The Senate on Wednesday released thousands of pages of documents related to testimony about the infamous June 2016 Trump Tower meeting in which Donald Trump Jr., Jared Kushner and former Trump campaign chairman Paul Manafort met with Russian officials who had promised to give them damaging information about Democratic rival Hillary Clinton.
The full transcripts, however, open up more questions than they answer, as Trump Jr. and other witnesses claimed that they could not recall key details about things they had done during the 2016 presidential campaign.
Below, we’ll go through the most burning questions raised by the release of the Senate’s Trump Tower transcripts.
1.) Why did publicist Rob Goldstone try to set up a meeting between Trump and Putin just one month after he launched his presidential bid? Goldstone, the publicist who works for the family of Russian pop singer Emin Agalarov, was the man who set up the meeting between top Trump campaign officials and Russian officials in 2016.
But documents released by the Senate show that Goldstone actually tried to set up a direct meeting between Trump and Russian President Vladimir Putin himself just one month after Trump launched his presidential campaign in the summer of 2015.
“Maybe he would welcome a meeting with President Putin which Emin would set up,” Goldstone wrote to longtime Trump secretary Rhona Graff in July 2015.
Graff responded that she did not think Trump would have time to go to Moscow during the presidential campaign, although she said Trump “would be honored” that Emin offered to set up the meeting.
2.) What is the meaning of former campaign chairman Paul Manafort’s cryptic notes? Even though Trump Jr. insisted that nothing nefarious occurred during the Trump Tower meeting, contemporaneous notes taken at the time by Manafort suggest something was, in fact, in play.
While the notes are very cryptic, they do contain some intriguing phrases that need to be explained to understand the true nature of the meeting.
Among other things, Manafort’s notes reference “Offshore – Cyprus” followed by “133 million shares” of undisclosed “companies.”
Cyprus has become notorious in recent years as a haven for turning a blind eye to money laundering operations conducted on its soil by Russian oligarchs — why was Manafort writing about it in a meeting that was supposedly about Russian adoption policies?
Elsewhere in the notes, Manafort writes the phrase, “Value in Cypress as inter,” followed by the word “illici,” followed by the phrase “Active sponsors of RNC.”
While none of these notes is definitive proof of Trump campaign collusion, they do suggest that there is still a lot more that we don’t know about what was discussed at the Trump Tower meeting — especially since the Senate hasn’t even called Manafort yet to testify about his cryptic notes.
3.) Who was the person behind the “blocked number” who talked with Trump Jr.? During his testimony, senators noted that, in between two calls he had with Emin Agalarov to discuss the Trump Tower meeting in 2016, Trump Jr. had a four-minute conversation with someone whose telephone number was blocked.
When asked by investigators whom he’d been talking with in between calls with Agalarov, Trump Jr. replied that he couldn’t remember.
Democratic lawmakers have speculated that the blocked phone number was from Trump himself — and Trump Jr.’s claim to not remember whom he’s spoken with will only add fuel to that speculation.
4.) How can Trump Jr. possibly claim he doesn’t remember ever talking about the Russia probe with his own father? Even though the Russia scandal has been the single biggest story in the news for the past year and a half, Trump Jr. tried to tell investigators that he didn’t remember mentioning it to his father at all until after revelations about the Trump Tower meeting became public last year.
“I mean, obviously he’s aware of it now because he’s read it, it’s been in the papers, but that’s the extent of my knowledge of his knowledge about it,” Trump Jr. told investigators last year.
Trump Jr. also told investigators that he had no idea whether Trump had been involved in crafting the misleading statement issued last year claiming that the meetings with Russian officials were only about adoption policies. When asked why he didn’t seek his father’s input in writing the statement, Trump Jr. replied that the Trump Tower meeting had nothing to do with his father — despite the fact that it was designed to help his own presidential campaign.
5.) Did former White House Communications Director Anthony Scaramucci seek permission to reach out to Rob Goldstone even after revelations came out that he’d set up the Trump Tower meeting? And if so, from whom?
Shortly after Trump hired him to be his new communications director last summer, Scaramucci sent an email to Goldstone — who by that point was well known as the man who set up the Trump Tower meeting — offering him assistance.
“I just wanted to drop you a line to say if you ever need to pick my brains then my door is always open,” Scaramucci wrote to him. “Obviously, there is still pressure on all sides, but if we remain consistent and united, I don’t envisage any issues we can’t ride out.”
Was Scaramucci just freelancing — or did Trump give him the go-ahead to reach out to a key figure in the Russia investigation?