Collusion: The Trump Tower meeting & Hillary’s emails

Former Nixon White House counsel John W. Dean has said that:

“Collusion is the descriptive word the news media has settled on to cover many potential illegal actions by the Trump campaign, which could range from aiding and abetting (18 USC 2) to conspiracy per se (18 USC 371) … Also, 18 USC 2381—… the form of collusion better known as treason.”

The story begins with the House of Representatives Committee tasked with investigating a 2012 terrorist attack in Benghazi, Libya.  In 2015 its investigation had extended to Hillary Clinton’s use of her private email server while serving as secretary of State.  In 2015 Clinton admitted her aides had deleted 30,000 emails she had deemed personal.

Hillary Clinton announced her intention to run for President on 12 April 2015.  Donald Trump announced his intention two months later on 16 June 2016.  Trump took advantage of the email controversy surrounding Clinton at an early stage, tweeting about it between about August 2015 and January 2016 as news filtered out from the House of Representatives Committee.

A dramatic shift in intensity on the subject of Clinton’s emails occurs around April 2016.  Trump’s then new and inexperienced foreign policy advisor George Papadopoulos is approached by a mysterious London based professor with substantial Russian ties, who tells him that the Russians are in possession of "thousands" of Hillary Clinton's stolen emails.   

Next, in May 2016 during a night of heavy drinking at the Kensington Wine Rooms in London, Papadopoulos tells Australian Alexander Downer that Russian officials possessed thousands of emails that could harm Clinton’s candidacy.  Curiously, in this same month, after not tweeting about the subject for 4 months, Trump reminds his followers about the “30,000 e-mails” that were “deleted by Crooked Hillary Clinton”.

Events heat up significantly in June 2016, when a mutual friend of a Russian oligarch contacts Donald Trump Jr. to arrange a meeting with “The Crown prosecutor of Russia” who had “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.” 

The meeting is to occur only 7 days later on the 25th floor of Trump Tower in Donald Jr's office - just one level below the office of the future president.  But two days before the meeting, after winning the New Jersey primary as the Republican Party’s presumptive nominee for president, Donald Trump includes these lines in his victory speech: 

“I am going to give a major speech on probably Monday of next week [June 13] and we’re going to be discussing all of the things that have taken place with the Clintons. I think you’re going to find it very informative and very, very interesting…”

The now infamous meeting in Trump Tower takes place on 9 June 2016 and is attended by Donald Trump Jr., Jared Kushner, and Paul Manafort, three Russians, Rob Goldstone and a translator.  Even a generous view of the various and changing accounts of that meeting suggest that the Russians were interested in having the US Magnitsky Act repealed, and that Donald Trump Jr. believed he was going to receive incriminating material from Russia which he could use against Clinton and her campaign for president.  

The US had passed the Magnitsky Act in 2012 to punish Russian criminals thought to be responsible for the death of Russian tax lawyer Sergei Magnitsky who died in 2009 in custody after being handcuffed and beaten with batons by Russian police.  Magnitsky had previously discovered and testified that senior Russian Interior Ministry officers had stolen investment companies which they then used to fraudulently claim tax benefits from the Russian treasury of some 5.4 billion rubles ($US230 million).  Sanctions under that Act have been used to prevent Russian organised crime figures and their relatives from spending their stolen money in the US.  Two weeks after the Magnitsky Act was passed, Moscow banned American adoptions of Russian children in apparent retaliation.  Of that act of retaliation, Russian opposition politician Vladimir Kara-Murza has said:

"Putin retaliated for targeted individual sanctions on human rights abusers who are prevented from doing their Christmas shopping on New York's 5th Avenue by denying Russian orphans, Russian kids, many of them disabled Russian kids, basically a chance in life... If you need a moral portrait of the Putin regime that's the best example... There are only two organisations in the world that use their own children as human shields against their enemies.  One is Hamas, and the other is United Russia Party, led by Vladimir Putin."

When the story about the Trump Tower meeting eventually broke over a year later in July 2017 by Michael Isikoff of Yahoo News, the numerous ham-fisted attempts by Donald Trump and his son to cover it up which followed have betrayed a consciousness of guilt.  

The story of what the President knew, and when he knew it can be pieced together from the factual accounts we know of so far:  

      

2 March 2015 - The New York Times reported Clinton may have violated federal regulations by using her personal email account (hdr22@clintonemail.com) for public business while serving as secretary of state.

10 March 2015 - Hillary Clinton held a press conference at the United Nations to address questions surrounding her use of a private e-mail account during her tenure at the State Department.  She said at the conference: “At the end, I chose not to keep my private personal emails — emails about planning Chelsea’s wedding or my mother’s funeral arrangements, condolence notes to friends as well as yoga routines, family vacations, the other things you typically find in inboxes.”  The Los Angeles Times also reported on that date that Ms Clinton “disclosed that her aides had deleted more than 30,000 emails that she deemed personal.”

16 June 2015 - Trump announces his candidacy for President of the United States

27 July 2015 - Russian intelligence group Cozy Bear—the GRU-affiliated hacker group, also known as APT29—infiltrated the Democratic National Committee’s computer network. 

31 Aug 2015 - The US state department releases over 4,000 emails former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton kept on a private server and revealed that some 150 others have been retroactively classified.

31 Aug 2015 - Donald Trump tweets 07:43:46 PM “150 Clinton E-mails still contain classified information. More sensitive when she was Sec.of State. This is a very big deal.”

6 Dec 6 2015 - Donald Trump tweets 10:25:04 AM “Hillary just said that she will not use the term "radical Islamic" - but was incapable of saying why. She is afraid of Obama & the e-mails!”

27 Dec 27 2015 - Donald Trump tweets 11:49:55 AM “@BernieSanders-who blew his campaign when he gave Hillary a pass on her e-mail crime, said that I feel wages in America are too high. Lie!”

31 Dec 31 2015 - Donald Trump tweets 06:11:35 PM “Do you believe that The State Department, on NEW YEAR'S EVE, just released more of Hillary's e-mails. They just want it all to end. BAD!”

29 Jan 29 2016 - Donald Trump tweets 06:51:34 PM “The new e-mail release is a disaster for Hillary Clinton. At a minimum, how can someone with such bad judgement be our next president?”

18 April 2016 - a second Russian group—Fancy Bear, hacks the DNC’s computer network.

26 April 2016 - George Papadopoulos had been a foreign policy adviser to the Trump presidential campaign for over a month.  London based Professor Mifsud (with “substantial connections to Russion government officials” told Papadopoulos during a meeting in a London hotel for breakfast that the Russians were in possession of "thousands" of Hillary Clinton's stolen emails. 

27 April 2016 - Papadopolous emailed a “Senior Policy Advisor” for the campaign (according to a New York Times report on 10 November 2017, that is likely to be Stephen Miller) saying “Have some interesting messages coming in from Moscow about a trip when the time is right.”

13 May 2016 - Professor Mifsud emails Papadopoulos an “update” of their “recent discussions” saying “We will continue to liaise through you with the Russian counterparts in terms of what is needed for a high-level meeting of Mr. Trump with the Russian Federation.”

14 May 2016 - Papadopoulos emails then Trump campaign manager Corey Lewandowski saying that the Russian government has “relayed to me that they are interested in hosting Mr. Trump.”

Mid-May 2016 - Papadopoulos tells Alexander downer at the Kengsington Wine Rooms in London during a night of “heavy drinking” that that Russian officials possessed thousands of emails that could harm Clinton’s candidacy.

17 May 2016 - Donald Trump tweets 06:29:09 AM “Wow, 30,000 e-mails were deleted by Crooked Hillary Clinton. She said they had to do with a wedding reception. Liar! How can she run?” 

19 May 2016 - Paul Manafort becomes Trump’s campaign chairman and chief strategist.

3 June 2016 - Donald Trump Jr. receives an email from Rob Goldstone: “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. This is obviously very high level and sensitive information but is part of Russia and its government’s support for Mr. Trump — helped along by Aras and Emin.”

3 June 2016 - Donald Jr. responds to Goldstone via email: “If it’s what you say I love it especially later in the summer.” Donald Jr. suggests they talk early during the week of June 6, when he’s back from the road.

6 June 2016 - Donald Jr.’s phone records show:

  • 12:40 pm: email from Goldstone to Don Jr.: “Let me know when you are free to talk with Emin by phone about this Hillary info - you had mentioned early this week so wanted to try to schedule a time and day.”
  • 3:03 pm: Don Jr. email to Goldstone: “Rob could we speak now?”
  • 3:37 pm: Goldstone email to Don Jr: “Let me track him down in Moscow. What number he could call?”
  • 3:38 pm: Don Jr. email to Goldstone: “My cell [REDACTED] thanks”
  • 3:43 pm: Goldstone email to Don Jr.: “Ok he's on stage in Moscow but should be off within 20 Minutes so I am sure can call.”
  • 4:04 pm: The first of two calls two calls on Don Jr.’s cellphone to and from the same Russian number.
  • 4:27 pm: Don Jr. cellphone call to a blocked number.
  • 4:38 pm: Don Jr. email Goldstone: “Rob, thanks for the help.”

[Testifying before the House Intelligence Committee on Dec. 6, 2017, Don Jr. claims not to know who is associated with the blocked number.]

7 June 2016 - Rob Goldstone sends Donald Trump Jr. a follow-up email: “Emin asked that I schedule a meeting with you and the Russian government attorney who is flying over from Moscow this Thursday. I believe you are aware of the meeting — and so wondered if 3 p.m. or later on Thursday works for you? I assume it would be at your office.” 

7 June 2016 - After winning the New Jersey primary as the Republican Party’s presumptive nominee for president, Trump includes these lines in his victory speech: “I am going to give a major speech on probably Monday of next week [June 13] and we’re going to be discussing all of the things that have taken place with the Clintons. I think you’re going to find it very informative and very, very interesting... Hillary Clinton turned the State Department into her private hedge fund — the Russians, the Saudis, the Chinese — all gave money to Bill and Hillary and got favorable treatment in return. It’s a sad day in America when foreign governments with deep pockets have more influence in our own country than our great citizens.”

9 June 2016 - Around 4 p.m., Rob Goldstone and three Russians meet with Donald Trump Jr., Jared Kushner, and Paul Manafort (and a translator) at Trump Tower.  One of the Russians is Ike Kaveladze, and another is Natalia Veselnitskaya — the “Russian government attorney” referenced in Rob Goldstone’s earlier emails to Donald Trump Jr.  According to Veselnitskaya’s 3 Oct. 2017, interview with News Front (reported in Foreign Policy), during their June 9 meeting Donald Trump Jr. asks whether she is in possession of any “financial documents” indicating whether Ziff Brothers had transferred what she describes as stolen funds to the Clinton campaign. She tells him that she does not possess any such documents.  According to later reporting by NBC, Don Jr. asks Veselnitskaya whether she has evidence of illegal donations to the Clinton Foundation. Veselnitskaya says she does not.     

10 June 2016 - Donald Trump tweets 6:40 AM “How long did it take your staff of 823 people to think that up--and where are your 33,000 emails that you deleted?”

12 June 2016 - Julian Assange tells a British Sunday television show that emails related to Hillary Clinton are “pending publication.”

14 June 2016 - Rob Goldstone forwards a CNN story on Russia’s hacking of DNC emails to Emin Agalarov and Ike Kaveladze, including this note: “Top story right now – seems eerily weird based on our Trump meeting last week with the Russian lawyers etc.”

15 June 2016 - A hacker with the online persona “Guccifer 2.0” claims credit for the DNC hack and begins posting internal DNC documents on the Guccifer 2.0 website. CrowdStrike reiterates its conclusion that the hack had been a Russian intelligence operation.  

4 July 2016 - Donald Trump tweets 10:26:56 AM “Crooked Hillary Clinton is "guilty as hell" but the system is totally rigged and corrupt! Where are the 33,000 missing e-mails?”

14 July 2016 - Ahead of the Republican Convention, the Trump campaign works behind the scenes to resist a plank in the 2016 Republican party platform that would have armed the Ukrainian popular resistance with weapons to combat Russia’s 2014 intervention.

14 July 2016 - Another batch of hacked DNC documents appears on the Guccifer 2.0 website.

22 July 2016 - WikiLeaks releases close to 20,000 emails sent to or received by several top Democratic Party officials, along with an online search tool facilitating searches.

25 July 2016 - Donald Trump tweets 9:31PM “The new joke in town is that Russia leaked the disastrous DNC e-mails, which should never have been written (stupid), because Putin likes me”

27 July 2016 - At a press conference, Trump says, “Russia, if you’re listening, I hope you’re able to find the 30,000 emails that are missing. I think you will probably be rewarded mightily by our press.” 

27 July 2016 - Donald Trump tweets 11:16:02 AM “If Russia or any other country or person has Hillary Clinton's 33,000 illegally deleted emails, perhaps they should share them with the FBI!”

28 July 2016 - Appearing on a New York City talk-radio program, Rudy Giuliani refers to Hillary Clinton’s 33,000 emails: “The Russians have those emails. They’ve had them for some time.”

 

 

References:

 

Donald Trump tweets about Hillary Clinton and the emails (http://www.trumptwitterarchive.com)

DNC Lawsuit against Russia, Trump Campaign and Wikileaks (https://www.lawfareblog.com/document-dnc-sues-russia-trump-campaign-and-wikileaks-election-interference)

 

Statement of Offense signed by Papadopoulos and filed by Robert Muller on 10 May 2017 in the US District Court for the District of Columbia:  https://www.businessinsider.com.au/manafort-gates-papadopoulos-court-documents-robert-mueller-russia-2017-11?r=US&IR=T

The Putin Files: Vladimir Kara-Murza: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=yIibXQU_dgo&t=2s

Timeline at https://investigaterussia.org/timelines/everything-we-know-about-russia-and-president-trump

Garth O'Rafferty