Video by Reuters
Donald Trump Jr. made several mysterious phone calls to blocked numbers before and after the Trump Tower meeting with Russians promising “dirt” on Hillary Clinton.
The phone calls were revealed in a report released by the Senate Judiciary Committee on Wednesday—part of a whirlwind day of revelations about the investigations into Trumpland. We learned, among other things, that the FBI’s investigation into the Trump campaign was deeper than previously known, and that there are millions of dollars more in suspicious financial dealings by Trump fixer Michael Cohen.
But the newly revealed actions of Trump Jr. may prove the most significant discovery, even if at the moment those actions raise more questions than answers. On the day he arranged the meeting the now-infamous Trump Tower meeting in June 2016, Trump Jr. placed two calls to blocked numbers. After the meeting ended without the promised dirt, Trump Jr. placed another call to a blocked number.
When asked if his father used a blocked number on any phone, Trump Jr. told the committee: “I don’t know.” Trump’s campaign manager Corey Lewandowski, on the other hand, testified that Trump’s “primary residence has a blocked [phone] line.”
Asked directly if he had told his father about the meeting, Trump Jr. said, “I never discussed it with him at all.”
The phone calls began on June 6, 2016. That morning, Trump Jr. received an email from Rob Goldstone, music producer for Emin Agalarov, the son of Russian oligarch Aras Agalarov. Goldstone wrote that the Kremlin “offered to provide the Trump campaign with some official documents and information that would incriminate Hillary” and Trump Jr. should talk to Emin to arrange a meeting to obtain it.
Minutes after speaking to Emin, Trump Jr. placed a four-minute call to a blocked number.
Minutes later, Trump called Emin again, scheduled the meeting for June 9, and then placed another call to a blocked number that lasted 11 minutes.
Two days later, candidate Trump announced he would give a “major speech” the following week where “we’re going to be discussing all of the things that have taken place with the Clintons.”
The following day, June 9, Trump Jr. met Kremlin-connected lawyer Natalia Veselnitskaya at Trump Tower where she alleged Democratic donors stole money from Russia.
“So can you show us how does this money go to Hillary?” Trump Jr. asked Veselnitskaya, one attendee told the Senate Judiciary Committee.
It apparently wasn’t what the Trump team expected. Goldstone testified that an “agitated” Jared Kushner, who was also invited to the meeting, was “infuriate[d]” that Veselnitskaya didn’t have dirt on Clinton.
After the meeting ended without the promised dirt, Trump Jr. had a three-minute call with a blocked number.
Trump’s promised speech on the Clintons never happened.
FBI got deep into Trump campaign
Weeks after the Trump Tower meeting, the FBI opened its investigation into the Trump campaign—an investigation that was more advanced than previously known, according to The New York Times.
Operation “Crossfire Hurricane” began in August 2016 and saw federal agents obtain phone records and other documents through a secret type of subpoena. At least one government informant met with Trump campaign advisors Carter Page and George Papadopoulos. FBI agents even considered interviewing Page, Papadopoulos, campaign manager Paul Manafort, and national security advisor Michael Flynn as the election was ongoing.
Far from trying to undermine Trump’s chances, the FBI chose not to interview the Trump team for fear of the investigation leaking. Contrary to Republican claims that Christopher Steele’s dossier kicked off the investigation, the Times reported his memos languished at the FBI for months before making it to the Trump investigators.
Cohen’s financial dangers deepen
Trump has, of course, denied that he had anything to do with Russia. On Wednesday, the president, in effect, walked back another denial. After insisting for months he knew anything about Cohen’s payoff to Stormy Daniels, Trump revealed on Wednesday he had repaid Cohen. A newly filed financial disclosure form said the president “fully reimbursed” Cohen for expenses incurred in 2016—an apparent reference to the $130,000 payment Cohen made to Daniels in October of that year to silence her allegation of an affair with Trump a decade earlier.
Meanwhile, more came to light about Cohen’s efforts to profit off of Trump’s presidency. A Qatari investor told The Intercept that Cohen asked for an up-front fee of $1 million before Qatar could contribute to a U.S. infrastructure fund proposed by Trump. Cohen made the request during a meeting at Trump Tower in December 2016, the investor said. (Cohen denies the allegation.)
Cohen’s consulting business was revealed last week when financial records were leaked to Stormy Daniels’ attorney and the press. The leaker told The New Yorker on Wednesday evening that he is a law-enforcement official who released the information on Cohen because he feared a government cover-up was underway. The leaker said two reports from banks about suspicious activity by Cohen totaling $3 million were missing from the Treasury Department’s financial crimes center. Bank officials said a significant portion of deposits into the shell company appeared to be foreign.
Goldstone regretted Trump Tower meeting
Almost a year before Wednesday’s dizzying revelations, the Trump Tower meeting became public and newly released show participants scrambling to react.
Goldstone seemed aware that the meeting had the potential to cause headaches as reporters came closer.
After the meeting, Goldstone also bemoaned its fallout. On June 27, 2017—about two weeks before The New York Times broke the news of the meeting—Goldstone emailed Emin to complain.
“That meeting I set up in October with Trump campaign for your father for that Russian attorney and her colleagues is causing massive problems,” Goldstone wrote Emin on June 27, 2017. “I have today been interviewed by attorneys for the second time about it. They are concerned because it links Don Jr. to officials from Russia – which he has always denied meeting. I did say at the time this was an awful idea and a terrible meeting… It’s a really potentially serious situation—so you and your father should be aware.”
“Understood Rob,” Emin replied.
After the meeting exploded into the public eye, Goldstone wrote to Emin:
“I hope this favor was worth it for your dad—it could blow up big.”
Oligarch repeatedly offered Trump support
The Senate Judiciary documents also show that Goldstone’s patrons, the Agalarov family, made reached out to the Trump campaign earlier than previously known.
Right before Super Tuesday in February 2016—when most primaries were held—Goldstone emailed Trump Jr. and his father’s personal assistant, Rhona Graff, to pass along a message of support from Agalarov.
“Emin’s father has asked me to pass on his congratulations in a letter enclosed below for Mr. Trump on the eve of super Tuesday vote—offering his support and that of many of his important Russian friends and colleagues—especially with reference to U.S./Russian relations,” Goldstone wrote. “Best of luck to you all and many thanks for passing on this letter.”
Months earlier, Emin invited Trump to his father’s 60th birthday party in Moscow. After Graff told Goldstone that Trump wouldn’t be able to attend because of the campaign schedule, Goldstone had an intriguing reply:
“I totally understand re Moscow—unless maybe he would welcome a meeting with President Putin which Emin would set up,” he wrote.