After months of incremental reports about meetings and business dealings that President Donald Trump’s associates had with Russian operatives over the course of the 2016 campaign, the motherlode of news bombshells dropped on Tuesday morning.
Donald Trump, Jr. tweeted out what he said was his full email exchange with a family acquaintance who wanted to connect him with a “Russian government attorney” who could provide him dirt on his father’s likely presidential opponent, Hillary Clinton.
The answers to swirling questions about what Trump Jr. knew going into the June 2016 sit-down with the lawyer, Natalia Veselnitskaya, came into crystal-clear focus. The emails revealed that the President’s eldest son, his son-in-law, Jared Kushner, and his campaign chairman, Paul Manafort, attended a meeting that had been expressly billed to Trump Jr. as an opportunity to obtain damaging information about Clinton as part of a Russian government effort to help the Trump campaign.
Here are the most arresting details from Trump Jr.’s email exchange with that acquaintance, the music publicist Rob Goldstone.
Goldstone unequivocally says the “sensitive” information his contact has to share with Trump Jr. comes from the Russian government in their initial email exchange on June 3.
“Emin just called and asking me to contact you with something very interesting,” Goldstone wrote. “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.”
There is no “Crown prosecutor” in Russia, and Goldstone may have been referring to that country’s Prosecutor General.
“This is obviously very high level and sensitive information but is part of Russia and its government’s support for Mr. Trump,” Goldstone continued.
When news of the meeting first broke over the weekend, Trump Jr. said his discussion with Veselnitskaya focused primarily on a program allowing U.S. citizens to adopt Russian children before admitting the next day that he’d attended the meeting because he was promised negative information about Clinton. Until he released these emails over Twitter, Trump Jr. had not acknowledged publicly that he knew ahead of time the person he met with was connected to Vladimir Putin’s government.
If Trump’s eldest son was concerned about the source of the information he would receive, he gave Goldstone no indication.
“If it’s what you say I love it especially later in the summer,” Trump Jr. told Goldstone in response to his initial email, expressly noting that it would be more useful to have after the conventions were wrapped and Clinton was formally named as the Democratic nominee.
Trump Jr. also repeatedly thanked Goldstone for his role in orchestrating the meeting, saying he appreciated his “help” and his assistance “helping set it up.”
Goldstone identifies the lawyer’s country of origin in two separate emails. In one June 7 email, he calls her “The Russian government attorney who is flying over from Moscow.” In an emails sent the following day, he refers to her as “the Russian attorney.”
Trump Jr. has said he did not know the name of the lawyer before the meeting, and Veselnitskaya is not named in the emails he released. But he certainly knew where she was from.
Manafort and Kushner were forwarded the entire email chain detailing the purpose and timing of the meeting, the New York Times reported Tuesday.
Their names are visible on one exchange that Trump Jr. tweeted. That email updated them on the time of the gathering, with the subject line “FW: Russia – Clinton – private and confidential.”
Manafort and Kushner both confirmed to the Times that they attended the meeting, but declined to answer additional questions about it.
Trump Jr. also highlighted their expected attendance in his exchange with Goldstone, writing, “It will likely be Paul Manafort (campaign boss) my brother in law and me.”
Goldstone apparently considered routing the Clinton dirt sourced from the Russian government to the presumptive Republican nominee himself. In that same June 3 exchange, he proposed passing the compromising information along to Trump through his longtime secretary, Rhona Graff.
“I can also send this info to your father via Rhona, but it is ultra sensitive so wanted to send to you first,” Goldstone wrote to Trump Jr.