In what appears to be yet another ill-advised attempt to revive the Russia hysteria of early 2017, the Senate Judiciary Committee has released more than 1,800 pages of interview transcripts with Donald Trump Jr. and others who attended a June 2016 meeting at Trump Tower that has become a key focus of the Mueller probe. However, instead of damning the Trumps, the transcripts offer more proof that Don Jr.'s account of the meeting - that Russian lawyer Natalia Veselnitskaya used the opportunity to lobby against the Magnitsky Act, prompting Trump, who had been promised dirt on Hillary Clinton, to end the meeting after 20 minutes - is, in fact, what happened.
Indeed, an excerpt published by the Washington Post notes that the attendees who answered the committee's request to testify largely corroborated Trump's story.
The excerpted testimony shows that attendees at the June 9, 2016 Trump Tower meeting largely agreed with Trump Jr.’s long-standing contention that the lawyer, Natalia Veselnitskaya, did not transmit dirt about Clinton. She has denied she was acting on behalf of the Russian government.
According to the Associated Press, Trump Jr. appeared to evade questions about discussions he'd had with the president - including whether the two men ever discussed the Russia probe. he also said he didn't think it was wrong to seek "dirt" on his father's rival, Hillary Clinton, even if the information came from Russian sources.
Donald Trump Jr.
The Senate testimony also reaffirmed that Trump and Russian President Vladimir Putin had never met in person, despite what certain liberal conspiracy theorists would have you believe, before Trump became president.
Putin had apparently agreed to attend a rehearsal for Trump's Miss Universe pageant when it was held in Moscow in 2013, but the Russian leader canceled at the last minute.
The testimony also includes new details about Trump’s long interest in building business ties to Russia and a relationship with President Vladimir Putin.
An Agalarov employee testified to the committee that the Russian mogul tried to get Trump a meeting with Putin when the Miss Universe pageant, which Trump owned, was held in Moscow in 2013.
The employee told the committee that Agalarov "secretly requested" the meeting through a Russian government official.
Putin agreed to attend a pageant rehearsal, but canceled at the last minute. Though Trump periodically claimed during the campaign that he knew Putin, there is no evidence the two men met until after Trump took office.
Trump Jr. told the Committee that he was disappointed when Veselnitskaya failed to come through with the dirt she had promised.
The president’s son acknowledged he too was disappointed that the Russian lawyer did not provide more information that could be used in the campaign: "All else being equal, I wouldn’t have wanted to waste 20 minutes hearing about something that I wasn’t supposed to be meeting about," he told the committee.
Though panel Republicans conferred with their Democratic counterparts on point-by-point issues during the preparation of the transcripts, their release is expected to touch off a new wave of partisan bickering.
The committee interviewed several people who had attended the meeting eventually provided at least some testimony to the committee. UK Publicist Rob Goldstone, Russian-American lobbyist Rinat Akhmetshin and Russian businessman Ike Kaveladze all testified before the committee. While Don Jr. testified, Jared Kushner and Paul Manafort rebuffed the committee's requests.
Veselnitskaya only agreed to provide written answers from Russia to the panel’s questions. Neither Kushner, now a top White House aide, nor Manafort, who has been charged with a series of financial crimes related to his work before joining the campaign, sat for interviews. But the committee interviewed the five other men who took part in the session, including a Russian American lobbyist who once served in an Soviet counterintelligence unit.
Here are Paul Manafort's notes from the meeting...
Paul Manafort's notes from the Trump Tower meeting, just released by Senate Judiciary. pic.twitter.com/BnKr58yo6T— Philip Bump (@pbump) May 16, 2018
The testimony also purportedly showed emails sent by Goldstone, who initially organized the meeting at the behest of Emin Agalarov, a Russian pop star and developer, saying the Trump Tower gathering was a "bad idea."
Music publicist Rob Goldstone, who arranged the meeting at the request of pop singer Emin Agalarov, said he thought the meeting was a “bad idea.”
"I believed it was a bad idea and that we shouldn’t do it. And I gave the reason for that being that I’m a music publicist. Politics, I knew nothing about," Goldstone said, adding that neither did Emin Agalarov nor his father, Aras.
Trump Jr. also said he wasn't aware of his father's role in drafting a White House statement that said the meeting was primarily focused on reversing Russia's restrictions on Americans adopting Russian children. According to Bloomberg, Trump Jr. said he also didn't tell his father about the meeting before it happened, adding that his "skepticism" about the "value" of the meeting was eventually proven to be justified.
The release of the transcript marks the first time that Trump Jr.'s account of the meeting has been released.
But mostly, the transcripts are a giant nothing burger - which will only reinforce the public's belief that there's "no 'there' there".
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Full Transcript below...