By now, we’ve all heard about how the 4-person meeting Donald Trump Jr. called innocent and non-productive was really a carefully orchestrated face-to-face attended by 8 people. (Robert Mueller is investigating.) For months, Don Jr. claimed there was no such meeting at all, but when the New York Times notified him that they were publishing the evidence they had found, he published those incriminating emails himself before the NYT story was published.
When he did that he was following the advice of his legal council. Better to admit it and seem more open than to hide the facts and look like a liar.
Well, it seems Trumps have a habit of trying to trump the truth. When Don Jr. made his statement about the contents of the emails he said an old friend (Goldstone) had asked him to arrange a meeting with a Russian lawyer (Veselnitskaya) to receive evidence that would implicate the DNC and Hillary Clinton, and that this was a show of assistance from the Russian government for his father’s run for the presidency. He claimed that though he had asked Jared Kushner and Paul Manafort to accompany him to the meeting, he had not told them who they would be meeting or what the meeting was about. (But he did forward the emails to them, which contained the details) Don Jr. phrased it in such a way as to suggest the meeting was limited to those 4 people.
Don Jr. seems genuinely disappointed that no concrete dirt on Hillary was obtained, saying the meeting was unproductive because the information offered by Veselnitskaya was not evidence of accepting contributions from foreign entities, but merely an illustration of the avenue that was used. Don Jr. said that Veselnitskaya then turned the conversation to Russian adoptions and the Magnitsky Act, and it became clear to him that the new topic was the real reason for the meeting. He felt he had been duped into the meeting.
The newsies took this up and suddenly it wasn’t just the New York Times that wanted the details. The politicians on both sides of the aisle had things to say. Some said it proved collusion. Some said it was just the way business is done in DC. But then someone else had something to say because the media reports were leaving him out of the conversation.
Enter Rinat Akhmetshin, Russian-American lobbyist and former Soviet military officer, who is a well-known Washington presence. For some time now he has been lobbying for Russian interests trying to escape the Magnitsky Act. (He has duel citizenship) The Magnitsky Act was a US action intended to punish Russian officials for the murder of Sergei Magnitsky, who was the lawyer that exposed corruption at high government levels.
Magnitsky had alleged there had been a large-scale theft from the Russian state, sanctioned and carried out by Russian officials. He was arrested and eventually died in prison seven days before the expiration of the one-year term during which he could be legally held without trial.
So, Akhmetshin was at the Don Jr. meeting too. He says that Veselnitskaya invited him to the meeting at the last minute and he didn’t even have time to change his clothes, attending the meeting in jeans. Since his specialty in Washington is lobbying against the Magnitsky Act, an invitation from Veselnitskaya does seem to jive well with the idea that the true purpose for requesting the meeting with Don Jr. was not to discuss Hillary Clinton, but to push another agenda.
After Don Jr. was forced to admit that there were more than 4 people at the meeting, President Trump’s lawyer, Jay Sekulow, threw shade at the Secret Service. As an attempted distraction, Sekulow suggested that if there had been anything nefarious about the meeting the Secret Service would have vetted the attendees. The Secret Service spoke up to say that Don Jr. wasn’t under their protection at that time, and even if he were, they wouldn’t tell him with whom he could meet, they would simply protect him, no matter who he was meeting.
So, what was it really about? Goldstone says that Ike Kaveladze, a Russian lawyer representing the Agalarov real estate interests in the US, asked him to arrange a meeting between Veselnitskaya and Don Jr. (Goldstone is the agent of Emin Agalarov. Aras Agalarov, Emin’s’ father, is known as the Russian Trump).
Akhmetshin says Veselnitskaya invited him to come along with her, and her interpreter, Anatoli Samochornov. Don Jr. says he invited Kushner and Manafort. Goldstone was there as the organizer, and Kaveladze was a silent observer. So what does all that have to do with adopting Russian children? Nothing. (The end to Americans adopting Russian children was the action Putin took to retaliate against the Magnitsky Act.)
The law enacts sanctions on certain Russian officials as a punishment for human rights violations.
Adopted in 2012, the Magnitsky Act permitted the U.S. to freeze financial assets of Russian officials who contributed to the abuse, arrest and death of Magnitsky. It was later expanded in 2016 to include human rights abusers anywhere.
Well, since Kaveladze, who works for Agalarov, asked Goldstone, who also works for Agalarov, to arrange a meeting between Don Jr. (friend to the Agalarov family) and the lovely Veselnitskaya, using a ‘trumped up’ pretext that would be sure to capture Don Jr.’s interest, it would appear that it was really Agalarov that wanted the conversation to take place.
So, in light of that, let’s ask why Jared Kushner left the meeting after the first 10 minutes or so. Let’s ask why the meeting went on for 20-30 minutes after Kushner left. And while we are asking, let’s find out who was talking and who was taking notes. Did the meeting provide an innocent cover for a mafia-style face-to-face? If so, whose faces should we be looking into? The questions that come to mind are all suspicious now that we know Don Jr. has denied the meeting happened, lied about Kushner and Manafort’s knowledge of the meetings’ purpose, and has no compunctions about methods of information gathering.
I suppose it is a good thing that Don Jr. has so openly demonstrated the way the Trumps try to trump the truth, (like the way Eric showed us what President Trump does with charity dollars that come into their foundation), because we need to know. This is the first family of the nation. They say you can know the tree by the fruit it bears. I wonder if even Robert Mueller can trump the Trump’s attempts to trump the truth.
Cheryl Thurston, lives in North Carolina, is an author and graphic designer whose work has been purchased by Perdue College and featured in the N.C. Zoological Society’s public awareness project in 2010.