Trump Tower transcripts detail quest for dirt on Hillary Clinton

CNN/Stylemagazine.com Newswire | 5/16/2018, 10:59 a.m.
Thousands of pages of interview transcripts with the participants of the June 2016 Trump Tower meeting shed new light on ...

By Jeremy Herb, CNN

(CNN) -- Thousands of pages of interview transcripts with the participants of the June 2016 Trump Tower meeting shed new light on how eager Donald Trump Jr. and senior members of the Trump campaign were to obtain damaging information on Hillary Clinton — and how frustrated and angry they were that the material did not come to fruition.

The nearly 2,000 pages of interviews do not appear to contain information that would change the course of special counsel Robert Mueller's investigation into Trump's team and Russia. But the transcripts released by the Senate Judiciary Committee fill in new details about how Trump Jr., President Donald Trump's son-in-law Jared Kushner and then-Trump campaign chairman Paul Manafort were expecting a bombshell from Russian lawyer Natalia Veselnitskaya.

Rob Goldstone, the British music publicist who arranged the Trump Tower meeting, told the committee he was anticipating a "smoking gun" from Veselnitskaya when he urged Trump Jr. to take the meeting, even though he thought it was a "bad idea and that we shouldn't do it."

"I just sent somebody an email that says I'm setting up a meeting for someone that is going to bring you damaging information about somebody who was running to become the President of the United States," Goldstone said. "I thought that was worthy of the words 'smoking gun,' yes."

The Senate Judiciary Committee's release Wednesday of the Trump Tower transcripts and hundreds of pages of exhibits provide the most comprehensive view yet into the circumstances surrounding the controversial meeting and the details of the roughly 20-minute encounter, in which Trump's team was expecting dirt from Veselnitskaya.

The meeting -- and whether President Trump knew about it -- has become a central focus of Mueller's investigation into Russian meddling in the 2016 election, as well as the congressional Russia investigations. Trump Jr. has told House investigators that he did not communicate with his father about the meeting before it happened. The White House has said the President weighed in on a misleading statement his son issued after the meeting became publicly known, more than a year later.

Trump Jr. — who had emailed Goldstone ahead of the meeting about the dirt, "if it's what you say I love it" — told congressional investigators he was interested in "listening to information" about Clinton in the June Trump Tower meeting. "I had no way of assessing where it came from, but I was willing to listen," he said.

Trump Jr. also said he did not inform his father about the meeting ahead of time, because he didn't want to bring him "unsubstantiated" information.

And when the damaging information didn't materialize, as Veselnitskaya focused on US sanctions on Russia under the Magnitsky Act that the US passed to punish Russian human rights abuses, the testimony gives new insight into how Trump's team reacted.

"Jared Kushner, who is sitting next to me, 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?'" Goldstone said of Kushner, who was not interviewed by the committee. "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, to infuriate him even more."