Politics

Donald Trump Jr. Emails Detail Apparent Kremlin Offer of Help

White House: Obtaining negative information is what campaigns do

Donald Trump Jr. published what he said was the full email chain in the lead-up to his meeting with a Russian lawyer about Hillary Clinton during the 2016 campaign. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call File Photo)

Updated 1:46 p.m. | A middleman told Donald Trump Jr. during the 2016 presidential election that a senior government official in Moscow wanted to share potentially damaging information about Hillary Clinton that the intermediary said was “part of Russia and its government’s support” for his father’s presidential campaign.

Trump Jr. on Tuesday tweeted what he said was the entire email exchange with a former Russian business partner of his father, President Donald Trump, that shows the son enthusiastically accepting the man’s offer to pass the alleged Kremlin-provided dirt on Clinton to the Trump campaign.

“If it’s what you say I love it especially later in the summer,” Trump Jr. wrote during the email exchange with Rob Goldstone, a British-born entertainment publicist who met Donald Trump when he was trying to do business in Russia. Their email exchange began on June 3, 2016, about a month and a half before his father accepted the Republican presidential nomination.

Senate Intelligence Vice Chairman Mark Warner gave Roll Call his first reaction to the emails, which he said he had just read.

The Virginia Democrat said he didn't know if either former FBI Director James B. Comey or current special counsel Robert S. Mueller III might already have known about the emails.

[Read the Donald Trump Jr. emails here]

“The emails portrayed it as part of a Russian government effort to undermine the Clinton campaign,” Warner said. “It appeared that these emails were copied to [Trump son-in-law Jared Kushner] and [then-Trump campaign chairman Paul Manafort], so they’ve got a lot of explaining to do because all of these denials of any knowledge of Russian government involvement seems to be a gross contradiction here.”

Goldstone told Trump’s eldest son that the information was made available during a meeting between his father’s allies — Azerbaijani music star Emin Agalarov and his father Aras, a real estate giant in Russia — and the “Crown prosecutor of Russia.”

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Documents the Russian official offered to provide “would incriminate Hillary and her dealings with Russia and would be very useful to your father,” wrote Goldstone, who added: “This is obviously very high level and sensitive information but is part of Russia and its government’s support for Mr. Trump.”

The latter statement will no doubt be of interest to Mueller, who is looking into Russian election meddling and possible ties to the Trump campaign.

There is no official “crown prosecutor” in Russia, as noted by The New York Times. But Moscow does have a prosecutor general, the newspaper noted in a story published around the time Trump Jr. published the alleged email chain.

The Russian top prosecutor is Vladimir Putin appointee Yury Yakovlevich Chaika, whom the newspaper reported is close to the Russian lawyer who eventually met with Trump Jr., Kushner and Manafort about the Clinton dirt: Natalia Veselnitskaya.

Goldstone wrote to Trump Jr. to “schedule a meeting with you and The Russian government attorney who is flying over from Moscow for this Thursday. I believe you are aware of this meeting — and so wondered if 3pm or later on Thursday works for you?”

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The White House on Monday defended the president’s son, and continued to do so on Tuesday as the Russia matter continued to overshadow Trump’s agenda.

Sebastian Gorka, deputy assistant to the president, told CNN on Tuesday that the president’s son was told Veselnitskaya “might have information helpful to the campaign.”

Obtaining negative information, Gorka said, “is what political campaigns do.”

“There was no connection,” he said. “She was a private lawyer who had an interest with regard to the Russian adoption program and used a pretext to get a meet with the campaign — which the campaign representatives almost immediately realized was not done in good faith. That she had another agenda.”

During a Tuesday morning series of tweets, the president did not weigh in on the controversy surrounding his son.

Democrats expressed shock at the email exchange.

Sen. Jon Tester, D-Mont., called the emails “really disturbing.”

“There’s starting to be some fire with the smoke,” Tester said. “And it’s really important … the Intel Committee gets to the bottom and finds it all out. And like I said from the very get-go, hold the people accountable that are responsible for this.”

The Montana Democrat also voiced concerns that Kushner attended the meeting about the Kremlin-supplied Clinton dirt yet continues to be a senior adviser to the president with a high-level security clearance. “This president runs a different operation than anything we’ve ever seen in the past,” Tester said.

Still, most Democrats stopped short of saying the emails between Donald Trump Jr. and a middle man amounted to collusion or treason.

Warner, whose committee is conducting an investigation into Russia’s alleged election meddling, also brushed aside the justification that some Trump supporters have made that the president’s son was merely unversed in the ways of politics.

“This excuse of naiveté or rookie attitudes, lying is not a rookie mistake,” Warner said. But he deflected questions about treason or collusion, saying his focus was on keeping the committee’s probe bipartisan and reserving judgment until he has seen all the evidence.

Sen. Martin Heinrich, a New Mexico Democrat and member of the intelligence panel, also refused to wade into the treason or collusion issue, but told reporters: “I don’t know how you read that email and come away being able to defend that in any possible way.”

A third committee Democrat, Sen. Ron Wyden of Oregon, did address the collusion issue, saying the senior Trump campaign officials “walked, eyes open, into a meeting designed to advance the Russian government’s support for Donald Trump.”

“These emails show there is no longer a question of whether this campaign sought to collude with a hostile foreign power to subvert America’s democracy,” Wyden said in a statement. “The question is how far the coordination goes. It is now up to elected officials of both parties to stand up and do their duty: protect and defend the Constitution.”

On the other side of the aisle, Republicans largely downplayed the revelations from Trump Jr.’s emails.

Sen. James Lankford, who is a member of the intelligence panel, offered one of the strongest reactions, saying the exchange raises legitimate questions.

"It's obviously helpful for him to dump all the emails,” the Oklahoma Republican said. “There's some other questions that are formed around that.”

The committee’s chairman, Sen. Richard M. Burr, R-N.C., speeding through a swarm of reporters, offered only one sentence: “"I don't form conclusions until I finish the investigation."

Georgia Republican Sen. David Perdue, an early backer of candidate Trump, said Tuesday morning that he had yet to read the Trump Jr. emails and declined to comment when asked if Goldstone’s initial email should have been shared with the FBI.

Niels Lesniewski, Ryan Lucas and Joe Williams contributed to this report.Correction 1:36 p.m. | An earlier version of this story misspelled the surname of Rob Goldstone. 

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