For months, there has been heavy scrutiny on the Trump family’s potential connection with Russia. This scrutiny intensified after Donald Trump Jr. released a string of emails that led to his meeting with Russian lawyer Natalia Veselnitskaya.
While Trump Jr. initially maintained the meeting had to do with adoption policies, he later admitted the meeting pertained to potential incriminating information on Hillary Clinton. Despite changing the context of the meeting, Trump Jr. has maintained there was nothing suspicious about what actually happened.
“I didn’t know if there was any credibility, I didn’t know if there was anything behind it, I can’t vouch for the information,” Trump Jr. said in a FOX News interview (via Politico). “Someone sent me an email. I can’t help what someone sends me. I read it, I responded accordingly. It was literally just a wasted 20 minutes, which was a shame.”
Here’s what you need to know.
1. Trump Jr. Released Emails After The New York Times Informed Him They Were Running a Story of His Meeting
On the cusp of The New York Times running another story, Trump Jr. elected to release on Twitter his email exchange with British publicist Rob Goldstone. The New York Times noted the timeline of events leading to his decision to release the emails.
After being told that The Times was about to publish the content of the emails, instead of responding to a request for comment, Donald Trump Jr. tweeted out images of them himself on Tuesday.
‘To everyone, in order to be totally transparent, I am releasing the entire email chain of my emails’ about the June 9 meeting, he wrote. ‘I first wanted to just have a phone call but when that didn’t work out, they said the woman would be in New York and asked if I would meet.’
Trump Jr. has downplayed the significance of the meeting, while critics have noted the Russian connection which the Trumps have continuously denied. When Trump Jr. was initially contacted by The New York Times, he noted the meeting centered on adoption.
“It was a short introductory meeting,” Trump Jr. told The New York Times. “I asked Jared and Paul to stop by. We primarily discussed a program about the adoption of Russian children that was active and popular with American families years ago and was since ended by the Russian government, but it was not a campaign issue at the time and there was no follow up.”
2. Donald Trump Jr., Jared Kushner & Paul Manafort Met With Russian Lawyer Natalia Veselnitskaya on June 9, 2016
The emails released by Trump Jr. are with Goldstone who wished to connect Trump Jr. with potentially incriminating info on Hillary Clinton. Goldstone was connected to Trump Jr. through Russian pop-star Emin Agalarov. After a string of emails, Goldstone connected Trump Jr. with Veselnitskaya on June 9. The story of what was discussed in the meeting has varied.
“After pleasantries were exchanged,” Trump Jr. told The New York Times. “The woman stated that she had information that individuals connected to Russia were funding the Democratic National Committee and supporting Mrs. Clinton. Her statements were vague, ambiguous and made no sense. No details or supporting information was provided or even offered. It quickly became clear that she had no meaningful information.”
3. Russian Pop-Star Emin Agalarov Met Trump Jr. Through the 2013 Miss Universe Pageant
Emin sits as the incongruent character in the Trump Jr. email saga. Agalarov knew Trump Jr. through the 2013 Miss Universe contest which was held in Moscow. Donald Trump appeared in Agalarov’s 2013 music video, “In Another Life”. According to The Atlantic, the singer also held a concert at a Trump golf course.
Emin spoke glowingly of the president in an interview with The Chicago Tribune.
“Donald Trump is a super-successful businessman,” Agalarov told The Chicago Tribune. “His main advantage over other world leaders that sometimes come to power is that he actually ran a huge corporation. He built a big business over the years and guided thousands of people towards certain goals. A lot of the politicians that come to power have never even managed a hundred people. That is his main advantage. He’s very good at it.”
Emin’s father, Aras Agalarov, runs a real estate company called Crocus Group. The New York Times referred to the elder Agalarov as the “Donald Trump of Russia.
4. Veselnitskaya Has Denied She Had Any Connection to the Russian Government
Veselnitskaya denied she was connected to the Kremlin in an NBC interview. She also denied she had any unflattering information on Clinton as Trump Jr. had alluded.
“I never had any damaging or sensitive information about Hillary Clinton. It was never my intention to have that,” Veselnitskaya told NBC. “It is quite possible that maybe they were longing for such an information. They wanted it so badly that they could only hear the thought that they wanted…The question that I was asked [by Donald Trump Jr.] was as follows: whether I had any financial records which might prove that the funds used to sponsor the D.N.C. were coming from inappropriate sources.”
Veselnitskaya noted she had no information on the DNC.
5. There Were Plans for a Trump Tower in Moscow
Days after returning from the 2013 beauty pageant in Russia, Donald Trump tweeted to Aras: “I had a great weekend with you and your family. You have done a FANTASTIC job. TRUMP TOWER-MOSCOW is next. EMIN was WOW!”
Emin noted to Forbes the plans died after the election.
“We thought that building a Trump Tower next to an Agalarov tower—having the two big names—could be a really cool project to execute,” Emin Agalarov told Forbes. “He ran for president, so we dropped the idea, but if he hadn’t run we would probably be in the construction phase today.”