In June of 2016, Donald Trump Jr. met with a Russian lawyer named Nataliya Veselnitskaya in Trump Tower in a meeting that wouldn’t be made public until 2017. You can probably remember the media’s angle on the story – that President Donald Trump’s own son was meeting with a Russian to garner dirt on Hillary Clinton. While entirely legal, it immediately bolstered the “collusion” narrative – but it should’ve done just the opposite.
We know now that nothing about the meeting was what it seemed. While Veselnitskaya promised Trump Jr. dirt on Hillary when pushing a mutual acquaintance to set up the meeting, she didn’t even pretend to possess that information when meeting Trump Jr. in person. And that wasn’t the only thing she lied about. In fact, setting up the meeting under false pretenses is the least sinister part of this story.
2016 Trump Tower Meeting Looks Increasingly Like a Setup by Russian and Clinton Operatives https://t.co/rYkoAtIHvp
— Sean Davis (@seanmdav) August 13, 2018
In an explosive piece at Real Clear Politics, writer Lee Smith breaks down how the meeting was a setup from the get-go – from the very campaign Veselnitskaya pretended she wanted to help take down. As Lee Writes, ” the first line of evidence includes emails, texts, and memos recently turned over to Congress by the Department of Justice. They show how closely senior Justice Department officials and the Federal Bureau of Investigation worked with employees of Fusion GPS, a Washington-based research firm reportedly paid $1 million by Clinton operatives to dig up dirt on the Trump campaign.”
While Fusion GPS was employing Christopher Steele to compile his anti-Trump dossier, they were also working with Veselnitskaya. In fact, Veselnitskaya met with Fusion GPS’ co-founder Glenn Simpson the day of her meeting with Trump Jr., and the night of the day before. What could they have possibly talked about, if not the meeting?
Lee notes that while Simpson has denied under Senate testimony that he and Veselnitskaya spoke about the Trump Tower meeting, “she has publicly stated that she used talking points [in the Trump Tower meeting] developed by Simpson for the Russian government in that discussion. Kremlin officials also posted the allegations on the Prosecutor General’s website, and shared them with visiting U.S. congressional delegations.” Veselnitskaya mainly talked to Trump Jr. about removing sanctions on Russia during that Trump Tower meeting, hence the talking points mentioned.
So, Fusion was working with Veselnitskaya to help her advance Russian interests – while employing Christopher Steele to claim that it was Trump conspiring with the Russians. “Simpson approached the Clinton campaign through its law firm and said he could dig up dirt on Trump and Russia,” said one congressional investigator. “The difference between the Trump and Clinton campaigns’ willingness to take dirt on its opponent is that the Clintons went through with it and paid for it. While their source, Glenn Simpson, was working for a Russian oligarch.” The oligarch referenced is Denis Katsyv, who attended the Trump Tower meeting with Veselnitskaya.
The meeting was brokered through a mutual acquaintance named Rob Goldstone. Goldstone is the publicist for a musician that Trump knew through his work with the Miss Universe competition. In the email that Goldstone sent to Trump Jr. requesting the meeting, the language seems oddly precise. In fact, Lee argues that the specificity of the phrasing in Goldstone’s email appears designed to establish the case for collusion: “This is obviously very high level and sensitive information but is part of Russia and its government’s support for Mr. Trump” Goldstone wrote to Trump Jr.
Remember, for all the criticism Trump Jr. faced in the Trump Tower meeting, 100% of that had to do with appearances. As one former FBI agent put it, “it’s not clear why the Russian government needed a British music publicist to make an overture. And why would Moscow need to send a Russian lawyer who didn’t speak English to Trump Tower? That tends to confirm that the meeting was intended as a setup.”
Indeed it was a setup – and it was a setup aimed to give the appearance of collusion between the Russians and the Trump campaign when there was none.