Senate Judiciary Panel Releases Trump Tower Meeting Interview Transcripts

WASHINGTON (CN) – The Senate Judiciary Committee on Wednesday released transcripts of its closed-door interviews with Donald Trump Jr. and other attendees of a June 2016 meeting at Trump Tower with a Kremlin-connected lawyer.

Sen. Chuck Grassley, R-Iowa, the judiciary committee’s chairman, promised the release of the transcripts months ago. Now that they’re out, they’re being canvased far and wide for new insights in a key moment in the 2016 presidential campaign.

In a statement released with the more than 2000 pages of documents, the Senate Judiciary Committee described its investigation as “limited,” but said it did find evidence of “multiple contacts between the Trump campaign and Russian government officials or their intermediaries, including offers of assistance and purported overtures from Vladimir Putin” which they believe warrant further investigation.

The interviews conducted by the committee focused on a June 8, 2016, meeting Trump Jr. and other campaign officials held at Trump Tower in New York with Kremlin-connected lawyer Natalia Veselnitskaya.

A preliminary review of the document reveals the president’s eldest son told investigators his father knew nothing of the meeting, but acknowledged that other attendees could have mentioned it to him.

Trump also denied that his father played a role in drafting a July 8, 2017, statement about the meeting, though he also conceded that an effort was made to draft a unified account of what had occurred at Trump Tower.

“I never spoke to my father about it,” Donald Jr. told investigators, before stressing he was unaware of who was involved in drafting it, and rather “there were numerous statements drafted with counsel and other people were involved and, you know, opined.”

As for the president’s involvement in the statement, Donald Jr. said he “may have commented through [former Trump Communications Director] Hope Hicks” but that the final copy of the statement was the product of “lots of people, mostly counsel.”

He went on to say he never consulted with his father about the statement because “I didn’t want to bring him into something that he had nothing to do with.”

In other sections of the documents, Trump Jr. admits attending the meeting in the hope of gathering damaging information about his father’s Democratic opponent, Hillary Clinton, though he says he was unaware of the information’s possible ties to the Kremlin.

“I had no way of assessing where it came from, but I was willing to listen,” he said.

Rob Goldstone, the publicist who helped arrange the meeting, was also interviewed and said he was seeking “dirt” on Clinton. He described his interest as a search for a “smoking gun” to pin on Clinton.

“I requested the meeting. So I thought there might be some — smoking gun might be a bit of a ridiculous word to use, but what I was saying was, I expected there to be something that would make people react, and, therefore, there was a reason to have made this request,” he told investigators. “Based on what I had requested, I believed there would be some “damaging information,” which is why I had been asked to set up the meeting in the first place”

Goldstone said the information he ended up hearing wasn’t “anything that I would deem to be damaging” to Clinton.

According to a preliminary analysis of the documents by Politico, Trump Jr. attorney Alan Futerfas worked with Goldstone, Russian singer Emin Agalarov and Russian executive Ike Kaveladze to make sure their stories lined up.

The Washington Post reports that the transcripts include an account of attempted meeting between Russian President Vladimir Putin and Trump after the 2013 Miss Universe pageant, which was held in Moscow. While Putin was scheduled to meet with Trump following the pageant, it never happened, the newspaper said.

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