US Senate panel reveals details from Trump Tower meeting probe

WASHINGTON (REUTERS) – An intermediary of a Russian oligarch and associates of then-US presidential candidate Donald Trump coordinated responses to revelations of a meeting in which Mr Trump‘s eldest son expected to get “dirt” on Democratic rival Hillary Clinton, documents released by a US Senate panel showed on Wednesday (May 16).

Many of the documents made public by Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Chuck Grassley focused on the June 9, 2016, meeting at the Trump Tower in New York between Mr Donald Trump Jr and Ms Nataliya Veselnitskaya, a Russian lawyer and acknowledged Kremlin informant.

The meeting is being investigated by Special Counsel Robert Mueller as part of his probe into Russian interference in the 2016 presidential election and possible collusion with the Trump campaign.

The thousands of pages of e-mails, text messages, congressional testimony and other documents released by Mr Grassley, a Republican, provide fresh evidence of coordination between associates of Mr Trump and Russians with ties to President Vladimir Putin‘s government.

Moreover, the documents suggest that the coordination continued after Mr Trump‘s inauguration.

Days after he was named White House communications director, Mr Anthony Scaramucci offered to work with Mr Rob Goldstone, an intermediary for a Russian oligarch, to counter “pressure on all sides”.

“If we remain consistent and united, I don‘t envision any issues we can‘t ride out,” Mr Scaramucci wrote in a July 23, 2017, e-mail to Mr Goldstone, a publicist who represents singer Emin Agalarov, the son of Russian billionaire Aras Agalarov.

Mr Scaramucci, in a text message to Reuters, said the e-mail “had nothing to do with Russia”.

Mr Aras Agalarov, a billionaire real estate developer who joined Mr Trump in staging the 2013 Miss Universe Pageant in Moscow, is on a list of Russian oligarchs close to Mr Putin released by the White House in January.

Mr Trump has denied any collusion with Russia on his campaign and calls Mr Mueller‘s investigation a “witch hunt”.

Russia rejects findings by US intelligence agencies that it sought to aid Mr Trump using computer hacking, propaganda and other means.

Among the documents released on Wednesday were transcripts of closed-door interviews with Mr Goldstone, and other participants in the Trump Tower meeting, including Mr Trump Jr, Mr Rinat Akhmetshin, a Russian-American lobbyist, and Mr Ike Kavaladze, a US-based Agalarov representative.

Also present were Mr Trump‘s son-in-law and close aide Jared Kushner, and senior campaign aide, Mr Paul Manafort, both of whom declined committee interviews.

Ms Veselnitskaya declined to be interviewed, but provided written answers to questions.

E-mails and texts showed coordination – and a hint of panic – as Mr Goldstone, Mr Emin Agalarov, and Trump Organisation lawyers sought to contain the fallout after the meeting was revealed by e-mails released by Trump Jr and the New York Times published an account on July 8, 2017.

The meeting was set up by Mr Goldstone, who offered in a June 3, 2016, e-mail to provide Trump Jr material harmful to Mrs Clinton that Russia‘s top prosecutor had given to Mr Aras Agalarov and “would be very useful to your father”.

In an e-mail two days after the meeting was disclosed, Mr Goldstone sent Mr Kavaladze and another recipient – whose name was redacted – a statement drafted in Mr Goldstone‘s name by lawyers representing the Trump Organisation and Mr Trump Jr.

In a note to Mr Goldstone accompanying the statement, the lawyers said it would be “our preference” that Mr Goldstone say “nothing more, at least for the time being”.

The statement quoted Mr Goldstone as saying Mr Trump Jr‘s public account of the meeting was “100 per cent accurate” and that Ms Veselnitskaya “mostly talked about” a US law sanctioning Russian officials for alleged human rights abuses and a subsequent Russian bar on Americans adopting Russian orphans.

Lawyers for Mr Goldstone and the Agalarovs did not immediately respond to requests for comment.

In an undated chain of text messages, Mr Goldstone told Mr Emin Agalarov that he was besieged by inquiries from journalists about the meeting and that he was trying to keep the Agalarovs‘ names out of his interviews.

The reporters “all ask about you”, he told Emin, “but I have said request (for the June 9 meeting) was from me. Let‘s see if that holds.”

Mr Goldstone went on to relay that the Washington Post was reporting that the FBI was investigating the meeting.

“I hope this favour was worth (it) for your dad. It could blow up. Just got off the phone with Trump lawyers and they would like us to have a blanket no comment for now.”

Mr Alan Futerfas, a lawyer representing the Trump Organisation and Mr Trump Jr, said in an e-mail to Reuters on Wednesday that Mr Goldstone was advised that “any statement should be accurate as to your very best recollection”.

“The first order of business in any new inquiry is to conduct a thorough investigation in order to determine the facts. That is exactly what occurred here,” he wrote, adding that lawyers interviewed those who attended the meeting.

“Each interviewee was advised that we only wanted to hear the truth,” he said.

In the undated text chain, Mr Goldstone consulted Mr Emin Agalarov on the draft of what he called “my ideal statement” on the Trump Tower meeting.