In a stunning reversal of his earlier denials, Donald Trump, on Thursday, admitted that he “maybe” had been told about a meeting in June of 2016 between his son, Donald Trump, Jr., and a Russian lawyer who was promising to deliver derogatory information about Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton — information that Trump, Jr. had been told came from the Russian government itself.
The previously secret meeting took place on June 9, 2016, in Trump Tower in New York City, and was attended not only by Trump, Jr., but also by Trump’s son-in-law, Jared Kushner — now Trump’s senior White House adviser. The then-manager of the Trump presidential campaign, Paul Manafort, also attended the meeting.
Trump, on Wednesday, denied that he had any knowledge that the meeting took place — until Saturday, July 8, of this year when the New York Times published an exposé revealing that the meeting had taken place and had not been publicly acknowledged by any of the participants. Trump, Jr. then released the text of a June 3, 2016, email exchange between himself and an intermediary, in which the meeting to pass along documents that would supposedly “incriminate” Clinton was set up — and in which it was explicitly described as “part of Russia and its government’s support for Mr. Trump.”
“No, that I didn’t know until a couple of days ago when I heard about this,” Trump said on Wednesday when asked by the news agency Reuters if he was aware of his son’s Russia meeting held in June of 2016, shortly after Trump had clinched the Republican nomination for president.
But on Thursday, while traveling to France aboard Air Force One, Trump spoke to reporters also flying on the aircraft, and told a different story entirely.
“In fact maybe it was mentioned at some point,” Trump said of the meeting, his first acknowledgment that he did know about the meeting. His acknowledgment of possible knowledge is significant because the meeting appears to indicate an eager willingness by members of the Trump campaign to collude with the Russian government in an effort to influence the 2016 presidential election. Whether the meeting resulted in an exchange of the purportedly damaging Clinton information remains unclear. Trump, Jr. has denied that the meeting produced any such information.
Trump’s apparent reversal concerning his awareness of the meeting came in remarks that were originally part of an off-the-record briefing to reporters aboard the presidential aircraft. But later on Thursday, the White House released a transcript of the exchange anyway. Read excerpts of Trump’s remarks, via CNN, at this link.
The meeting was arranged by music publicist Rob Goldstone, who represents Russian pop singer Emin Agalarov, the son of Russian billionaire oligarch Aras Agalarov. It was the billionaire Agalarov who brought the Miss Universe beauty pageant, then owned by Trump, to Moscow in 2013. In his email to Trump, Jr., Goldstone said that the alleged damaging information about Clinton came from inside the highest levels of the Russian government, but was being conveyed via Aras and Emin Agalarov.
Aras Agalarov denied being involved in setting up the meeting or conveying information about Clinton to the Trump campaign. In fact, Agalarov called the Goldstone email “some kind of fiction,” despite the fact that the email was released publicly by Trump, Jr. himself.
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