Donald Trump Jr. published emails Tuesday containing apparently explosive information about Russia’s efforts to aid President Trump’s 2016 campaign. The emails show Trump Jr. agreeing to meet with a Russian lawyer in order to receive damaging information about his father’s opponent, Hillary Clinton.
“This is obviously very high level and sensitive information but is part of Russia and its government’s support for Mr. Trump,” noted one of the emails, from music publicist Rob Goldstone.
Goldstone had sent an initial email to Trump Jr. with the subject line “Russia – Clinton – private and confidential” saying that a Russian pop star, Emin Agalarov, had reached out to Goldstone on behalf of his father, Aras Agalarov, a Russian real estate developer who helped bring the elder Trump’s 2013 Miss Universe pageant to Moscow.
“Emin just called and asked me to contact you with something very interesting,” wrote Goldstone on June 3, 2016. “The Crown prosecutor of Russia met with father Aras this morning and in their meeting 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. This is obviously very high level and sensitive information but is part of Russia and its government’s support for Mr. Trump — helped along by Aras and Emin.”
Trump Jr. responded 17 minutes later, asking to set up a meeting and suggesting that the information would be useful to drop later in the summer.
“Thanks Rob I appreciate that,” wrote the president’s eldest son. “I am on the road at the moment but perhaps I just speak to Emin first. Seems we have some time and if it’s what you say I love it especially later in the summer.”
Trump Jr. published the emails on Twitter in advance of a New York Times story containing the text. His camp had asked the Times for “more time” and then posted the emails, according to CNN’s reporting.
“To everyone, in order to be totally transparent, I am releasing the entire email chain of my emails with Rob Goldstone about the meeting on June 9, 2016,” Trump Jr. wrote in a statement.
The meeting was with Russian lawyer Natalia Veselnitskaya, who the Times reported is connected to the Russian government, a claim both she and the Kremlin deny. Trump Jr. was joined in the meeting by campaign chief Paul Manafort and Jared Kushner, Trump Jr.’s brother-in-law and current top White House adviser. Veselnitskaya said in an interview published Tuesday morning that the Trump group wanted the information on Clinton “so badly,” but that she didn’t have any information on the Democratic nominee.
Trump Jr. initially said the meeting was about adoptions, but after the Times reported that the presidential campaign had been discussed, he released a statement changing the story: “It became clear to me that this was the true agenda all along and that the claims of potentially helpful information were a pretext for the meeting.”
In the same statement, Trump Jr. also said, “I asked Jared and Paul to attend, but told them nothing of the substance.” However, he appears to have forwarded his entire email chain with Goldstone to both Kushner and Manafort.
In his Tuesday statement, Trump Jr. said, “The information they suggested they had about Hillary Clinton I thought was Political Opposition Research. I first wanted to just have a phone call but when that didn’t work out, they said the woman would be in New York and asked if I would meet. I decided to take the meeting. The woman, as she has said publicly, was not a government official. And, as we have said, she had no information to provide and wanted to talk about adoption policy.”
At the White House press briefing Tuesday, deputy press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders read a succinct statement of support from the president: “My son is a high-quality person and I applaud his transparency.”
Though the meeting took place in June 2016, Trump Jr. said in a July 2016 interview with CNN’s Jake Tapper that said it was “disgusting” and “phony” for the Clinton campaign to suggest that the Russians were attempting to help Trump and hurt Clinton.
The latest account of the meeting also counters denials from members of the administration, including Vice President Mike Pence.
“Did any adviser or anybody in the Trump campaign have any contact with the Russians who were trying to meddle in the elections?” asked CBS News’ John Dickerson on Jan. 15.
“Well, of course not,” Pence replied. “I think to suggest that is to give credence to some of these bizarre rumors that have swirled around the candidacy.”
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