The Senate Judiciary Committee released 2,500 pages of congressional testimony on Wednesday. The trove of information provides a new window into that ill-fated June 2016 #Trump Tower meeting before which Donald Trump Jr. was promised damaging Russian government information about Hillary Clinton — from #Natalia Veselnitskaya, who turned out to be a Kremlin-connected lawyer.
The episode has been a centerpiece of special counsel Robert S. Mueller III’s investigation of whether there was any collusion between the Trump campaign and Russia. And now we know much more about what the people who were there said under oath about it.
Here are some key findings.
1. Trump Jr. was clearly anxious for dirt on Hillary Clinton
One line from Trump Jr.’s email exchange with a publicist for a Russian musician stood out: “I love it.” Publicist Rob Goldstone had said his source could provide “official documents and information that would incriminate Hillary and her dealings with Russia” and said the information came from Russia’s “crown prosecutor” — a position which doesn’t exist but is roughly equivalent to attorney general in Goldstone’s native Britain.
Trump Jr.’s response: “Seems we have some time and if it’s what you say I love it especially later in the summer.”
In his testimony to Congress, Trump Jr. confirmed that he was talking about the opposition research when he said “I love it.”
This is key because Trump Jr. wasn’t completely clear about what he was talking about in the email. It suggests that he was eager to have the meeting specifically because of the opposition research that was supposedly being supplied by official sources in the Russian government. His initial explanation of the meeting suggested that it was primarily about adoptions, although that explanation quickly fell apart.
Other witnesses also suggested Trump Jr. was eager to get dirt. Russian lobbyist Rinat Akhmetshin told senators Trump Jr. started the meeting by saying something like, “So you have some information for us?” Ike Kaveladze, an American-based employee of a Russian real estate company and who was at the meeting, said Trump Jr. asked “if they got anything on Hillary.”
2. Trump Jr. says President Trump may have personally influenced misleading explanations about the meeting
The Washington Post has reported that the president dictated some of the misleading explanations for the meeting — which aides worried could open him up to charges of a coverup.
Trump Jr. said he didn’t know about his father’s direct involvement and actively discouraged it, but he said he thinks Trump may have influenced the messaging about the meeting through then-White House communications aide Hope Hicks:
Q. To the best of your knowledge, did the president provide any edits to the statement or other input?
A. He may have commented through Hope Hicks.
Q. And do you know if his comments provided through Hope Hicks were incorporated into the final statement?
A. I believe some may have been, but this was an effort through lots of people, mostly counsel.
3. Trump Jr. says he doesn’t recall whether a key call with a blocked phone number was his father
Trump Jr. has said he never told his father about the meeting. But one particular phone call has raised lots of eyebrows.