Sat, 20 Jul 2019

Senate panel releases report on Trump Tower meeting

By Sheetal Sukhija, Vermont State News
17 May 2018, 04:15 GMT+10

WASHINGTON, U.S. - In a report that is set to hurt the Trump administration, a Senate Panel on Wednesday released documents related to the controversial Trump Tower meeting held in June 2016. 

Revelations about the meeting, that first emerged last year, and then through other leaks through 2017 stirred up a scandal, rattling the Trump administration.

Now, the documents released by the Senate panel about the meeting between top Trump campaign aides and a Russian delegation promising political "dirt" include 2,500 pages of transcripts.

These include details on the interviews with Donald Trump's eldest son, Donald Trump Jr, who met a Russian lawyer ahead of the 2016 election, in the hope of receiving some dirt on the President's rival in the election - Hillary Clinton.

Despite several media reports drawing links and digging up her part, the Russian lawyer, Natalia Veselnitskaya, denies working on behalf of Moscow.

Soon after the revelations first emerged, the meeting was included as part of an ongoing probe by the U.S. Department of Justice into alleged Russia meddling in 2016 that is now in its second year.

On Wednesday, after additional witness interview, the documents were released by the Chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee, Chuck Grassley.

In a statement on Wednesday after releasing the documents, the Republican senator said, "Americans rightly have many questions about this meeting, and today, we are releasing the transcripts and exhibits from interviews we've conducted to allow the public to know what we know. These materials, taken in their entirety, provide the most complete public picture of the events surrounding the meeting to date."

Earlier this year, Grassley decided that he would permit the release the 2,500 pages of transcripts, a decision which the Democrats welcomed.

In January, Grassley said, "Let's get them out there for everyone to see."

According to reports, as part of several investigations into Russia's alleged interference in the U.S. election, the Senate Judiciary Committee interviewed Trump Jr and four other people who attended the June 9, 2016 meeting at Trump Tower in New York.

The panel head testimony from Rob Goldstone, who arranged the meeting with Veselnitskaya; Rinat Akhmetshin, Russian-American lobbyist; Ike Kaveladze, Georgian-American businessman and a translator.

While Veselnitskaya was not interviewed, the committee released her written responses to a letter that Grassley sent her in 2017.

Meanwhile, officials revealed that two people who attended the 2016 meeting - Jared Kushner, the president's son-in-law and senior White House advisor and Paul Manafort, then-campaign manager, declined to be interviewed for the investigation.

The documents show that during his interview with the Senate Judiciary Committee, Trump Jr said that his father and the President Donald Trump may have weighed in directly as his lawyers crafted an initial response to news reports that his top campaign aides met in Trump Tower with Russian emissaries during the 2016 campaign.

According to the documents, the first first public response to the revelations stated that the focus of the meeting was "adoptions."

However, this response failed to mention that the meeting took place only after the Russians promised to deliver "dirt" on Trump's Democratic rival.

This particular omission has become a topic of interest to Special Counsel Robert Mueller, who is leading the grueling probe into collusion and possible obstruction of justice by Trump.

Commenting on one of the president's closest and longest-serving aides, Trump Jr. reportedly told the Senate, "He may have commented through Hope Hicks. I believe some [of Trump's comments] may have been [incorporated into the formal response], but this was an effort through lots of people, mostly counsel."

Later, the President's son told the senators that he never mentioned to his father he was going to hold the meeting and did not think he talked with him about it immediately afterward.

He reportedly said, "I wouldn't have wasted his time with it."

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