On Wednesday, the Senate Intelligence Committee released 1800 pages of testimony from their ongoing investigation into potential Russian influence in the 2016 election and the Trump campaign. Among the documents was a 224-page transcript of an interview with Donald Trump Jr., focusing on his June 9, 2016 meeting with several Russians in Trump Tower.
The meeting took place after Trump Jr. was sent an email from a promoter who works for a Russian pop star, Emin Agalarov, with connections to the Russian government. The promoter, Rod Goldstone, said that Aras Agalarov, the father of his client, met with the “Crown prosecutor of Russian” and “offered to provide the Trump campaign with some official documents and information that would incriminate Hillary.” Goldstone characterized the offer as “part of Russia and its government’s support for Mr. Trump.”
“[I]f it’s what you say I love it especially later in the summer,” Trump Jr. replied.
The detailed transcript raises important questions about the meeting, its aftermath, and the damage control effort when it became public.
The blocked phone call
On July 11, 2017, Trump Jr. appeared on Sean Hannity’s eponymous Fox News Channel show and claimed that all the preparations and discussion in advance of the meeting were handled over email.
HANNITY: At any point were you told, either in a phone conversation or otherwise, what they might tell you? What Goldstone seemed to be implying you would receive.
TRUMP JR.: As I recall, it was all basically this email coordination. Let’s try to set up a meeting and see what happens. It’s going to be interesting information. In the end, it wasn’t about that at all.
We now know this isn’t true. The transcript reveals that Emin Agalarov called Trump Jr. on June 6, 2016 to discuss the meeting.
Q. So in Exhibit 1 Mr . Goldstone’ s e-mail at 3:43 p .m. on June 6 said that Emin would call you 12 within about 20 minutes, and this record, which is heavily redacted, shows an incoming call 21 minutes later at 4:04 p.m. on that day from the [redacted] number. Was that a call from Emin?
TRUMP JR: I believe it to be.
Trump Jr. claims to have no recollection of the call but about 25 minutes later, he called Emin Agalarov back. More significantly, in between the two calls, Trump Jr. had another conversation with someone with a blocked number.
Q: In between the two calls there’s another entry, a call at 4:27 that lasted four minutes from a blocked number. Between Emin’s call to you at 4:04 and your return call to him at 4:31, with whom did you have a call?
TRUMP JR: I have no idea.
Corey Lewandowski, who served as President Donald Trump’s campaign manager, testified separately that Trump’s primary residence had a blocked number. Later in the interview Trump Jr. claimed that he did not know whether his father used a blocked number. This seems dubious since Trump Jr. said he communicates frequently with his father.
The Hope Hicks connection
In addition to the meeting itself, another issue of interest is the effort to cover it up. Trump Jr. released a series of statements, none of which accurately described the nature of the meeting — either its substance or how it was set up.
The key question is whether President Trump had any involvement in crafting these inaccurate statements. Trump Jr. said his father may have been involved through his Communications Director, Hope Hicks.
Q: The Washington Post has since reported that your father was involved in drafting your July 8th statement. Is that correct?
TRUMP JR: I don’t know. I never spoke to my father about it.
Q: Do you know who did draft that statement?
TRUMP JR: Well, there were numerous statements drafted with counsel and other people were involved and, you know, opined.
Q: To the best of your knowledge, did the President provide any edits to the statement or other input?
TRUMP JR: He may have commented through Hope Hicks.
Q: And do you know if his comments provided through Hope Hicks were incorporated into the final statement?
TRUMP JR: I believe some may have been, but this was an effort through lots of people, mostly counsel.
Trump Jr.’s attorney reached out to participants to get their story straight
Prior to the meeting become public, Trump Jr.’s attorney, Alan Futerfas, reached out to several participants to “harmonize” their stories. Specifically Futerfas drafted a statement for Goldstone about the meeting and asked him to release it.
Futerfas also communicated with Emin Agalarov, who helped set up the meeting, and Ike Kaveladze, who attended the meeting. The effort to coordinate stories prior to the meeting becoming public raises questions about whether the narrative presented in the interviews is accurate.
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