The ghosts of the famous meeting held in Trump Tower between Donald Trump, Jr. and a couple of Russians, both of whom seem to have been in the employ of Fusion GPS, continues to stalk the landscape. (Yes, there were more than two people at the meeting.) The meeting was set up by Trump, Jr. being told these Russians could provide damaging information on Hillary Clinton’s financial misdeeds:
“The crown prosecutor of Russia … offered to provide the Trump campaign with some official documents and information that would incriminate Hillary and her dealings with Russia and would be very useful to your father,” Goldstone wrote Trump Jr. on June 3.
According to the two Fusion GPS Russians, Natalia Veselnitskaya and Rinat Akhmetshin, they were there to lobby for repeal of Magnitsky Act sanctions. Though this doesn’t seem to be entirely true:
But interviews and records show that in the months before the meeting, Ms. Veselnitskaya had discussed the allegations with one of Russia’s most powerful officials, the prosecutor general, Yuri Y. Chaika. And the memo she brought with her closely followed a document that Mr. Chaika’s office had given to an American congressman two months earlier, incorporating some paragraphs verbatim.
The coordination between the Trump Tower visitor and the Russian prosecutor general undercuts Ms. Veselnitskaya’s account that she was a purely independent actor when she sat down with Donald Trump Jr., Jared Kushner, the president’s son-in-law, and Paul J. Manafort, then the Trump campaign chairman.
Now Veselnitskaya is upping the ante:
A Russian lawyer who met with President Donald Trump’s oldest son last year says he indicated that a law targeting Russia could be re-examined if his father won the election and asked her for written evidence that illegal proceeds went to Hillary Clinton’s campaign.
The lawyer, Natalia Veselnitskaya, said in a two-and-a-half-hour interview in Moscow that she would tell these and other things to the Senate Judiciary Committee on condition that her answers be made public, something it hasn’t agreed to. She has received scores of questions from the committee, which is investigating possible collusion between Russia and the Trump campaign. Veselnitskaya said she’s also ready — if asked — to testify to Special Counsel Robert Mueller.
“Looking ahead, if we come to power, we can return to this issue and think what to do about it,’’ Trump Jr. said of the 2012 law, she recalled. “I understand our side may have messed up, but it’ll take a long time to get to the bottom of it,” he added, according to her.
Veselnitskaya also said Trump Jr. requested financial documents showing that money that allegedly evaded U.S. taxes had gone to Clinton’s campaign. She didn’t have any and described the 20-minute meeting as a failure.
I’ve been underwhelmed by the evidence of “collusion” for quite a while. This doesn’t increase my “whelm” quotient at all. Saying something could be reviewed and rethought does not, at least to me, constitute much of anything other than telling her what she wanted to hear so she’d cough up the documents. I don’t like the idea of campaigns going to other nations, particularly their intelligence services to get oppo but, as we know, getting information from a foreign government on a political foe is no big deal because that is exactly how the Trump dossier was built. Trump Jr. taking part in this is unseemly but I don’t see the illegality.
In a worst case scenario, all that exists here is the flimsiest form of hearsay. Not that that isn’t sufficient to indict and convict a Republican in a DC court, ask Scooter Libby if you have doubts.
But there are a lot of questions that need to be answered. Like why this Russian lawyer’s story has morphed from surprise that Trump Jr., wanted oppo at a Magnitsky Act meeting to acknowledging she brought oppo with her? How did she get papers that look exactly like those produced by a senior Russian official? Isn’t anyone a little curious that Fusion GPS ran both the Trump dossier caper and employed the Russians at the Trump Tower meeting? Isn’t it coincidental that active duty Russian intelligence officers cooperated with Christopher Steele’s “intermediaries” and with this meeting?