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Donald Trump Jr. and a Russian lawyer: The story behind the story

The tale of Trump Junior's meeting with a Russian lawyer who was said to have dirt on Hillary

Jo Becker | NYT 

Doanld Trump Jr
Doanld Trump Jr. Photo: Youtube

Here’s a quick look at how The New York Times unraveled the story of Jr.’s  decision to meet with a Russian lawyer who supposedly had compromising information on Hillary Clinton. The information, he was told, was being offered to his father’s campaign as “part of Russia and its government’s support for Mr. Trump.”

A relative and a Russian Meeting

The Times disclosed that Jared Kushner, the president’s son-in-law, had met during the transition with the Russian ambassador to the United States and the head of a sanctioned bank owned by the Russian state who had once attended an academy for Russian spies.

A Consequential Omission

The Times disclosed that Mr. Kushner, who is a top White House aide, had failed to report contacts with foreign officials, including his meetings with the Russian ambassador to the United States and the Russian banker, on confidential forms required to obtain a security clearance. Willfully failing to report all encounters with foreign government officials and their representatives can result in losing top secret clearances and even jail time. Mr. Kushner, responding to The Times, said he had immediately notified the F.B.I. that he would be amending his list of foreign contacts.

Team Trump and the Kremlin-Linked Lawyer

The Times reported that Jr. had set up a meeting during the campaign with a Kremlin-connected lawyer and that he had asked Mr. Kushner, along with the campaign chief Paul Manafort, to attend. That disclosure was based in part on a newly filed security clearance form on which Mr. Kushner listed the Russian lawyer’s name. Mr. Trump told The Times that the meeting had been primarily about a ban on adoptions by American families of Russian children. He did not respond to questions about why he thought it necessary for both Mr. Kushner and Mr. Manafort to attend.

A Shifting Account

The Times reported that Jr. had agreed to the June 9, 2016, meeting with the Kremlin-connected lawyer after being promised information damaging to his father’s Democratic opponent, Hillary Clinton. Mr. Trump’s explanation for the meeting then morphed: He acknowledged that the lawyer had offered him information on Mrs. Clinton but said that her statements had “made no sense” and that the information was not “meaningful.” The back story to the June 9 meeting involves an eclectic cast of characters the Trump family knew from its business dealings in Moscow, including Rob Goldstone, a former British tabloid journalist and president of a company called Oui 2 Entertainment who has worked with the Miss Universe pageant.

A Friendly Assist From Abroad

The Times reported that Jr. and an intermediary had exchanged a series of emails setting up the June 9 meeting — and that the emails showed he was told beforehand that the material was part of a Russian government effort to aid his father’s candidacy. In a  June 3 email, Mr. Goldstone, the entertainment executive, told Mr. Trump that he was writing on behalf of a mutual friend, one of Russia’s biggest pop music stars, Emin Agalarov. The musician. known as Emin, is the son of Aras Agalarov, a real estate tycoon sometimes called the “of Russia.” Donald J. Trump appeared in a music video for Emin, delivering his trademark line: “You’re fired!”

Dirt on Hillary? ‘I Love It.’  

The Times published the contents of those emails, which suggested that Jr. had no qualms about receiving information damaging to Mrs. Clinton that appeared to be coming from high up in the Kremlin, relayed by a “Russian government attorney.”  “I love it,” he replied via email. Told that The Times was going to publish the contents of his emails, he went into damage-control mode, hastily posting photos of the email chain, along with a statement, minutes before The Times published its story.

© 2017 The New York Times News Service