Russian oligarch’s lawyer confirms his client had ‘phone relationship’ with Don Jr. prior to clandestine meeting
In a late-night interview with CNN’s Jim Sciutto and Pamela Brown, Scott Balber — the attorney for Russian oligarch Aras Agalarov and his son Emin — confirmed the Agalarovs spoke President Donald Trump’s son, Donald Trump Jr during the campaign.
“I wanted to bottom line ask did your client speak to Donald Trump Jr. before or after the meeting with the Russian lawyer?” Brown asked the attorney about Natalia Veselnitskaya who met with the Trump campaign in June 2016.
“At some point, before the meeting, yes, but likely months before,” he replied. “He has no recollection of any conversation by telephone or otherwise in this time frame with Donald Trump Jr. either. He doesn’t believe it happened.”
“So when you say months before, was this during the campaign he spoke to him?”
“No, he has no specific recollections of any conversation on this topic. He spoke to Donald Trump Jr. over the course of time during the couple of years before this time frame in which they had known each other but nothing about this issue.”
“So they did have a phone relationship?” Brown asked.
“Uh, they had spoken on the phone at points in time, that’s correct,” Balber said.
“And do you know how many times during the presidential campaign this happened?” Brown asked.
“I have no idea,” the attorney replied.
And what bout his father, Aras, because he did have a relationship with his father, Donald Trump. Did they speak during the campaign?” Brown asked.
“Again, nobody has any recollection of conversations between Aras Agalarov and Donald Trump Sr. during that time frame either,” Balber replied.
Sciutto cut in to ask about a “better sense” of the attorney publicist Rob Goldstone called a “Russian government lawyer.”
“Let me put this in context if I can,” Bilber began. “The story here — the theory is that Russian government was in possession of highly confidential super-secret devastating information about Hillary Clinton that would affect the outcome of the election and change the future of the free world and they debated how should we convey that to the Trump campaign? And someone said let’s get Rob Goldstone, a music publicist to convey the message? And let’s get as many people involved in the conversation and do it by email. It just makes no sense. And the answer to your question is –”
Sciutto cut in again: “To be fair Goldstone, yes, set up the meeting but the lawyer is a very well-connected lawyer with an effort, a history of challenging U.S. sanctions against Russians accused of human rights abuses, so these are big issues and she was at the center of fighting those issues. She didn’t just come out of nowhere.”
Balber conceded that she has been an opponent to many issues but that she doesn’t work for and is not associated with the Russian government in any way — as far as they know.
“What do you base your certainty on?” Sciutto probed.
The lawyer explained that the only capacity in which Agalarov knows Veselnitskaya is as a real estate attorney in Moscow. He went on to say that at no time did his clients ever direct Goldstone to say the things he said in the email to Trump Jr. nor did they talk about those issues with Mr. Goldstone.
When asked about any ties to Russian President Vladimir Putin the attorney said that his clients don’t have a relationship with him other than receiving a high-level award from him.
“Well, not an insignificant high-level award,” Sciutto noted. “Awarded to people who President Putin considers important people. So, are you saying there’s no relationship or it was not a particularly close relationship?”
“I’m saying it’s the case that he’s an important person in the Russian Federation, a successful businessman, involved in lots of activities which have put him in high prominence,” Balber said. “He doesn’t have a personal relationship with Putin anymore than any other powerful person has with their leadership.”
Balber also noted that he is looking back through documents, emails and phone records with his clients in the way that the Trumps have done surrounding this meeting but there is “no recollection” that there were phone calls before or after these emails were sent by Goldstone.
Forbes reporter Noah Kirsch said that Feb. 28 he spoke with Emin. ” He told me he was in recent contact with both Donald Trump Jr and Eric Trump,” Kirsch tweeted late Thursday.
Watch the full conversation below: