May 16, 2018, 4:44 PM ET

Senate releases insider accounts of Trump Tower meeting between campaign aides and Russian emissaries

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Donald Trump Jr. repeatedly pushed his Russian guests for damaging “dirt” on Hillary Clinton and grew increasingly frustrated when they failed to produce it, according to new accounts of the now-infamous 2016 Trump Tower meeting between top campaign aides to Donald Trump and Russian emissaries.

One participant told the Senate Judiciary Committee Trump Jr. kicked off the June 9 meeting expectantly, telling his Russian guests, “So I believe you have some information for us?” And after hearing a Russian lawyer explain about an alleged tax fraud scheme involving major Democratic donors, a participant said Trump Jr. followed up: “So can you show us -- how does this money go to Hillary?”

Another participant recalled him pressing a second time, saying Trump, Jr. asked if “illegally obtained funds were also being donated to Mrs. Clinton's foundation.”

In the months since the first reports on the meeting, that gathering has emerged as a focal point of investigations into allegations of Russian meddling in the 2016 presidential campaign. The Senate Judiciary Committee released roughly 2500 pages of interview transcripts and other documents Wednesday morning that provide a number of new details and fresh insider accounts of the gathering, but do not appear to change the narrative in any dramatic way.

PHOTO: The Russian emissaries, a middle man and Trump campaign associates who met at Trump Tower on June 9, 2016.ABC News Graphic, AP/Getty Images
The Russian emissaries, a middle man and Trump campaign associates who met at Trump Tower on June 9, 2016.

“The public's business ought to be public,” said Sen. Chuck Grassley (Iowa), the Republican chairman of the Judiciary Committee, who decided earlier this year he would permit the release the documents, a decision welcomed by Democrats.

Sen. Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.)said the documents offer the public “a piece of the picture, a part of the puzzle.”

“But the full mosaic will require further investigation,” he said. “The American people deserve to know the truth.”

Trump Jr. said he welcomed the chance for the public to review his testimony.

“I appreciate the opportunity to have assisted the Judiciary Committee in its inquiry,” he said in a statement to ABC News. “The public can now see that for over five hours I answered every question asked and was candid and forthright with the Committee.”

The Russian Emissaries

Beyond the details of Trump Tower meeting itself, the documents offer a fresh look at the relationships between the Russian emissaries and Trump’s team – including the billionaire Moscow developer Aras Agalarov, who initially pushed for the meeting with help from his son, a Russian pop star, and his son’s music agent.

As early as the summer of 2015, early into Trump’s primary bid, the music agent to Emin Agalarov, Rob Goldstone, began to float the idea of Trump paying a visit to Russia. In an email exchange with Trump’s personal secretary Rhona Graff, he floats the idea of a first meeting with Russian President Putin.

“Maybe he would welcome a meeting with President Putin, which Emin would set up,” he wrote.

It is not clear if Graff replied.

After Trump’s election, another aide to Agalarov exchanges texts with Goldstone, celebrating Trump’s election.

“So it seems we are all now in the president’s inner circle!!” wrote Ike Kaveladze, who represent’s Agalarov’s business interests in the U.S. “So shocking.”

Later, Goldstone begins to update his Russian contacts on the fallout coming from the reports of the Trump Tower meeting. He texted to Agalarov’s son: “I hope this favor was worth it for your dad – it could blow up big.”

A lawyer’s murky background

The woman who led the Russian group’s presentation was Russian lawyer Natalia Veselnitskaya, who told the Senate in written answers to question that she was already in New York on other business when the meeting was added to her schedule.

She said she had no idea if Trump Jr. knew her background.

“Whether Mr. Trump Jr. knew anything about me and my name is unknown to me,” she said.

Her presentation centered U.S. sanctions against Russia, a policy staunchly opposed by Putin’s government, and the Kremlin’s response prohibiting Americans from adopting Russian children. Trump’s team of aides in the meeting appeared to be baffled by her focus on this, instead of the promised dirt on Clinton.

Goldstone told the senators that Trump’s son-in-law, Jared Kushner, “appeared somewhat agitated by this and said, ‘I really have no idea what you're talking about. Could you please focus a bit more and maybe just start again?’”

PHOTO: Trump Tower in Manhattan, Oct. 8, 2016, in New York.Spencer Platt/Getty Images, FILE
Trump Tower in Manhattan, Oct. 8, 2016, in New York.

“And I recall that she began the presentation exactly where she had begun it last time, almost word for word, which seemed, by his body language, infuriate him even more,” Goldstone said.

Kushner told reporters he only stayed briefly in the room and he believes "all of my actions were proper and occurred in the normal course of events of a very unique campaign,” adding unequivocally, “I did not collude with Russians, nor do I know of anyone in the campaign who did.”

Veselnitskaya later revealed in an interview on NBC and in emails obtained by ABC News that - contrary to her earlier denials of Russian government ties to Senate Judiciary Committee investigators - she is, in fact, closely linked to top Kremlin official, Yuri Chaika, the prosecutor general.

“I am a lawyer, and I am an informant,” she told NBC. “Since 2013, I have been actively communicating with the office of the Russian prosecutor general.”

Trump team drafts response

The Senate interview with Trump Jr. also suggests President Trump personally may have weighed in directly as his lawyers crafted an initial response to news reports of the Trump Tower meeting.

That first public response, drafted aboard Air Force One, said the focus of the meeting was “adoptions” and failed to mention it came after the Russians had promised to deliver “dirt” on his Democratic rival, Hillary Clinton – an omission that has become a topic of interest to Special Counsel Robert Mueller.

“He may have commented through Hope Hicks,” Trump Jr. told the Senate of one of the president’s closest and longest-serving aides. “I believe some [of Trump’s comments] may have been [incorporated into the formal response], but this was an effort through lots of people , mostly counsel.”

When Trump Jr. first found out about the New York Times story, he said the meeting was about adoptions and mentioned nothing about a promise of political dirt on his father's political rival.

When the Times presented material to the contrary, the Trump son released a statement saying, "After pleasantries were exchanged, the woman stated that she had information that individuals connected to Russia were funding the Democratic National Committee and supporting Mrs. 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.”

PHOTO: In this Nov. 14, 2016 file photo, Jared Kushner, son-in-law of of President-elect Donald Trump walks from Trump Tower, in New York.Carolyn Kaster/AP,FILE
In this Nov. 14, 2016 file photo, Jared Kushner, son-in-law of of President-elect Donald Trump walks from Trump Tower, in New York.

Trump Jr. later went on Fox News' Sean Hannity show with something of a mea culpa saying, “'In retrospect, I probably would have done things a little differently,” in reference to the meeting.

Trump's one-time legal team spokesman, Mark Carrollo told author Michael Wolf in his book "Fire and Fury that he "believed the meeting on Air Force One represented a likely obstruction of justice,” and so he quit. ABC News first reported that Mueller sought an interview with Corallo afterward.

A blocked call

During his Senate interview, Trump Jr. said he never mentioned to his father he was going to hold the meeting.

But Democrats reviewing the transcripts have focused considerable attention to the question of whether candidate Trump knew the meeting with the Russian emissaries was occurring.

PHOTO: In this Jan. 18, 2017 file photo Donald Trump Jr., stands in an elevator at Trump Tower in New York.Albin Lohr-Jones/Pool via Getty Images, FILE
In this Jan. 18, 2017 file photo Donald Trump Jr., stands in an elevator at Trump Tower in New York.

In a report prepared by Sen. Dianne Feinstein’s (D-Calif.) Senate investigators focused on a series of phone calls and emails that occurred on June 6, 2016, as Goldstone and Trump Jr. were connecting to set up the June 9 meeting “about this Hillary info.”

Minutes after Trump Jr. had a phone call with Goldstone’s Russian client, he called a blocked phone number and spoke with someone for 11 minutes. Trump Jr. told Senate investigators he could not identify whom he called and said he did not know if his father used a blocked number. “I have no idea,” he said, when asked with whom he spoke. The senate investigators wrote that Trump campaign manager Corey Lewandowski testified that “[Donald] Trump’s ‘primary residence has a blocked [phone] line.”

Ivanka greets Russian guests

One of the Russian participants recalled a brief encounter with Ivanka Trump, the candidate’s daughter, after their meeting wrapped up.

“She was at the reception,” Kaveladze said. “She said hello to us, and we said hello, how are you, and we had, like, polite conversation for maybe 1 minute. And then she told us to have a good day, and we left.”

PHOTO: In this Nov. 13, 2017 file photo Russian-American lobbyist Rinat Akhmetshin arrives at the Capitol for a closed door meeting with the House Intelligence Committee, in Washington, D.C.Alex Wong/Getty Images, FILE
In this Nov. 13, 2017 file photo Russian-American lobbyist Rinat Akhmetshin arrives at the Capitol for a closed door meeting with the House Intelligence Committee, in Washington, D.C.

While numerous questions have swirled around the controversial private meeting since it first came to light, the Russians told the senate they found the entire episode to be of little use.

Kaveladze told the senators he reported back to Agalarov after it ended.

“It was a complete loss of time,” he said, calling it a “useless meeting.”

The Russian participants have largely maintained identical descriptions of the day’s events. Scott Balber, a New York lawyer who represents the Agalarovs and Kaveladze, told ABC News “the meeting itself was a big nothing.”

Of Goldstone’s promise of dirt, Balber said: “I think he has said publicly that he quote ‘goosed the story’ for the purpose of getting the folks in the Trump campaign to agree to the meeting.”

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  • Arryandan

    That's funny! Russian hackers and a billionaire intent on destroying Hillary, couldn't dig-up one, not any single fact of wrongdoing by Mrs. Clinton. Yet, those simple republicans believed she was a horrible person, anyway. They claim they weren't swayed by Russian propaganda, but, they still hate her, anyway. LOL. To this day, no facts, just stupid troll-bait, and they mysteriously believe she's crooked anyway.

  • PER

    One of the writers of this story is the granddaughter of Democratic presidential aspirant Michael Dukakis, and the others are Democrat contributors. Serious question: does the MSM "news" divisions even remotely pretend to be unbiased anymore?

  • 40acre

    ----“It was a complete loss of time,” he said, calling it a “useless meeting.” ----
    This seems to be the consensus opinion when people meet with Trump and/or any of his cohorts.

  • Bennett A

    The meeting was not illegal, nothing came of the meeting and the docs ref. the meeting have been released.
    Contrast that with Hillary Clinton and the DNC paying Christopher Steele to interact with Russians to get potential dirt on Trump all of which is uncorroborated and unverified information included in his dossier submitted to Fusion GPS. The uncorroborated unverified Steele Dossier was used to obtain a FISA warrant minus key exculpatory information to justify surveillance of Carter Page and it was renewed 3 times apparentlly without any inclusion of key exculpatory facts being added.
    I say apparently because the DOJ is not releasing documents requested by Congressional oversight committees to ascertain the facts ref. the FISA warrant and renewals of same.
    Congress has the power and duty under the US Constitution to get documents that they request and those documents are not being released properly by the DOJ by Rod Rosenstein who signed off on the FiSA warrant or one of the renewals.
    The pending IG report from the DOJ not under Rosenstein's control from all indications will be presenting major facts and hopefully criminal referrals for numerous FBI and DOJ top management who violated federal laws under the corrupt Obama administration.
    Stay tuned.

  • brian nrndss

    the blow off..............Iknow this feeling: and we had, like, polite conversation for maybe 1 minute. And then she told us to have a good day, and we left.”

  • Jen Bordon

    Why does Trump hate America?

  • hucky01

    The new watch word for Jared or Jr. "I don't remember", "I don't recall". They must be well on their way to dementia, and so young! Or, they are lying through their teeth. Take your pick!

  • WiredWilly

    Again, there is nothing that I would pin a conspiracy or collusion on. Seems meetings were engineered by Fusion GPS before and after the Trump Tower meeting with this Russian Lawyer. I'll wait for the IG report and hopefully the records congress wants from the DOJ to show who was Conspiring to rig an election and that would be Hillary Clinton and the DNC

  • kritikosman

    Note to Nunes and friends: BAM!!

  • Jan515

    The MSM, or at least most of it must be a little embarrassed about this nothing meeting, that they have pushed as the meeting that would bring down the President. What we found is no laws were broken, and finding dirt on Hillary wasn't nearly as bad as the Clinton campaign paying for dirt on President Trump through an British agent who apparently received a lot of his info from the Russians.

  • badhairpiece

    Russian-American lobbyist Rinat Akhmetshin... what Robert Downey Jr. will look like when he's 65.

  • YouMayBanMeButYouCan'tBanIdeas

    This meeting in itself amounts to collusion with Russia. Even the act of seeking this type of damaging information from a hostile foreign power is treason, especially when this is done so willingly and eagerly. Whether or not they actually got the information is immaterial.

  • Sarah Levine

    U.S. Justice Department Special Counsel Robert Mueller has issued two subpoenas to a social media expert who worked for longtime Donald Trump adviser Roger Stone during the 2016 presidential election campaign.

    More popcorn for everyone!

  • But....but...but....Hillary!!

    Hey, Ivan...how come I can't reply to a post that's not active?

    LOL

    POOF!!!!!

  • Captain Shark

    Check out the "man" with the nametag that says "HVC-304." They're really making life-like droids these days.

  • Smarter Then You

    November 2020 can’t come soon enough.

  • Captain Shark

    I hate those damn preppy vests.

  • center_line

    Biggest cover up in history by a Republican Controlled congress.
    Russians have infiltrated our Congressional seats.

  • Lightfoot77

    Enjoy the dustbin of History, Cons.