Donald Trump Jr.’s Emails Are Just The Tip Of The Collusion Iceberg
Like his father, Trump Jr. weaves a tangled web of murky Russian alliances and business dealings
Updated: September 7, 2017–11:49 am
A pop star, a music publicist, and the President’s son walk into a bar. The punchline is the ironic fact that the son’s emails might be the thing that sends this house of cards tumbling down.
The revelations about Donald Trump Jr.’s June 2016 email correspondence with British publicist Rob Goldstone suggest that he entertained an offer of Russian government help in order to aid his father in getting elected. This news has changed practically every hour since it broke a few days ago. From swearing that no meetings “were set up” with the Russians to emails that show Trump Jr. professing his love for potentially damaging information about Hillary Clinton, the current information has left us with more questions than answers. And now, as Jr. meets with the Senate Judiciary Committee, we may be left with even more.
What we know for sure is this: the meeting set up as a result of the emails places an important puzzle piece in the timeline of the Trump-Russia scandal — and it wasn’t Jr.’s first time at this rodeo.
From SoHo to Moscow: A History of Relationships
To get into Trump Jr.’s long-standing ties to Russian businessmen and oligarchs, we have to go back to the early 2000s. A few years after Arif and Tamir Sapir courted Donald Trump about a high-rise condo-hotel project to be built in the New York’s SoHo neighborhood, Trump signed off on the endeavor. Because SoHo wasn’t filled with the demographic that the Trump name tended to serve, the project was passed along to Trump Jr. and his sister Ivanka — with hopes to appeal to a younger, more youthful crowd.
Felix Sater, a former business associate of Donald Trump, was then working as the managing director of Bayrock, LCC — a partner company on the hotel project that maintained residence on a floor in Trump Tower. Sater has recently made headlines for his past money laundering activities, his January attempts to influence a back channel Ukraine peace deal with the help of former national security adviser, Michael Flynn, and his cooperation with the Trump Organization who sought to develop a Trump Tower in Moscow while Donald Trump was running for office. But that wasn’t the first time there were discussions of a Trump Tower Moscow.
According to deposition testimony, Trump’s relationship with Bayrock grew with the hopes of facilitating further business deals in Russia and Ukraine. Soon enough, Sater was bringing Trump Jr. and Ivanka on scouting trips to Moscow, looking for real estate to build the next Trump International Hotel. By fall of 2008, Jr. would return to Moscow for at least six more visits.
During the time, he expressed both his love of the Eastern city and his understanding of the benefits of Russian business connections,
“And in terms of high-end product influx into the US, Russians make up a pretty disproportionate cross-section of a lot of our assets; say in Dubai, and certainly with our project in SoHo and anywhere in New York. We see a lot of money pouring in from Russia.”
By summer of 2013, Donald Trump announced that he would be hosting the next Miss Universe pageant in Moscow. The move had been partially motivated by the previous pageant winner’s appearance in pop star Emin Agalarov’s recent music video. Trump was introduced to Emin and his father Aras Agalarov, a billionaire Russian real estate developer who has often been called “the Donald Trump of Russia.” The same year, Russian President Vladimir Putin awarded the senior Agalarov with the Order of Honor, one of the country’s top civilian awards.
Jr. tagged along to this event and ended up striking up a friendship with Emin that would prove to have lasting consequences.
While in Moscow, the elder Trump and Agalarov entered into a formal business deal that would be overseen by Trump Jr. According to an extensive interview with Rob Goldstone (who represents Emin’s musical career) in March, the project consisted of a “licensing deal in which Agalarov would build the tower with Trump’s name on it.”
@AgalarovAras I had a great weekend with you and your family. You have done a FANTASTIC job. TRUMP TOWER-MOSCOW is next. EMIN was WOW!
@realDonaldTrump Mr. Trump thank you for brining #missuniverse to us we had an awesome time TRUMP tower Moscow – lets make it happen !
While the Trump campaign has tried to downplay business dealings in Moscow, it seems that the Agalarov deal was further along than previously believed — going so far to include a trip made by Ivanka to scope out potential sites. However, according to Goldstone, the project was abandoned when the Russian economy floundered as a result of American-imposed sanctions.
These are the same sanctions that the Trump administration spent the first few weeks in office attempting to lift.
Emails, Emails, Damn Emails
When the news broke that Trump Jr. had accepted a meeting with Russian lawyer, Natalia Veselnitskaya, it was pushed off as a standard policy meeting regarding a law that limits the American adoption of Russian children. However, as more information has come to light, it is clear that he acted with the intention to accept intel from a foreign government to aid his father’s campaign.
In the emails released by Trump Jr., Goldstone reached out on behalf of Emin Agalarov stating:
“The Crown prosecutor of Russia met with his 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.
What do you think is the best way to handle this information and would you be able to speak to Emin about it directly? I can also send this info to your father via Rhona, but it is ultra sensitive so wanted to send to you first.”
This conversation began June 3, 2016 — with a meeting eventually scheduled for June 9th. During their conversation, Trump Jr. informed Goldstone that his brother-in-law, Jared Kushner and Paul Manafort (then Trump campaign chairman) would be attending the meeting as well.
Investigators are reportedly reviewing Manafort’s notes of the meeting which “contained the words ‘donations,’ and ‘RNC’ in close proximity.” According to NBC News, congressional investigators who are examining the meeting are “focused on determining whether it included any discussion of donations from Russian sources to either the Trump campaign or the Republican Party.” Foreigners donating to American elections is illegal.
An important note hidden in these emails is the fact that they seem to imply that Trump Jr. and Emin spoke on the phone on June 6th. In a series of exchanges between Goldstone and Trump Jr., the two coordinate a phone conversation as soon as Emin finishes performing on stage. Nearly an hour later, Trump Jr. replies — unprompted — “Rob thanks for the help.” None of Trump Jr.’s public comments have expanded on the information that may have been revealed during this phone call.
The timing of all these interactions add a very important piece to the alleged Russian collusion timeline. The meeting occurred at a pivotal point in the election season. Both parties had concluded their primaries, officially nominating Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton. At this point, it was common knowledge that the DNC’s servers had been hacked, although the public was not aware of the identity of the perpetrators.
On June 7th, two days before Trump Jr., Manafort, and Kushner met with Veselnitskaya, then-candidate Trump promised a revolutionary speech the following week:
“I am going to give a major speech on probably Monday of next week, and we’re going to be discussing all of the things that have taken place with the Clintons. I think you’re going to find it very informative and very, very interesting.”
According to Trump Jr., the meeting did not offer the proposed damaging information, and he then cut the conversation short. However, approximately 40 minutes after the meeting was slated to begin, his father sent out this tweet, in which he referenced Clinton’s alleged missing emails:
How long did it take your staff of 823 people to think that up–and where are your 33,000 emails that you deleted? https://t.co/gECLNtQizQ
Trump Jr. claimed that the meeting with Veselnitskaya amounted to nothing — but, given his inability to truthfully recount any other aspect of this event on his first try, I’d take this with a grain of salt. His contacts, coupled with the news of GOP operative Peter Smith’s reported efforts to obtain Hillary Clinton’s 33,000 deleted emails from Russian hackers in coordination with Michael Flynn, paint a picture of a Trump campaign not only eager to receive information from Russia, but actively pursuing measures to do so.
We’ve since learned that the initial misleading account of events that came from Donald Trump Jr. was orchestrated by President Trump while he was at the G20 summit:
Flying home from Germany on July 8 aboard Air Force One, Trump personally dictated a statement in which Trump Jr. said he and the Russian lawyer had “primarily discussed a program about the adoption of Russian children” when they met in June 2016, according to multiple people with knowledge of the deliberations. The statement, issued to the New York Times as it prepared a story, emphasized that the subject of the meeting was “not a campaign issue at the time.”
The claims were later shown to be misleading.
This appears to depict a cover up, and will certainly add evidence to Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s obstruction of justice investigation.
If this is public knowledge, can you imagine what special counsel Mueller’s team is digging up?
The Meeting Breakdown
This information has opened the floodgates in regards to the question of possible Russian collusion. In addition, it has brought forth the possibility of many other federal offenses — such as conspiracy and possible election law violations. A federal law, Section 30121 of Title 52, states that it is a crime for a foreign agent to contribute money or other items of value to an American election, as well as making it illegal for an American to solicit such information.
More importantly than whether or not Trump Jr. committed a federal crime, is exactly how much Kushner and Manafort were told about the meeting they were asked to attend. The released emails make it clear that the email exchange was forwarded to the two, and neither seems to have made any effort to discourage Trump Jr. from taking a meeting that included a foreign attempt to discredit their opponent. At the very best, these men were extraordinarily negligent — at worst, they willfully participated in an orchestrated attempt to gain foreign intel on Hillary Clinton.
Additionally, this recent revelation is merely one in a series of at least 18 undisclosed calls and emails between the Trump campaign and Kremlin-connected officials. Not to mention the reported meetings in European countries between people close to Trump and Russian operatives.
The fact we are left with is that we cannot trust any information given to us by Donald Trump Jr.’s team. They have lied multiple times in the past few days and contradicted each previous telling of these sequence of events. History shows that both Donald Trump and his son spent more than a decade cultivating relationships with Russian businessmen and oligarchs. Come 2016, these relationships reached back to them, hands outstretched, offering information intended to help Trump win the presidency.
And we’re supposed to believe that some emails and a 30-minute meeting were the end of the story? I don’t think so.