The president’s eldest son, Donald Trump Jr., was well aware of and ready to accept “opposition research” from the “Russian government” ahead of the now-infamous June 2016 Trump Tower meeting between members of the Trump campaign and several Russian figures, music publicist Rob Goldstone claimed this week, in an interview with NBC News.
The meeting to which Goldstone is referring has become a key moment in the ongoing Mueller probe, which is focused on collusion between the Trump campaign and Russian officials, and obstruction by the president. Though Trump himself has claimed the investigation is a partisan witch-hunt and his son has described the meeting as a nothingburger, Goldstone’s account, if true, would prove there was indeed collusion between the two camps.
Goldstone, who helped set up the meeting, represented Russian pop star Emin Agalarov, whose father Aras Agalarov is one of Russia’s wealthiest oligarchs. Speaking with NBC News, he claimed he had “scant information” about why the elder Agalarov wanted the meeting, but he did communicate to Trump Jr. ahead of the meeting that a Russian contact would provide intel that “would incriminate Hillary and her dealings with Russia” as “part of Russia and its government’s support for Mr. Trump.”
According to Goldstone, Trump, Jr. only set up the meeting following three phone conversations with Emin Agalarov, which he was not privy to. Phone records confirm the calls took place, though Trump Jr. previously testified he did not recall speaking with Agalarov.
Though he doesn’t know what was said on the calls, Goldstone described it as incredible “to think that this conversation or these conversations could have taken place without discussion of funding, Russian funding, illegal funding, Democrats, Hillary, and it being of use to the campaign.”
“I…just can’t understand how it wouldn’t have been touched upon,” he said.
Additionally, Goldstone told NBC News he found it “odd” campaign officials like Paul Manafort and Jared Kushner would have been invited to the Trump Tower meeting if they weren’t also expecting substantive information regarding Clinton.
“People have said to me, ‘Shouldn’t I have known?'” he said. “Well, shouldn’t they have known? I know nothing about politics, I set up a meeting. Shouldn’t they have known?”
He likewise finds it hard to believe then-candidate Trump was unaware of the meeting. “It was taking place in his conference room and it was taking place with his campaign chair sitting and attending the meeting, as well as his son and his son-in-law,” Goldstone said. “So, you know, the publicist in me would say, ‘It’s a bit of a stretch if he’s a floor or two above to believe that he doesn’t know it’s going on.'”
Goldstone did corroborate that Natalia Veselnitskaya, the Russian agent at the meeting, did not provide any actual information about Clinton, instead choosing to discuss U.S. sanctions against Russia. He described her presentation as “complete and utter nonsense.” He did believe she had Kremlin connections, which later proved to be true. She and the Agalarovs continued to request meetings with the Trump team around the time of the election and again around the time of the inauguration, but Goldstone did not set them up and does not believe they took place.
Goldstone said he regrets setting up the first meeting, agreeing that it was a “dirty offer.” He is not facing any charges, and he voluntarily spoke to Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s grand jury and multiple congressional committees.
Goldstone’s revelation comes as the president faces increasing pressure in connection with the Russia probe. Last week, Manafort, Trump’s former campaign chairman, pleaded guilty to one count of conspiracy against the United States and one count of conspiracy to obstruct justice — related to witness tampering from an earlier case for which he was convicted of financial fraud — and agreed to cooperate with Mueller in exchange for a lighter sentence.
In August, Trump’s longtime personal attorney and “fixer” Michael Cohen also pleaded guilty with prosecutors from the Southern District of New York to several counts of financial fraud and campaign finance violations, promising to provide Mueller’s team with any information they needed regarding Trump’s businesses and ties to Russia, among other things.