quarta-feira, 12 de julho de 2017
Russian Dirt on Clinton? ‘I Love It,’ Donald Trump Jr. Said / VIDEO: New York Times Columnist on Trump JR was told in email of Russian Effort.../ White House aides feeling ‘helpless’ as Trump Jr. scandal blossoms / Julian Assange: I urged Trump Jr to publish Russia emails via WikiLeaks
Russian Dirt on Clinton? ‘I Love It,’ Donald Trump Jr. Said
By JO BECKER, ADAM GOLDMAN and MATT APUZZOJULY 11, 2017
Donald Trump Jr. received an email on June 3, 2016, promising dirt on Hillary Clinton. The information was described as being part of Russia's support for his father’s presidential bid. His reply? “I love it.” By Drew Jordan on Publish Date July 11, 2017. Photo by Sam Hodgson for The New York Times. Watch in Times Video »
The June 3, 2016, email sent to Donald Trump Jr. could hardly have been more explicit: One of his father’s former Russian business partners had been contacted by a senior Russian government official and was offering to provide the Trump campaign with dirt on Hillary Clinton.
The documents “would incriminate Hillary and her dealings with Russia and would be very useful to your father,” read the email, written by a trusted intermediary, who added, “This is obviously very high level and sensitive information but is part of Russia and its government’s support for Mr. Trump.”
If the future president’s eldest son was surprised or disturbed by the provenance of the promised material — or the notion that it was part of a continuing effort by the Russian government to aid his father’s campaign — he gave no indication.
He replied within minutes: “If it’s what you say I love it especially later in the summer.”
Four days later, after a flurry of emails, the intermediary wrote back, proposing a meeting in New York on Thursday with a “Russian government attorney.”
Donald Trump Jr. agreed, adding that he would most likely bring along “Paul Manafort (campaign boss)” and “my brother-in-law,” Jared Kushner, now one of the president’s closest White House advisers.
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On June 9, the Russian lawyer was sitting in the younger Mr. Trump’s office on the 25th floor of Trump Tower, just one level below the office of the future president.
Over the past several days, The New York Times has disclosed the existence of the meeting, whom it involved and what it was about. The story has unfolded as The Times has been able to confirm details of the meetings.
But the email exchanges, which were reviewed by The Times, offer a detailed unspooling of how the meeting with the Kremlin-connected Russian lawyer, Natalia Veselnitskaya, came about — and just how eager Donald Trump Jr. was to accept what he was explicitly told was the Russian government’s help.
The Justice Department and the House and Senate Intelligence Committees are examining whether any of President Trump’s associates colluded with the Russian government to disrupt last year’s election. American intelligence agencies have determined that the Russian government tried to sway the election in favor of Mr. Trump.
The precise nature of the promised damaging information about Mrs. Clinton is unclear, and there is no evidence to suggest that it was related to Russian-government computer hacking that led to the release of thousands of Democratic National Committee emails. But in recent days, accounts by some of the central organizers of the meeting, including Donald Trump Jr., have evolved or have been contradicted by the written email records.
Trump advisers have often insisted that the campaign had no contact with various Russian insiders — claims which were later proven false. By THE NEW YORK TIMES on Publish Date July 12, 2017. Photo by CBS News. Watch in Times Video »
After being told that The Times was about to publish the content of the emails, instead of responding to a request for comment, Donald Trump Jr. posted images of them on Tuesday on Twitter.
“To everyone, in order to be totally transparent, I am releasing the entire email chain of my emails” about the June 9 meeting, he wrote. “I first wanted to just have a phone call but when that didn’t work out, they said the woman would be in New York and asked if I would meet.”
He added that nothing came of it. But in an interview on Tuesday with Fox News’s Sean Hannity, he said that “in retrospect, I probably would have done things a little differently.”
At a White House briefing earlier Tuesday, Sarah Huckabee Sanders, the deputy press secretary, referred questions about the meeting to Donald Trump Jr.’s counsel, but read a statement from the president in which he called his son “a high-quality person.”
The back story to the June 9 meeting involves an eclectic cast of characters the Trump family knew from its business dealings in Moscow.
The initial email outreach came from Rob Goldstone, a British-born former tabloid reporter and entertainment publicist who first met the future president when the Trump Organization was trying to do business in Russia.
In the June 3 email, Mr. Goldstone told Donald Trump Jr. that he was writing on behalf of a mutual friend, one of Russia’s biggest pop music stars, Emin Agalarov. Emin, who professionally uses his first name only, is the son of Aras Agalarov, a real estate tycoon sometimes called the “Donald Trump of Russia.”
The elder Mr. Agalarov boasts close ties to President Vladimir V. Putin of Russia: His company has won several large state building contracts, and Mr. Putin awarded him the Order of Honor of the Russian Federation.
Mr. Agalarov joined with the elder Mr. Trump to bring the Miss Universe contest to Moscow in 2013, and the Trump and Agalarov families grew relatively close.
When Emin released a music video with a theme borrowed from the television show “The Apprentice,” Mr. Trump, then the show’s star, made a cameo appearance, delivering his trademark line: “You’re fired!” The elder Mr. Agalarov had also partnered with the Trumps to build a Trump hotel in Moscow, but the deal never came to fruition.
“Emin just called and asked me to contact you with something very interesting,” Mr. Goldstone wrote in the email. “The Crown prosecutor of Russia met with his father Aras this morning and in their meeting offered to provide the Trump campaign with some official documents and information that would incriminate Hillary and her dealings with Russia and would be very useful to your father.”
Rob Goldstone’s Facebook page shows he checked in to Trump Tower on June 9, 2016, “preparing for meeting.”
He added, “What do you think is the best way to handle this information and would you be able to speak to Emin about it directly?”
There is no such title as crown prosecutor in Russia — the Crown Prosecution Service is a British term — but the equivalent in Russia is the prosecutor general of Russia.
That office is held by Yury Yakovlevich Chaika, a Putin appointee who is known to be close to Ms. Veselnitskaya.
Arranging a Meeting
After sending back his reply of “I love it especially later in the summer” — when voters’ attention would be heightened by the approaching election — Donald Trump Jr. arranged to speak with Emin, sending along his private cellphone number on June 6.
“Ok he’s on stage in Moscow but should be off within 20 Minutes so I’m sure can call,” Mr. Goldstone wrote at 3:43 p.m.
Within the hour, Donald Trump Jr. had responded: “Rob thanks for the help. D.”
The next day, Mr. Goldstone followed up: “Don Hope all is well Emin asked that I schedule a meeting with you and The Russian government attorney who is flying over from Moscow for this Thursday. I believe you are aware of this meeting — and so wondered if 3pm or later on Thursday works for you?”
Mr. Goldstone’s emails contradict statements he made in his interview with The Times on Monday, when he said that he did not know whether the elder Mr. Agalarov had any role in arranging the meeting, and that he had no knowledge of any official Russian government role in the offer to provide the Trump campaign with dirt on Mrs. Clinton. Instead, he said that Ms. Veselnitskaya had contacted Emin directly, and that Emin had asked him to reach out to the Trumps as a favor to her.
“I actually asked him at one point how he knew her, and he said, ‘I can’t remember but, you know, I know thousands of people,’” he said in the interview.
Subsequent efforts to reach Mr. Goldstone, who acknowledged in the interview that he had spoken with someone at the Trump Organization over the weekend in anticipation of news media attention, have been unsuccessful.
Mr. Goldstone, in a June 7 follow-up email, wrote, “I will send the names of the two people meeting with you for security when I have them later today.”
By that time, as the presumptive Republican presidential nominee, Mr. Trump was already under the protection of the Secret Service and access to Trump Tower in New York was strictly controlled. Ms. Veselnitskaya told The Times that the person who accompanied her was an interpreter whom she declined to name.
After being informed that the Russian lawyer could not make the 3 p.m. time that had been proposed, and agreeing to move it by an hour, Donald Trump Jr. forwarded the entire email chain to Mr. Kushner’s company work email, and to Mr. Manafort at his Trump campaign email.
“Meeting got moved to 4 tomorrow at my offices,” he wrote on June 8. “Best, Don.”
Mr. Kushner recently disclosed the fact of the meeting, though not the content, in a revised form on which all those seeking top secret security clearances are required to list contacts with foreign government officials and their representatives. The Times reported in April that he had failed to list his foreign contacts, including with several Russians; his lawyer has called those omissions an error.
Mr. Manafort also disclosed that a meeting had occurred, and that Donald Trump Jr. had organized it, in response to one of the Russia-related congressional investigations.
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Ms. Veselnitskaya arrived the next day and was ushered into Donald Trump Jr.’s office for a meeting with what amounted to the Trump campaign’s brain trust.
Besides having politically connected clients, one of whom was under investigation by federal prosecutors at the time of the meeting, Ms. Veselnitskaya is well known for her lobbying efforts against the Magnitsky Act, a 2012 law that punishes designated Russian human rights abusers by allowing the United States to seize their assets and keep them from entering the country. The law so angered Mr. Putin that he retaliated by barring American families from adopting Russian children. Her activities and associations have brought her to the attention of the F.B.I., according to a former senior law enforcement official.
When first contacted by The Times on Saturday, Donald Trump Jr. portrayed the meeting this way: “It was a short introductory meeting. I asked Jared and Paul to stop by. We primarily discussed a program about the adoption of Russian children that was active and popular with American families years ago and was since ended by the Russian government, but it was not a campaign issue at the time and there was no follow-up.”
Responding to Queries
The next day, after The Times informed him that it was preparing an article that would say that the meeting also involved a discussion about potentially compromising material on Mrs. Clinton, he issued another statement: “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.”
He continued: “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.”
Mr. Goldstone recalled the meeting in much the same way.
Ms. Veselnitskaya offered “just a vague, generic statement about the campaign’s funding and how people, including Russian people, living all over the world donate when they shouldn’t donate” before turning to her anti-Magnitsky Act arguments, he said. “It was the most inane nonsense I’ve ever heard.”
Ms. Veselnitskaya, for her part, said in an statement to The Times sent this past weekend that “nothing at all about the presidential campaign” had been discussed at the Trump Tower meeting, adding that she had “never acted on behalf of the Russian government” and that she had “never discussed any of these matters with any representative of the Russian government.” She has not responded to requests for comment since.
A spokesman for Mr. Putin said on Monday that he did not know Ms. Veselnitskaya and that he had no knowledge of the June 2016 meeting.
Back in Washington, both the White House and a spokesman for President Trump’s lawyer have taken pains to distance the president from the meeting, saying that he did he not attend it and that he learned about it only recently, a point Donald Trump Jr. reiterated Tuesday in his interview on Fox News. He also said he would testify under oath in any of the investigations into possible collusion between Russia and his father’s campaign.
Mr. Agalarov did not respond to a request for comment.
Emin, the pop star at the center of it all, will not comment on the matter, either, Mr. Goldstone, his publicist, said on Monday. “Emin said to me that I could tell journalists that, you know, he has decided to go with just a straight no comment,” Mr. Goldstone said. “His reasoning for that is simply that he believes that by him commenting in any way from Russia, it once again will open this debate of Trump, Trump, Russia. Now here’s another person from Russia. Now he’s another person from Russia. So he wants to just not comment on the story. That’s his reasoning. It’s — the story will play out however it plays out.”
Sophia Kishkovsky contributed reporting.
White House aides feeling ‘helpless’ as Trump Jr. scandal blossoms
As West Wing staff grapples with the latest Russia controversy, the president is fuming about the negative coverage.
By TARA PALMERI AND JOSH DAWSEY 7/12/17, 4:54 AM CET Updated 7/12/17, 8:14 AM CET
White House aides feel blindsided by the bombshell revelations around Donald Trump Jr.’s campaign meeting with a Russian lawyer, while the U.S. president is using his relatively light schedule to watch TV and fume about the latest scandal, according to interviews with half a dozen White House officials and advisers.
Unlike prior Russia-related controversies, the White House is not minimizing the political ramifications of Trump’s eldest son’s decision to meet with the Kremlin-linked lawyer after being offered information that he was told would “incriminate” Hillary Clinton as “part of Russia and its government’s support for Mr. Trump.”
But top West Wing aides are exasperated by their limited ability to steer the damage control and the risk that more damaging news has yet to emerge.
One Trump adviser said the White House was “essentially helpless” because the conduct happened during an “anything goes” campaign that had few rules. This person said he had spoken to several people in the White House on Tuesday and that “none of them knew anything about Donald Trump Jr.’s meetings,” despite the fact that top adviser Jared Kushner was also present for the controversial Trump Tower sit-down.
Many of the White House aides had previously dismissed the Russia stories as “conspiracy bullshit,” this person said, but that this development was not being dismissed as that.
Trump had been silent for days about the controversy around his son. His first public response came in the form of a brief statement delivered by White House principal deputy press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders on Tuesday: “My son is a high-quality person, and I applaud his transparency.”
On Tuesday evening, Trump encouraged his Twitter followers to watch his son on Fox News host Sean Hannity’s show, adding, “He is a great person who loves our country!”
One White House aide said the president’s light public schedule was a function of his upcoming trip to France on Wednesday — and that “it makes sense that you have a couple days off between the one last week and this one.”
But a second official said Trump’s schedule was unusually light — and that he had been watching TV news and venting about the investigation. He hadn’t expressed any specific opinions about Trump Jr., this person said, but didn’t like that it was generating more negative coverage.
Others in the White House have been more explicit about their frustration with Trump Jr., who served as an adviser and surrogate for Trump’s campaign but has no official role in his father’s administration. Instead, he and his brother Eric Trump have taken over the day-to-day operations of the Trump Organization.
Some in the West Wing have seen Trump Jr.’s defenses — including his decision to post the damning email chain setting up the meeting — as tone deaf and naive about the political ramifications, according to a White House official.
And since Trump Jr. is not a White House employee and is represented by his own lawyer, the White House communications operation has had to take a back seat, while holding its breath for the next batch of revelations.
What the core issue will be going forward, the Trump adviser said, is that the “Russia story will get worse and worse, and you can’t just really say anymore, ‘fake news.'”
This person said the White House has “very little to no role” in coordinating a response.
There’s also tension inside the White House as Vice President Mike Pence’s communications team issued its own statement, appearing to distance Pence from the president. Some West Wing aides felt particularly bruised by the line that he’s “not focused on stories about the campaign, particularly stories about the time before he joined the ticket,” seeing it as an admission of guilt on the part of the campaign, according to a White House official.
Some of the most vocal defenses have come from cable news surrogates such as former campaign communications aides Anthony Scaramucci and Brian Lanza, who have gone to bat for Trump Jr. without the urging of the White House.
“I’m absolutely 100 percent confident, and I know that he did not nothing wrong,” Scaramucci told POLITICO. “He has very high integrity. There were countless meetings that led to nowhere during the campaign, and this was one of those meetings.”
While chief of staff Reince Priebus and top adviser Kellyanne Conway initially offered full-throated defenses of Trump Jr., the White House has since been less vigorous. The White House has not held on-camera briefings, instead pushing out Sanders to hold shorter off-camera sessions with reporters.
Many of Trump’s aides feel that knowing less is more when it comes to the Russia probe, as many staffers don’t want or have the extra resources to spend on lawyers. Some have linked the White House press shop’s relatively laid-back response to the latest scandal as a product of their fear of being entangled in the Russia probe.
The lack of full-throttle response from the White House has lowered morale internally, especially among those who are worried about policy initiatives, including health care and tax reform, falling to the wayside, according to one White House official.
“How much longer can we assume that the American people don’t care about Russia?” the official mused.
But in some corners of the West Wing, Tuesday was business as usual. One White House official said National Economic Council Director Gary Cohn had attended meetings on tax policy Monday and Tuesday, and that some other officials, such as chief strategist Steve Bannon, had continued to talk about Iraq and Qatar. Marc Short, the head of legislative affairs, visited Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell on Capitol Hill, according to a person familiar with the meeting.
Some White House aides were in frequent contact with their State Department counterparts, as Secretary of State Rex Tillerson tries to navigate a diplomatic solution among the Gulf States regarding Qatar.
Hill aides, however, said it was frustrating that the White House had no public focus on health care.
Trump, one senior Republican aide said, could be using his Twitter feed to make the case for repealing and replacing the Affordable Care Act. Instead he railed about the slow pace of appointments, tweeting on Tuesday morning, “The Senate Democrats have only confirmed 48 of 197 Presidential Nominees. They can’t win so all they do is slow things down & obstruct!”
“It doesn’t make any sense to me why they are focusing on appointments,” this person said. “It’s the thing they’ve done the worst.”
White House aides and advisers also spent part of the day guessing who was leaking — and what their motivation was.
Trump Jr. had looped in then-campaign chairman Paul Manafort and senior adviser Jared Kushner to the email chain, and included them in the meeting with the Russian lawyer, Natalia Veselnitskaya, at Trump Tower.
“There’s only a few names on those emails,” one person close to the White House said. “And it would have to be someone out to get the president’s son.”
There’s a general feeling of paranoia in the West Wing about who leaked details of the meeting, with speculation that it may have come from within the White House.
But one White House aide said, “There’s no way to know.”
Tara Palmeri and Josh Dawsey
Julian Assange: I urged Trump Jr to publish Russia emails via WikiLeaks
Site founder says he believed president’s son should release documents anonymously, given that Trump Jr’s ‘enemies’ already had them
David Smith in Washington
Tuesday 11 July 2017 22.35 BST Last modified on Wednesday 12 July 2017 05.30 BST
Julian Assange, the Wikileaks founder, has claimed that he contacted Donald Trump Jr and tried to persuade him to publish emails showing he was eager to accept sensitive information about Hillary Clinton via the anti-secrecy website.
Instead, the US president’s eldest son did so via Twitter, igniting a firestorm of criticism around his apparent willingness to work with the Russian government against his father’s Democratic rival.
“Contacted Trump Jr this morning on why he should publish his emails (i.e with us),” tweeted Assange, who is based at the Ecuadorian embassy in London. “Two hours later, does it himself.”
Asked by another Twitter user to explain, Assange elaborated: “I argued that his enemies have it – so why not the public? His enemies will just milk isolated phrases for weeks or months ... with their own context, spin and according to their own strategic timetable. Better to be transparent and have the full context ... but would have been safer for us to publish it anonymously sourced. By publishing it himself it is easier to submit as evidence.”
It was not clear whether Assange’s use of the word “enemies” was the reference to the media or political rivals.
The Australian added: “He’s surely had advice and/or is confident on the facts. I’d argue that even the completely innocent need @WikiLeaks.”
WikiLeaks played a prominent role in the US presidential election, publishing emails stolen from the Democratic National Committee (DNC) and Clinton’s campaign manager, John Podesta.
As a candidate, Trump declared: “I love WikiLeaks!” US intelligence agencies concluded that the hacking was carried out by Russia.
Trump’s longtime confidante Roger Stone communicated with Assange and a hacker known as “Guccifer 2.0”, who began posting DNC documents on 15 June – less than a week after Trump Jr’s meeting with a Russian lawyer in New York.
WikiLeaks’ apparent overlap of interests with the Trump campaign drew scrutiny at the time. Robert Mackey of the Intercept website wrote in August last year: “The WikiLeaks Twitter feed has started to look more like the stream of an opposition research firm working mainly to undermine Hillary Clinton than the updates of a non-partisan platform for whistleblowers.”