By Matt Vespa
UPDATE: Via WaPo, this meeting between Donald Trump Jr., and Russian lawyer Natalia Veselnitskaya was arranged at the request of a Russian pop star:
A meeting between Donald Trump Jr. and a Russian lawyer was set up at the request of Emin Agalarov, a Russian pop star whose Kremlin-connected family has done business with President Trump in the past, according to the person who arranged the meeting.
Rob Goldstone, a music publicist who represents Agalarov, confirmed on Monday that he requested the Trump Tower meeting at Agalarov’s request. Emin Agalarov and his father, Aras Agalarov, a wealthy Moscow real estate developer, helped sponsor the Trump-owned Miss Universe pageant in Russia in 2013.
After the pageant, the Agalarovs signed a preliminary deal with Trump to build a tower bearing his name in Moscow, though the deal has been on hold since Trump began running for president.
In a new statement, Goldstone confirmed what Trump Jr. himself revealed Sunday: That he enticed the then-Republican candidate’s son by indicating that Veselnitskaya could provide damaging information about Democrats.
“The lawyer had apparently stated she had some information regarding illegal campaign contributions to the DNC which she believed Mr. Trump Jr. might find important,” he said.
At the meeting, which also included Trump’s son-in-law, Jared Kushner, and a top campaign aide, Paul Manafort, the Russian lawyer offered “a few very general remarks” about campaign funding, Goldstone said.
Again, this isn’t necessarily earth shattering. It sounds like opposition research about campaign contributions. From the failure to disclose donations to the Clinton Foundation, shoddy finance contributions were already in the news. Plus, it sounds like this wasn’t discussed much at length either.
Okay—it’s time for yet another riveting update on the Russian collusion theory that’s peddled by the Left. President Donald Trump’s son, Donald Jr., met with a lawyer with ties to the Kremlin who said she had some dirt on Hillary Rodham Clinton. Oh my God! This is it. This is the bombshell. Well, until you get further into the story (via NYT) [emphasis mine]:
The meeting — at Trump Tower on June 9, 2016, two weeks after Donald J. Trump clinched the Republican nomination — points to the central question in federal investigations of the Kremlin’s meddling in the presidential election: whether the Trump campaign colluded with the Russians. The accounts of the meeting represent the first public indication that at least some in the campaign were willing to accept Russian help.
And while President Trump has been dogged by revelations of undisclosed meetings between his associates and the Russians, the episode at Trump Tower is the first such confirmed private meeting involving members of his inner circle during the campaign — as well as the first one known to have included his eldest son. It came at an inflection point in the campaign, when Donald Trump Jr., who served as an adviser and a surrogate, was ascendant and Mr. Manafort was consolidating power.
It is unclear whether the Russian lawyer, Natalia Veselnitskaya, actually produced the promised compromising information about Mrs. Clinton. But the people interviewed by The Times about the meeting said the expectation was that she would do so.
In a statement on Sunday, Donald Trump Jr. said he had met with the Russian lawyer at the request of an acquaintance. “After pleasantries were exchanged,” he said, “the woman stated that she had information that individuals connected to Russia were funding the Democratic National Committee and supporting Ms. Clinton. Her statements were vague, ambiguous and made no sense. No details or supporting information was provided or even offered. It quickly became clear that she had no meaningful information.”
He said she then turned the conversation to adoption of Russian children and the Magnitsky Act, an American law that blacklists suspected Russian human rights abusers. The law so enraged President Vladimir V. Putin of Russia that he retaliated by halting American adoptions of Russian children.
“It became clear to me that this was the true agenda all along and that the claims of potentially helpful information were a pretext for the meeting,” Mr. Trump said.
When he was first asked about the meeting on Saturday, he said only that it was primarily about adoptions and mentioned nothing about Mrs. Clinton.
President Trump’s legal team said that he was not aware of this meeting, nor was he in attendance. Also, does The New York Times know that these sorts of meetings happen all the time. It's opposition research. This is politics. When hasn’t this happened? Second, there is still no evidence of collusion, but surely it will be yet another jumping point for liberals to peddle fact-free assertions about Russian collusion during the presidential election. Also, the Times mentions even further down the story that Ms. Veselnitskaya is “best known for mounting a multipronged attack” targeting the Magnitsky Act. She also told the publication that after around 10 minutes either Jared Kushner or Paul Manafort walked out, and that no matters of the election were discussed.
So, this really isn’t breaking news. The only news here is that it’s possible that Donald Jr., accepted a meeting under false pretenses. Do we have evidence of a crime? No. Is this the smoking gun to the collusion hysteria? No. It’s part of a long list of stories that claim to be earth-shattering with this topic, which only end up to be nothing burgers.
Jared Kushner was accused of trying to create a backchannel between The Trump White House and the Kremlin, which is not out of the ordinary and commonplace concerning international relations. A source told Fox News’ Catherine Herridge that no back channel discussions were even mentioned in the meeting Kushner had with a Russian banker that was supposedly where this idea was to be discussed. Also, let us not forget that even The Washington Post said that Kushner is not the focus of the Russia probe, and that he has not been accused of any wrongdoing.
The Times had two other Russian collusion stories, one involving Manafort and Trump’s short-lived national security adviser Michael Flynn, where the Russians reportedly tried to influence them.
“It is unclear, however, whether Russian officials actually tried to directly influence Mr. Manafort and Mr. Flynn,” wrote the publication.
The other centered on Trump officials having interactions with members of Russian intelligence a year prior to the election. First, some of these officials had done business in Russia, where interacting with the FSB is not unusual. Second, former FBI James Comey, who might be in some legal trouble of his own, said that this story was pretty much false. Oh, and no evidence of collusion was found.
Then, Reuters reported that there were 18 undisclosed contacts with the Russians several months before Election Day. Flynn and other officials were named. Yet, none of the communications pointed to any wrongdoing or evidence of collusion.
It’s got to the point where some of the Times’ columnists are saying that they’re troubled that the politics of scandal are overtaking the truth here. David Brooks is no die-hard conservative, though he says the evidence we have so far doesn’t amount to much if anything at all, certainly not to the level of Watergate; a point that’s popular with some Democrats.
We’ll keep you posted on the next non-smoking gun update on the Russia story that’ll also be lacking in evidence.