natalia Veselnitskaya

The Senate Judiciary Committee releases transcripts and exhibits from its investigation into the Justice Department’s enforcement of the Foreign Agents Registration Act, and potential foreign influence in the 2016 election. Interviews with many attendees of the June 9 meeting, Donald Trump Jr., Ike Kaveladze, Rob Goldstone, and Anatoli Smochornov, as well as written testimony from Jared Kushner and Paul Manafort, were included in the release.  The Senate Judiciary Committee releases transcripts and exhibits from its investigation into the Justice Department’s enforcement of the Foreign Agents Registration Act, and potential foreign influence in the 2016 election. Interviews with many attendees of the June 9 meeting, Donald Trump Jr., Ike Kaveladze, Rob Goldstone, and Anatoli Smochornov, as well as written testimony from Jared Kushner and Paul Manafort, were included in the release.  


Perhaps the most significant meeting between members of the Trump campaign and representatives of the Russian government occurred on June 9, 2016. That day, Donald Trump, Jr., Jared Kushner, and Paul Manafort met in Trump Tower with four individuals with ties to the Russian government.

The roots of the meeting go back all the way to July 2015, one month after Trump announced he was running for president. That month, Goldstone, who had first become acquainted with the Trumps through the Agalarovs and the Miss Universe Pageant in 2013, emailed Trump’s assistant asking whether Trump “would welcome a meeting with President Putin.” According to The Washington Post, “there is no indication that Trump or his assistant followed up on Goldstone’s offer,” and Goldstone’s attorney declined to comment.

Goldstone had more success when, on June 3, 2016, he sent an email to Don Jr. with the subject line “Russia – Clinton – private and confidential” in which he offered to set up a meeting regarding “official documents and information that would incriminate Hillary [Clinton] and her dealings with Russia and would be very useful to [Trump] as “part of Russia and its government’s support for Mr. Trump.” Trump Jr. responded, “if it’s what you say I love it especially later in the summer.” On June 7, 2016, the pair set up the meeting for June 9.

The meeting took place on June 9, 2016, at 4 p.m. in Trump Tower. Attending on behalf of the Trump campaign were Trump Jr., Kushner, and Manafort; representing Russian interests were Goldstone, the lawyer and Magnitsky Act opponent Natalia Veselnitskaya, the real-estate executive and suspected money launderer Irakly Kaveladze, and the lobbyist and alleged former counterintelligence officer Rinat Akhmetshin, along with a translator. According to the Trump campaign, the group discussed “adoptions,” believed to be code for the American sanctions bill known as the Magnitsky Act.

Foreign Policy has since published what purports to be a memo Veselnitskaya brought with her to the meeting, which includes damaging information on Clinton and the investor Bill Browder, who has been a strong proponent of the Magnitsky Act; The New York Times later reported that Veselnitskaya shared the talking points with the Kremlin. Manafort’s notes from the meeting, which the FBI reportedly seized in a pre-dawn raid in July 2017, reportedly corroborate that the conversation largely revolved around Browder and the Magnitsky Act, but also include vague references to the RNC and political contributions. (Manafort’s spokesman has said that it is 100 percent false to suggest this meeting included any discussion of donations from Russian sources to either the Trump campaign or the Republican Party.”) Veselnitskaya has also claimed that, at the meeting, Trump Jr. suggested that his father might consider overturning the Magnitsky Act if elected.

Kushner and Trump Jr. both told congressional investigators they were disappointed by the information presented in the meeting and didn’t follow up with the other participants afterward, although their accounts differed somewhat when it came to key details. Additionally, CNN has reported on additional emails between Goldstone, Trump Jr., and the senior Trump aide Dan Scavino that conflict with the assertion that the meeting was a one-time event with no follow-up.

Whether Trump knew about the June 9 meeting at the time remains unknown. However, on June 7, shortly after Trump Jr. and Goldstone set the date, Trump announced at a press conference, “I am going to give a major speech on probably Monday … we’re going to be discussing all of the things that have taken place with the Clintons.”

The New York Times first reported that the meeting had taken place more than a year later, on July 8, 2017. Trump Jr. released a statement in which he misleadingly claimed that the meeting had been solely about adoption, and had nothing to do with the campaign; The Washington Post subsequently reported that Donald Trump dictated the statement on Air Force One. Following that, Jay Sekulow, Trump’s attorney, said, “I wasn’t involved in the statement drafting at all, nor was the President. However, Trump’s legal team, in an effort to protect the president from being compelled to testify, wrote a memo in January 2018, in which they confirmed Trump’s participation in the drafting of his son’s statement. Rudy Giuliani argued “was a mistake,” and that there had been no effort to conceal Trump’s involvement in crafting the statement. On July 9, The New York Times published the email exchange between Goldstone and Trump Jr. in which they explicitly establish that the purpose of the meeting was to provide the Trump campaign with damaging information on Clinton from the Russian government.

On May 16, 2018, the Senate Judiciary Committee released roughly 1,800 pages of materials related to the June 9 Trump Tower meeting collected in the course of its investigation, including exhibits and testimony submitted by the meeting participants. These documents indicate that the participants knew that the meeting constituted collusion.

Congressional Investigations