After months of deriding suggestions that the Trump campaign colluded with Russia in the 2016 presidential election, Donald Trump Jr., who served as a top aide in his father’s presidential campaign, made a stunning admission on Sunday.
Trump Jr. admitted that he took a meeting with a Kremlin-connected Russian lawyer with the expectation that she would provide him with information damaging to Hillary Clinton. He brought along Paul Manafort, Trump’s campaign manager at the time, and Jared Kushner, Trump’s son-in-law and a top adviser.
JUST IN: Donald Trump Jr. responds to reports that he met with Kremlin-linked lawyer during campaign pic.twitter.com/5mqRX38Wio
— NBC News (@NBCNews) July 9, 2017
In a statement released Sunday, Trump Jr. makes it clear that his biggest disappointment was, he claims, that Russian lawyer Natalia Veselnitskaya didn’t deliver the goods. It represents “the first public indication that at least some in the campaign were willing to accept Russian help,” according to the New York Times.
President Donald Trump quickly attempted to distance himself from the meeting. A spokesman for Trump’s personal lawyer said he “was unaware of the meeting and did not attend it.”
Not so fast.
Trump Jr. said the meeting was set up by “an acquaintance I knew from the 2013 Miss Universe pageant.” The Washington Post revealed that acquaintance was music publicist Rob Goldstone.
Goldstone, in turn, told the Post that “he had arranged the meeting at request of a Russian client.” He refused to disclose the name of the client, but Goldstone is the manager for a Russian pop singer named Emin Agalarov.
Agalarov’s father, billionaire developer Aras, sponsored the 2013 Miss Universe pageant. They’ve both been quite public about their ongoing relationship with Donald Trump and Donald Trump Jr.
Emin included Miss Universe contestants in a music video that also featured Donald Trump.
In March, Emin told Forbes that “he has maintained contact with the Trump family since the election, and has exchanged messages with Donald Trump Jr. as recently as January; and that President Trump himself sent a handwritten note to the Agalarovs in November.”
He also said that “he and his billionaire developer father, Aras, had plans to build a Trump Tower in Russia that would now likely be under construction had Trump not run for office.” Emin said his family had “signed a letter of intent with their counterparts in New York” to begin work on the tower, but plans were shelved after Trump announced his candidacy.
“Now that he ran and was elected, he does not forget his friends,” Emin Agalarov told Forbes. His claim of friendship is buttressed by a video that Trump sent him in 2014 to celebrate his 35th birthday. “You are a winner. You’re a champ. You are great at real estate and boy can you entertain,” Trump says.
Unknown iFrame situation
Emin also claimed he “performed for Trump at one of his golf courses” and “spent time in Trump’s New York office just prior to the announcement of his presidential campaign.”
While Trump was in Moscow, Aras Agalarov helped organize a private event at Nobu for Trump to “meet more than a dozen of Russia’s top businessmen, including Herman Gref, the chief executive officer of state-controlled Sberbank PJSC, Russia’s biggest bank.”
Trump appeared on stage with both Agalarovs at a press conference after the Miss Universe competition.
Both Agalarovs and Trump appear on the cover of the January 2017 issue of Time to Eat, the magazine of the Crocus Group, the Agalarovs real estate company.
Forbes noted at the time that Emin Agalarov’s remarks “seem to contrast the president’s repeated insistence that he holds no ties there.”
Aras Agalarov also appears in the partially unverified Steele dossier on Trump, compiled by a former British intelligence officer.
The Agalarovs have a close relationship with Russian President Vladimir Putin, who awarded Aras the “Order of Honour” in 2013. When Putin was unable to meet with Trump during the Miss Universe pageant, he sent a gift to Trump instead. According to the Daily Mail, “Putin enlisted Aras Agalarov’s daughter, and Emin’s sister Sheila Agalarova, to personally deliver the gift to the Miss Universe offices in New York.”