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Publicist at center of Trump Jr.-Russia meeting breaks silence

Rob Goldstone. Photo: Irina Bujor/Kommersant Photo via AP

Rob Goldstone, the music publicist who helped arrange the June, 2016 Trump Tower meeting between the Trump campaign and a Russian lawyer and lobbyist has broken his silence in an interview with Philip Sherwell in the Sunday Times of London.

Key takeaways: Goldstone, who says he was in the meeting at Trump Jr.'s request, says after beginning under the premise of dirt on Hillary Clinton, the meeting shifted focus to the Magnitsky Act. He describes Jared Kushner as "furious," and says Paul Manafort seemed to be paying little attention to what was being said.

  • Goldstone: "First of all, if Russian intelligence had used me in some way, as people perceive, but which I don't believe, then they'll know I don't know anything. If Russian intelligence hasn't used me, but are intelligent, they will equally know I don't know anything and this is all nonsense."
  • Was he part of a Russian plot? "When people said that, I thought it was the most ridiculous thing I've ever heard. That doesn't mean that maybe there wasn't any Russian interference or Trump campaign collusion in other ways. I don't know. But I'm sure I wasn't part of it."

The background

The interview took place in Southeast Asia, where Sherwell is based and where Goldstone has been traveling and trying to avoid the spotlight. Quick refresher:

  • June 3, 2016: Goldstone emails Trump Jr. saying the crown prosecutor of Russia wants to provide information that "would incriminate Hillary and her dealings with Russia and would be very useful to your father" as "part of Russia and its government's support for Mr. Trump." Trump Jr. replies, "If it's what you say it is, I love it."
  • June 9, 2016: The meeting with Kremlin-linked lawyer Natalia Veselnitskaya takes place at Trump Tower. Trump Jr., Manfort and Kushner attend.
  • July 8, 2017: NY Times reports that the meeting took place.
  • July 11, 2017: Trump Jr. publishes his emails with Goldstone.

Goldstone on how the meeting came together

  • He says client Emin Agalarov, a Russian singer and the son of an oligarch, called him wanting him to arrange the meeting. He "puffed up" the language Agalarov gave him and sent it in a message to Trump Jr.
  • "All I had to do was facilitate a meeting, he said, after which I walk away from it and whatever comes of it, thank you very much."
  • "I remember specifically saying to Emin, you know, we probably shouldn't get involved in this. It's politics, it's Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump. Neither of us have any experience in this world."
  • "I should have listened to that little voice in my head. But I never thought in a million years that an email I wrote in about three minutes to Don Jr would be examined by the world many times over. I just needed to get him to respond. I could have said that the Russian attorney believes she found a black hole, or believes Santa is real, it didn't really matter. So when he replied, 'If it's what you say it is, I love it,' I just thought my teaser had worked."

Goldstone on the meeting

  • "I believe that she practiced a classic bait-and-switch. She got in there on one pretext and really wanted to discuss something else."
  • "It was vague, generic nonsense."
  • "Don Jr ended it by telling her that she should be addressing her concerns to the Obama administration, because they were the ones in power."

Goldstone on Goldstone

  • "So when people ask why some music publicist was involved in all this, well, I was always the conduit, the Mr Go-To, between the Agalarovs and the Trumps."
  • "If I'm guilty of anything, and I hate the word guilty, it's hyping the message and going the extra mile for my clients. Using hot-button language to puff up the information I had been given. I didn't make up the details, I just made them sound more interesting."
  • "I believe [Trump Jr.] acted like a son and not like someone who was versed in the world of politics. The campaign chairman, Manafort, was sitting there, so shouldn't he have said to him, 'We can't have this meeting'? Should Don Jr have sent this over to the FBI when I sent the email? And should they have said to me, 'Who is this woman and what did she know?' Yes, probably. Did he? No. So, you know what, I think he has already apologized. And I can apologize in some way for having sent the email in the first place.

Bonus, on the Trump-Russia dossier

"I can't comment about the contents of the Steele dossier, but I can tell you that there were only a few hours during a very busy schedule when Trump was back in his room at the Ritz-Carlton," Goldstone, who was with Trump for most of the trip, says.

What's next?

  • Goldstone has agreed to meet with Robert Mueller's team and congressional investigators. No date has been set for those meetings, and he's not under subpoena.
  • Goldstone says he is writing a book. The title: "Useful Idiot: How an Email Trumped My Life".
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