What Exactly Was In Paul Manafort’s Notes Of That Key Trump Tower Meeting?

FILE - In this July 18, 2016, file photo, Trump campaign chairman Paul Manafort walks around the convention floor before the opening session of the Republican National Convention in Cleveland. Hillary Clinton’s campaign is questioning Donald Trump’s top political aide’s ties to a pro-Kremlin political party in Ukraine, claiming it is evidence of the Republican nominee’s cozy relationship with Russia. The New York Times reported that handwritten ledgers found in Ukraine show $12.7 million in undisclosed payments to Paul Manafort from the pro-Russia party founded by the country’s former president Viktor Yanukovych. (AP Photo/Carolyn Kaster, File)
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NBC News has corrected  a story initially claiming that Paul Manafort had the words “donations” and “RNC” in close proximity in his notes from the notorious June 2016 meeting at Trump Tower with Kremlin-linked figures. An update added a few hours after the story was first published included a number of sources denying the word “donations” was in the notes, which Manafort turned over as part of the House and Senate Intelligence Committees’ Russia probes.

The vague story, which created a splash when it went up Thursday mid-afternoon, has become more convoluted, with disputes over what exactly was referenced in the notes, if not specifically the word “donation.”

One of the original unnamed NBC News sources is now in the updated version claiming that it was the word “donor,” not the word “donation,” that actually appeared in the document. However, a person who has seen the document told TPM Friday morning that neither the word “donation” nor “donor” appear in the document of Manafort’s notes in the meeting.

When the NBC News story went up Thursday, it was one in a string of developments reflecting the increasing scrutiny on Manafort and the Trump Tower meeting where he, Trump’s son Donald Jr., and Trump’s son-in-law Jared Kushner met with a Russian lawyer and other figures after being promised in an email to Don Jr. damaging information about Hillary Clinton.

The NBC News report immediately prompted speculation about what the words could mean in the context of the meeting, and whether they suggested donations promised by the Russians to the RNC or other possible scenarios where the topic of political contributions could have come up. The original NBC News report described the meaning of the notes as “cryptic” but said, “The contents of the note, which have not been previously disclosed, elevated the significance of the June 2016 meeting for congressional investigators.”

About two hours after the story went up, NBC News updated it to include a statement from Manafort’s spokesman Jason Maloni, that it was “100 percent false to suggest this meeting included any discussion of donations from Russian sources to either the Trump campaign or the Republican Party.”

A spokesman for the Sen. Grassley (R-IA), chair of the Judiciary Committee — which is also investigating Russia’s election interference and whose staff has seen the notes — also pushed back in another version of the story updated a few hours later, telling NBC News that the word “donation” was not in the notes.

That version further muddied the waters with one of the original unnamed sources suggesting the pushback was simply a matter of semantics, clarifying that the word that appeared was “donor,” not donation. Another unnamed source from the original story told NBC News, according to the update, that there was a reference to political contributions, but would not specify the exact word.

From the updated NBC News story:

The NBC News story has a correction at the end of the story, reiterating the various interpretations of what was on the notes.

The NBC News Twitter account also tweeted out the clarification:

 

When reached by TPM Friday morning, Maloni would not comment on whether “donor” was in the notes. TPM also could not get clarification from the Judiciary Committee spokesman for Sen. Chuck Grassley (R-IA).

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Tierney Sneed is a reporter for Talking Points Memo. She previously worked for U.S. News and World Report. She grew up in Florida and attended Georgetown University.
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