Unapologetic Trump Jr.: Not troubled that I met with Russian
By ERIC TUCKER, MARY CLARE JALONICK and CHAD DAY
Thursday, May 17
WASHINGTON (AP) — Questioned intently by a Senate committee, President Donald Trump’s son struck a firmly unapologetic tone, deflected many queries and said he didn’t think there was anything wrong with meeting a Russian lawyer at Trump Tower in hopes of election-season dirt on Hillary Clinton, according to transcripts released Wednesday.
Donald Trump Jr., speaking in a closed-door interview last year with the Senate Judiciary Committee, said he did not give much thought to the idea that the June 9, 2016 meeting was part of a Russian government effort to help his father in the presidential race.
“I don’t know that it alarmed me, but I like I said, I don’t know and I don’t know that I was all that focused on it at the time,” Trump Jr. said in response to a question about whether he was troubled by the prospect of Russian support, the transcripts show.
The committee on Wednesday released about 2,500 pages of interview transcripts and other documents tied to the New York meeting, which Trump Jr. attended with the expectation of receiving compromising information about his father’s Democratic opponent.
The transcripts reveal some new details about how the meeting — a key point of interest in special counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation into potential coordination between Russia and the Trump campaign — came to be arranged and efforts afterward to mitigate the political damage arising from its disclosure.
They also show the disappointment of Trump Jr. and other campaign figures, including brother-in-law Jared Kushner and campaign chairman Paul Manafort, when the meeting failed to yield the harmful Clinton information they thought they’d get — as well as the increasing panic of one of the meeting participants who feared his reputation would be ruined by his role in setting it up.
The transcripts also reflect an aggressive Russian outreach to Trump before and after the New York meeting, including an effort to arrange a follow-up get-together that November with a member of the transition team. The follow-up never happened.
Though Trump Jr. may have been dissatisfied with how the meeting turned out, the interview and his own emails make clear that he had high hopes going in. After music publicist Rob Goldstone promised him “very interesting” information from a well-connected Russian lawyer, including documents “that would incriminate Hillary,” the president’s oldest son responded via email, “if it’s what you say I love it.”
Throughout the private Senate interview, Trump Jr. appeared unapologetic about having taken the meeting, saying at one point, “I didn’t think that listening to someone with information relevant to the fitness and character of a presidential candidate would be an issue, no.”
Trump Jr. issued a statement Wednesday pronouncing himself candid and forthright with the committee, but the transcripts show that he responded time and again to questions by saying he could not recall or had no idea. He answered “No, I don’t recall” when asked if he had spoken with his father about the Russia investigation. He also did not remember the attendance at the meeting of a Russian-American lobbyist who — in a quirky sartorial detail revealed in the transcripts — was wearing pink jeans and a pink T-shirt that day.
Trump Jr. spoke by phone several days before the meeting took place with a caller with a blocked number, but said he didn’t recall who the person was and didn’t know if his father used a blocked number. He told the committee that he didn’t alert his father to the meeting beforehand.
Meanwhile on Wednesday, the Senate intelligence committee said it stands behind a 2017 assessment by U.S. intelligence agencies that Russia intervened in the election to hurt Clinton and help Trump. That conclusion differs from a House intelligence committee report released last month, which found no collusion between Russia and the Trump campaign.
Both the House and Senate intelligence panels have produced reports on their own Russia investigations. But Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Chuck Grassley announced in January that he wanted to release transcripts from his committee’s interviews because people “deserve to have all the facts, not just one side of this story.” Senate Judiciary Democrats said the transcripts are just “one piece of a much larger puzzle” and do not tell the entire story because some meeting participants were not interviewed or subpoenaed.
Besides Trump Jr., the committee interviewed several other people who attended the meeting: Goldstone; Rinat Akhmetshin, a prominent Russian-American lobbyist; Ike Kaveladze, a business associate of a Moscow-based developer, and a translator.
The committee did not interview Natalia Veselnitskaya, the Russian lawyer at the center of the meeting. But the panel released her written responses to a letter the committee sent her.
Some of the questioning of Trump Jr. centered on a statement drafted just as news of the meeting was about to break. The White House has said the president was involved in its drafting.
That statement said the meeting primarily concerned a Russian adoption program, though Trump Jr. later released the emails showing he agreed to the sit-down after he was promised information on Clinton.
Asked in the interview if his father was involved in drafting the statement, Trump said: “I don’t know. I never spoke to my father about it.”
Besides providing a timeline of the days leading up to the meeting, the transcripts also reflect misgivings about its appropriateness.
Goldstone, who arranged the meeting at the request of Azerbaijani-Russian pop singer Emin Agalarov, said, “I believed it was a bad idea and that we shouldn’t do it.”
“I’m a music publicist. Politics, I knew nothing about,” Goldstone said, adding that neither did Emin Agalarov nor Agalarov’s father, Aras.
The Agalarovs had bonded with the Trumps during the 2013 Miss Universe pageant in Moscow.
Like Trump Jr. and Kushner, who released his own statement about the meeting last year, Goldstone considered the meeting disappointing. He said he complained about damage to his reputation and told Emin Agalarov that “this was the most embarrassing thing you’ve ever asked me to do.”
Agalarov responded: “That should give you mega PR.”
Associated Press writers Colleen Long, Jake Pearson and Anne Flaherty contributed to this report.
Comments From Social Media
“103” That’s the # of times Don Jr said “I don’t recall” to the Senate Judiciary Committee re: Trump Tower meeting.
ROB PORTMAN voted AGAINST Net Neutrality.. he wants you to get soaked even more!
Twitter: It’s not his attempts to profit off the Presidency. It’s not the likelihood that he conspired w/ a foreign power to subvert our democracy. It’s not his hate, bigotry, sexism or ignorance. It’s his ability to LIE & convince 40% of the US that he’s honest that scares me the most.
Spanky will not last, but the people who voted for him and support him will still be here… that scares me too.
Let’s not forget he’s a lifelong con man from a family of grifters. While it’s easy to point to his record of failure and bankruptcy as a sign that he’s not really good at it, to have a record like that and STILL have people shovel millions at him, he’s obviously adept at the basic con man skills: reading people and picking out their weaknesses and playing them by either appealing to their basic instincts, or by successfully lying to their higher angels.
Republican Senate Candidate, Who Has Called for Country ‘Free From Jews,’ Could Be Dianne Feinstein’s Challenger
By Michael Edison Hayden
Overt anti-Semites have been slowly creeping into Republican politics in the aftermath of President Trump’s successful, populist candidacy, and now one of them has a fighting chance of representing the Republican Party in a Senate race.
The man in question is Patrick Little, an extremist with hard-line anti-Semitic views who is backed by David Duke and other far-right extremists. Little will be squaring off in a top-two primary with 10 other Republicans as well as Democrats and independents on June 5 for the chance to oppose veteran Democratic Senator Dianne Feinstein. According to a recent poll, released last week, he very much has a chance of winning the right to face off with the incumbent.
A poll conducted by local ABC News affiliates along with the polling company Survey USA, suggested that Little is polling at 18 percent of the vote on the Republican ticket, a full 10 points ahead of his next strongest opponent. The 84-year-old Feinstein, who entered office in 1992, at the start of Bill Clinton’s first term, remains a solid favorite to win the state—polling at 39 percent.
It’s unclear how predictive the poll will prove to be, or whether many Californians are intimately familiar with Little’s views, but the notion that he has any viability at all in the state is likely to raise alarm. Little has said he believes Jews should have no say over white non-Jews and wants to see them removed from the country altogether. On Gab, a social media site with large swaths of extremist users, he argues that the neo-Nazi website Daily Stormer, whose proprietors praise Adolf Hitler and have appeared to call for acts of violence against Jewish people, is too Jewish.
Related: The alt-right’s first real political candidate went too far right—even for many white nationalists
“I propose a government that makes counter Semitism central to all aims of the state,” he wrote on that website, referring to a white nationalist euphemism for a hatred of Jews. He argued for forbidding “all immigration except of biological kin, where no person of Jewish origin may live, vacation or traverse.”
He also wrote that he wanted to keep Americans “free from Jews.”
Matt Barreto, a professor of political sciences at University of California, Los Angeles, told Newsweek that while the poll is concerning due to Little’s views, it isn’t a strong indicator that he will ever become Senator.
“There’s been no campaign to speak of. All the discussion has been between Feinstein and [Democratic challenger] Kevin de León,” Barreto said. “I don’t believe that this candidate has much outreach.”
He noted that many people may have no idea who Little is, and are simply responding to the fact that his name was grouped with the Republicans. He said that if his views became more widely known, it would likely sink his candidacy.
little Little posts anti-Semitic content on Gab, a social media platform that is replete with extremists. GAB
“This is the whole reason Trump won the election,” he said. “Republicans voted for a Republican even if they didn’t think they would vote for Trump.”
Barreto noted that Democrats dominate California politics and that the state Republican party is focused on issues of taxation. He described them as being more open-minded than the national party on issues like immigration, gay marriage and marijuana legalization, even if there are pockets of white supremacist voters in places like Orange County.
Little did not respond to a request for comment on this story. His overtly anti-Semitic posts in the runup to an election follow the candidacy of Wisconsin-based Republican congressional candidate Paul Nehlen, who has veered so far to the right that he has been disavowed by some prominent white nationalists.
White Supremacist Richard Spencer wrote on Twitter this month that Nehlen “needs to just go away,” suggesting that he had embarrassed their cause of building a state for only whites by being too openly prejudiced. Most recently, Nehlen appeared on an extremist podcast inspired by racist mass murderer Dylann Roof. It’s unclear whether or not Little, whose political ambitions have so far received less scrutiny than Nehlen’s, will be similarly disavowed.
Little is a vocal fan of Christopher Cantwell, an anti-Semitic podcast host and one of the white nationalists who marched in Charlottesville, Virginia, in August of 2017. Cantwell is an outspoken supporter of Adolf Hitler has made a hatred of Jews the crux of his political argument when he speaks to his audience. He told Newsweek Friday that Little has a slim chance of winning, even if they share the same prejudices.
“I cannot claim to have familiarized myself with the mechanics of that race well enough to say,” Cantwell said. “However, I have my doubts that Holocaust revisionism polls well among Californians of any party.”
(AP Photo/Carolyn Kaster)
(AP Photo/Carolyn Kaster, File)
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