The latest chapter in the saga relating to Russian interference in the 2016 presidential election is unfolding after it was revealed that Donald Trump Jr. met with a Russian lawyer who he believed had information about Hillary Clinton’s campaign.
Trump has since released the purported email chain that appears to show the planning of the meeting and said that he will be “happy to work with” the Senate committee investigating Russian meddling in the election.
The details continue to emerge; here is the information available now.
Who initiated the meeting?
Trump, 39, the president’s eldest son, did not name the person who reportedly initiated the meeting.
“I was asked to have a meeting by an acquaintance I knew from the 2013 Miss Universe pageant with an individual who I was told might have information helpful to the campaign,” Donald Trump Jr. said in a statement to ABC News on Sunday night.
ABC News has since confirmed that Rob Goldstone brokered the meeting, according to a source familiar with the situation.
Goldstone is a music publicist who was involved in the Miss Universe pageant, which the Trump family previously owned.
Goldstone has since released a statement about the meeting, saying he was asked by a client to facilitate the meeting, with the client claiming that the lawyer made statements about information possibly of interest to Trump.
“The lawyer had apparently stated she had some information regarding illegal campaign contributions to the DNC [Democratic National Committee] which she believed Mr. Trump Jr. might find important,” Goldstone said in his statement.
Who was there
It’s believed that eight people attended the meeting, though the identities of those involved were not all immediately disclosed.
Here is the latest list of attendees:
1. Donald Trump Jr. 2. Rob Goldstone 3. Paul Manafort 4. Jared Kushner 5. Natalia Veselnitskaya 6. Rinat Akhmetshin 7. Anatoli Samachornov 8. Ike Kaveladze
Donald Trump Jr. met with the Russian attorney, Natalia Veselnitskaya, but said in his statement to ABC News, “I was not told her name prior to the meeting.”
“I asked Jared and Paul to attend but told them nothing of the substance,” Trump said in the statement. In the alleged emails, Trump described Manafort as "campaign boss" and did not name Kushner, but said he would be bringing his brother-in-law.
Trump’s statement suggests that Goldstone was there as well, stating: “As it ended, my acquaintance apologized for taking up our time.”
In the screen-grabbed email chain posted on Twitter by Trump this morning, however, Goldstone allegedly wrote in the chain that he would not be present.
"I won't sit in on the meeting but will bring them... and introduce you," Goldstone wrote, in the alleged emails.
Goldstone did not specifically name Veselnitskaya in the emails Trump shared, but referred to "The Russian government attorney."
In a subsequent email in the purported chain, Goldstone did not specifically name Veselnitskay, but wrote that he "will send the names of the two people meeting with you for security when I have them later."
The lawyer has been publicly identified, and the identity of the second person mentioned in the email chain has since been established, even though Donald Trump Jr. did not refer to a second individual allegedly in attendance at the meeting in any of the multiple statements he has made about it since knowledge of it became public this weekend.
The Associated Press reported on July 14 that Rinat Akhmetshin, a lobbyist who has been reported to have ties to Russian intelligence agencies, attended the meeting, stating that Akhmetshin confirmed his presence at the June 9, 2016, meeting in Trump Tower.
The AP stated that Akhmetshin dismissed claims that he has ties to Russian intelligence as a "smear campaign." Akhmetshin told the AP that he served in a military unit that was part of counterintelligence operations but said he was not formally trained as a spy.
Anatoli Samachornov served as the translator for the meeting, and Akhmetshin identified him to The New York Times and confirmed that he was in the meeting.
The final attendee that was in the room is believed to be Ike Kaveladze, a U.S. citizen who works for the Crocus Group who attended the meeting at the request of the company’s president, Aras Agalarov, whom Goldstone knows.
ABC News spoke to Kaveladze’s attorney in New York, Scott Balber, who said that his client does not remember speaking a word in the meeting beyond "hello." Balber said Kaveladze was there to be a translator, but when he arrived he discovered Veselnitskaya already had one. Balber said Kaveladze has no prior relationship with Veselnitskaya and he said “unequivocally” Kaveladze has absolutely no connection to the Russian government, “not in any respect, now or ever.”
Who knew about the meeting?
It is unclear who — aside from the five people believed to be at the meeting — was aware of it before now.
During an audio-only briefing Monday, White House deputy press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders said that the president learned about the meeting only “in the last couple of days.”
President Trump’s outside legal team confirmed that he was not present for the meeting and said he had not been aware of it.
The Russian government denied any knowledge of the meeting before this week.
“No, we do not know who it is, and, of course, we cannot track the meetings of all Russian lawyers, both inside the country and abroad,” Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov told reporters when asked if the meeting was coordinated with Russian authorities.
What did they discuss?
Donald Trump Jr. and Goldstone are the only participants who have spoken about it publicly, so their accounts are the only basis for the public understanding of the meeting as of yet.
In his statement to ABC News, Trump made it clear that he went to the meeting was because he was told that a person “might have information helpful to the campaign.” In his assessment, he said that did not turn out to be the case and Veselnitskaya shifted the discussion to a different topic.
“After pleasantries were exchanged, the woman stated that she had information that individuals connected to Russia were funding the Democratic National Committee and supporting Ms. Clinton. [Veselnitskaya’s] statements were vague, ambiguous and made no sense. No details or supporting information was provided or even offered. It quickly became clear that she had no meaningful information. She then changed subjects and began discussing the adoption of Russian children and mentioned the Magnitsky Act. It became clear to me that this was the true agenda all along and that the claims of potentially helpful information were a pretext for the meeting,” Trump said in the statement.
Monday morning, via a tweet, he defended his decision to attend the meeting on the prospect of obtaining information about Clinton, writing sarcastically, “Obviously I’m the first person on a campaign to ever take a meeting to hear info about an opponent... went nowhere but had to listen.”
Obviously I'm the first person on a campaign to ever take a meeting to hear info about an opponent... went nowhere but had to listen. https://t.co/ccUjL1KDEa— Donald Trump Jr. (@DonaldJTrumpJr) July 10, 2017
In his statement, Goldstone gave more details about the lead-up to the meeting and reiterated some of the explanation from Trump.
“I was asked by my client in Moscow — Emin Agalarov — to help facilitate a meeting between a Russian attorney and Donald Trump Jr. The lawyer had apparently stated she had some information regarding illegal campaign contributions to the DNC which she believed Mr. Trump Jr. might find important,” Goldstone said in the statement.
Emin Agalarov is a singer from Azerbaijan who is the son of a wealthy businessman. Agalarov has his own ties to Donald Trump Sr.: In 2013, the then–reality show star made a cameo in one of Agalarov’s music videos, using his “You’re fired!” catchphrase from “The Apprentice.”
“I reached out to Donald Trump Jr., and he agreed to squeeze us into a very tight meeting schedule. At the meeting, the Russian attorney presented a few very general remarks regarding campaign funding and then quickly turned the topic to that of the Magnitsky Act and the banned U.S. adoption of Russian children — at which point the meeting was halted by Don Jr., and we left. Nothing came of that meeting, and there was no follow-up between the parties,” Goldstone said in the statement.
When did this meeting happen, and when did it become public?
The meeting took place at Trump Tower in Manhattan on June 9, 2016, but it was not publicly known until July 8, 2017, when it was reported by The New York Times — a 13-month gap.
On “Good Morning America” on Monday, counselor to the president Kellyanne Conway said, “People’s disclosure statements have been amended to reflect meetings such as this” but did not specify when those updates were made or what those other meetings were.
She also did not say which of the three men involved — Kushner, Manafort and Donald Trump Jr. — were the people she was referred to, but since Kushner is the only one of the three who is a White House employee, it is unclear what disclosure forms Manafort or Donald Trump Jr. would have had to submit.
Donald Trump Jr.’s changing narrative
Trump’s first statement about this meeting was released on Saturday, July 8, and he did not include any mention of obtaining information about Clinton from the meeting.
“It was a short introductory meeting. I asked Jared and Paul to stop by. We primarily discussed a program about the adoption of Russian children that was active and popular with American families years ago and was since ended by the Russian government, but it was not a campaign issue at that time, and there was no follow-up. I was asked to attend the meeting by an acquaintance, but was not told the name of the person I would be meeting with beforehand,” Trump Jr.’s first statement read.
The next day, a more detailed statement was released. It did not directly contradict anything in the first statement but included the detail that there was the suggestion that the lawyer had information about Clinton and suggested it was a motivating factor for the meeting.
“I was asked to have a meeting by an acquaintance I knew from the 2013 Miss Universe pageant with an individual who I was told might have information helpful to the campaign. I was not told her name prior to the meeting. I asked Jared and Paul to attend but told them nothing of the substance. We had a meeting in June 2016. After pleasantries were exchanged, the woman stated that she had information that individuals connected to Russia were funding the Democratic National Committee and supporting Ms. Clinton. Her statements were vague, ambiguous and made no sense. No details or supporting information was provided or even offered. It quickly became clear that she had no meaningful information. She then changed subjects and began discussing the adoption of Russian children and mentioned the Magnitsky Act. It became clear to me that this was the true agenda all along and that the claims of potentially helpful information were a pretext for the meeting. I interrupted and advised her that my father was not an elected official but rather a private citizen and that her comments and concerns were better addressed if and when he held public office. The meeting lasted approximately 20 to 30 minutes. As it ended, my acquaintance apologized for taking up our time. That was the end of it, and there was no further contact or follow-up of any kind. My father knew nothing of the meeting or these events,” the second statement read.
Donald Trump Jr. said he does not believe he changed his story. He tweeted a response to a New York Times tweet that said he gave two different explanations for the meeting in the course of 24 hours. He wrote, “No inconsistency in statements, meeting ended up being primarily about adoptions. In response to further Q’s I simply provided more details.”
No inconsistency in statements, meeting ended up being primarily about adoptions. In response to further Q's I simply provided more details. https://t.co/FdT1D4hfhz— Donald Trump Jr. (@DonaldJTrumpJr) July 10, 2017
There were calls on July 10 for Trump to share information with the Senate Intelligence Committee, and he responded on Twitter, writing that he is “happy to work with the committee to pass on what I know.” He has since hired an attorney, Alan Futerfas, to represent him in the Russia probe.
Breaking his silence in person
Trump Jr. spoke to Fox News' Sean Hannity in an interview that aired July 11, saying that he "probably would have done things a little differently."
During his interview on "Hannity," Trump Jr. admitted the situation may have been mishandled, but he said that the meeting was "a nothing" and maintained that his father had had no knowledge of the encounter.
"There was nothing to tell," said Trump Jr. "I wouldn't have even remembered it until you started scouring through stuff. It was literally just a waste of 20 minutes, which is a shame."
Portraying his acceptance of the meeting with Veselnitskaya as a "courtesy to an acquaintance," Trump Jr. did not rule out the possibility that he had other meetings with people from Russia during the campaign but "not in the context of a formalized meeting."
He boiled down the encounter to a strategic decision in the course of the campaign.
"For me, this was opposition research. They had something, you know, maybe concrete evidence to all the stories I'd been hearing about ... so I think I wanted to hear it out," said Trump Jr. "But really, it went nowhere, and it was apparent that wasn't what the meeting was about."
On Tuesday July 11, Trump released what he says are screenshots of the full email chain arranging the meeting.
The exchange appears to have begun on June 3, 2016, when Goldstone reached out to the eldest son of then-candidate Trump. In that email Goldstone appears to refer to one of his clients, Emin Agalarov, who in addition to being a pop singer is the son of a wealthy businessman, Aras Agalarov.
"Emin just called and asked me to contact you with something very interesting," Goldstone wrote, according to a screen shot.
"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," Goldstone wrote, according to the screen shot.
"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," Goldstone allegedly continued.
Along with the alleged emails released on his Twitter, he released an additional statement, which read:
"To everyone, in order to be totally transparent, I am releasing the entire email chain of my emails with Rob Goldstone about the meeting on June 9, 2016. The first email on June 3, 2016 was from Rob, who was relating a request from Emin, a person I knew from the 2013 Miss Universe Pageant near Moscow. Emin and his father have a very highly respected company in Moscow. The information they suggested they had about Hillary Clinton I thought was Political Opposition Research. I first wanted to just have a phone call but when that didn't work out, they said the woman would be in New York and asked if I would meet. I decided to take the meeting. The woman, as she has said publicly, was not a government official. And, as we have said, she had no information to provide and wanted to talk about adoption policy and the Magnitsky Act. To put this in context, this occurred before the current Russian fever was in vogue. As Rob Goldstone said just today in the press, the entire meeting was 'the most inane nonsense I ever heard. And I was actually agitated by it.'"
President Trump's response
President Donald Trump defended his son for the first time on Tuesday July 11, having by White House principal deputy press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders read a statement on his behalf on that day’s off-camera briefing.
"My son is a high-quality person and I applaud his transparency," President Trump said of his son Donald Trump Jr. in a statement.
President Trump defended his son two days later during an interview with Reuters ahead of his state visit to France.
“Most of the phony politicians who are Democrats who I watched over the last couple of days -- most of those phonies that act holier-than-thou, if the same thing happened to them, they would have taken that meeting in a heartbeat,” he said to Reuters.
Trump later reiterated a similar sentiment during his news conference in Paris and tweeted a similar message days later.