Senate investigators release email potentially throwing Russia timeline into question

Senate investigators release email potentially throwing Russia timeline into question

The publicist who coordinated the June 2016 Trump Tower meeting between Trump campaign associates and a self-described Russian informant, described subsequent reports about hacked Democratic National Committee emails, published in the wake of that meeting, as “eerily weird,” in an email exchange with one of the other attendees.

The message raises questions about what Goldstone and others who attended the meeting knew about the hacks and whether they were discussed — before, during or after the meeting.

The message, a clipped two email thread, is ambitious and could reveal confusion between the two men over whether the Kremlin-linked informant had withheld information about the DNC hack. Alternatively, the thread may also show the two knew about the hack prior to media reports days after the meeting.

The exchange in question was initiated by music promoter Rob Goldstone, who represented the Russian pop star Emin Agalarov, son of Russian oligarch Aras Agalarov. Goldstone emailed Ike Kaveladze, vice president of Real Estate Finance at the elder Agalarov’s development firm, the Crocus Group. Kaveladze attended the June 9 Trump Tower meeting on Agalarov’s behalf.

The emails, part of a larger cache of documents and transcripts published by the Senate’s Russia investigators on Wednesday, is dated June 14, 2016 — five days after the Trump Tower meeting between Donald Trump Jr., then-Trump campaign manager Paul Manafort, Jared Kushner, and Kremlin-linked Russian lawyer Natalia Veselnitskaya, who had promised the group damaging information about Trump’s rival, Hillary Clinton. Goldstone attached a screenshot of a recent CNN article about Russian hackers breaking into the DNC servers and obtaining opposition research on Trump, writing,

Top story right now — seems eerily weird based on our Trump meeting last week with the Russian lawyers etc.

In response, Kaveladze wrote simply,

Very interesting.

The email exchange ends there, without any further discussion; Goldstone does not elaborate or explain what makes the article “eerily weird,” or why he considers it strange in light of the Trump Tower meeting.

Screenshot of Goldstone, Kaveladze's email exchange on June 14, 2016.

Goldstone later claimed that the meeting at Trump Tower was largely disappointing, telling the Sunday Times of London that the information Veselnitskaya had presented was “vague, generic nonsense,” despite promising “information that would incriminate Hillary and her dealings with Russia and would be very useful” to then-candidate Donald Trump. Goldstone himself had sold the pitch to Trump Jr. as “obviously very high-level and sensitive information but is part of Russia and its government’s support for Mr. Trump helped along by [Agalarov…]” and was later embarrassed after Veselnitskaya reportedly began discussing a separate topic.

“I said to him, ‘Don, I really want to apologize,’” he told the Senate Judiciary Committee during a Russia inquiry hearing in December 2017. “‘This was hugely embarrassing. I have no idea what this meeting was actually about.’”

It’s unclear whether Goldstone or anyone of the other seven meeting attendees — which also included Veselnitskaya’s translator, Anatoli Samochornov, and Russian-American lobbyist Rinat Rafkatovitch Akhmetshin, who allegedly has close ties to Russian intelligence, a claim which he has denied — knew of the information in the June 14 CNN article Goldstone cited in his email to Kaveladze, or were aware of any Russian hacks.

However, several new details contained in Wednesday’s documents reveal Trump Jr. may have felt compelled enough by private phone conversations with Emin Agalarov in the lead up to the meeting, as well as afterward, to reach out to his father.

As The New York Times noted on Wednesday, a transcript from Trump Jr.’s September 7, 2017 hearing before the Senate Judiciary Committee reveals that the president’s son called a blocked number both before and after phone calls with Agalarov about the meeting, as well as on the night of the meeting itself.

Under questioning, Donald Trump Jr. “drew a blank” about “whether his father uses a blocked phone number.”

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