Donald Trump’s already backing away from his recently announced plans to join forces with Vladimir Putin on cyber security, but his alleged connections to Russia continue to dominate the news cycle, thanks in part to his son, Donald Trump Jr. Despite the Trump camp’s repeated refutations of the allegations of collusion, The New York Times has uncovered evidence of a meeting the first woodsman had with a Russian lawyer during the 2016 presidential campaign. As Trump Jr. initially told it, a heretofore unnamed individual set a meeting for him with Natalia Veselnitskaya, a Kremlin-connected lawyer, though the scion now says he wasn’t give the attorney’s name prior to their introduction. And though he claimed that the meeting was to discuss an adoption program, Trump Jr. brought along his dad’s campaign manager Paul Manafort and now-senior advisor Jared Kushner (who’s also Junior’s brother-in-law).
That was Saturday. By Sunday, Trump Jr. offered a new explanation for the meeting—Veselnitskaya reportedly had “damaging” info about the Democratic nominee, Hillary Clinton. But in his second statement to the Times about this meeting, Trump Jr. claimed the lawyer’s purported info was “vague, ambiguous and made no sense,” and she soon changed the subject. He also denied his father had any knowledge of the encounter.
I was asked to have a meeting by an acquaintance I knew from the 2013 Miss Universe pageant with an individual who I was told might have information helpful to the campaign. I was not told her name prior to the meeting. I asked Jared and Paul to attend, but told them nothing of the substance. We had a meeting in June 2016. After pleasantries were exchanged, 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. She then changed subjects and began discussing the adoption of Russian children and mentioned the Magnitsky Act. 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. I interrupted and advised her that my father was not an elected official, but rather a private citizen, and that her comments and concerns were better addressed if and when he held public office. The meeting lasted approximately 20 to 30 minutes. As it ended, my acquaintance apologized for taking up our time. That was the end of it and there was no further contact or follow-up of any kind. My father knew nothing of the meeting or these events.
In both of Trump Jr.’s versions of what went down during his Russian contact meeting, he omitted the name of the person who’d set up the whole thing, though he did indicate that it was someone he met at the 2013 Miss Universe pageant. But The Washington Post reports it was music publicist and Trump supporter Rob Goldstone, who’d “been active with the Miss Universe pageant.“ Goldstone told WaPo that he’d arranged the meeting at the behest of a Russian client, whose name he didn’t provide. Goldstone claims he didn’t know what info Veselnitskaya had, nor did he tell Trump Jr. that info would be helpful.
Goldstone, Trump Jr., and Veselnitskaya all declined to answer WaPo’s follow-up questions, but BuzzFeed did a deep dive through the music producer and publicist’s social media accounts, and found photos and links to videos that feature the future president. Goldstone founded Oui 2 Entertainment, through which he represents Russian pop star Emin Agalarov. The singer’s father is a billionaire, but that’s not the only thing he has in common with Trump Jr. The Agalarovs helped bring the Miss Universe pageant to Moscow, and have been photographed looking quite chummy with Trump the elder and Putin. Trump also appeared in the video for Emin’s “In Another Life,” and even sent him a video birthday message at one point.
And even though he insists he acted mostly as a conduit, Goldstone posted pro-Trump messages on his own Facebook page in the lead up to the election, citing Brexit as a sign that Trump would take the White House. Most importantly, Goldstone checked into the Trump organization in New York City on Facebook the day of the meeting between Trump Jr. and the Russian lawyer, though his GPS indicated he was in Jakarta. But maybe he just wanted a taco bowl.