June 9, 2016 saw Paul Manafort attending a fateful meeting in Trump Tower with Donald Trump Jr. and Jared Kushner. The meeting, arranged by the Agalrovs, with a Russian lawyer named Natalia Veselnitskaya who has since admitted to being a Russian informant, would become a flash point in the Russia Investigation. The fact that the administration had evolving stories to defend the meeting when the press accidentally discovered it was a red flag and Special Counsel Mueller has looked into the role of the attendees.
Paul Manafort, who was indicted on October 27, 2017 on charges of conspiracy, money laundering and failure to register as a foreign agents, was raided in the early hours of July 26, 2017. Court filings from April 2018 revealed that Mueller’s team was, in part, looking for “communications, records, documents, and other files involving any of the attendees of the June 9, 2016 meeting at Trump Tower, as well as Aras and [Emin] Agalarov.”
Included in the documents released by the Senate Judiciary Committee on Wednesday is a one-page document submitted by Paul Manafort, the former campaign chairman for Donald Trump’s 2016 effort. Manafort was serving in that role on June 9, 2016, when he joined Donald Trump Jr. and campaign adviser Jared Kushner in a meeting with a Kremlin-linked attorney who had promised incriminating information about Hillary Clinton.
The Trump Tower meeting is still a bit of a mystery. We have emails, released by Donnie Jr, in which the planning for the meeting was detailed. To help us understand what went on, we have Veselnitskaya’s talking points which show the meeting largely lined up with the claim it was about adoptions. And we have Paul Manafort’s notes.
The notes are cryptic, brief phrases likely covering topics that were brought up, which largely line up with Veselnitskaya’s talking points which support the claim the meeting was about adoptions. Manafort’s notes are useful in that they show Manafort’s interest in the meeting as he documented a meeting in which the son of a Republican presidential candidate believed would entail a Russian lawyer providing dirt on the Democratic rival.
- Bill browder
- Offshore — Cyprus
- 133m shares
- Not invest — loan
- Value in Cyprus as inter
- Active sponsors of RNC
- Browder hired Joanna Glover
- Tied into Cheney
- Russian adoption by American families
There is much speculation about what Manafort’s quick notes on his phone mean. But there are some leaps that we can make and assumptions that can be made.
First, one needs to understand the significance of the Magnitsky Act, properly known as Russia and Moldova Jackson–Vanik Repeal and Sergei Magnitsky Rule of Law Accountability Act of 2012. This was a bipartisan bill passed in 2012 and signed by President Obama with the intention of punishing Russian officials responsible for the death of Sergei Magnitsky. Sergei Magnitsky was a Russian accountant who died after being imprisoned in 2009. He had been investigating tax fraud by Russian officials. He was accused of being responsible for the $230 million fraud he had revealed and was imprisoned. When he became ill in prison, he was refused medical treatment and was likely beaten to death.
The law sanctioned 18 individuals for their role in Magnitsky’s death by prohibiting their entrance into the United States and the use of the US banking system. Those sanctions resulted in the Russian government retaliating by banning American adoption of Russian children. It is this conflict that was addressed at the Trump Tower meeting on June 9, 2016 although Donald Trump Jr. was convinced the meeting was about getting dirt on Hillary Clinton.
Bill Browder, Joanna Glover, and Cheney
The first note on the page of notes taken by Manafort is “Bill Browder”.
Bill Browder is an American-British businessman whose company Hermitage Capital Management employed Magnitsky and made public accusations of fraud on the part of Russian tax officials. When Magnitsky died in jail, Browder brought the case to the attention of American legislators and lobbied successfully for legislation to be passed to sanction the individuals involved in his friend Sergei Magnitsky’s death.
The Russian lawyer’s talking points show how Bill Browder is despised by the Kremlin – they hold him responsible for sanctions that hurt Russia and Russian officials.
The reference to Joanna Glover likely is a misspelling of Juleanna Glover, who Browder had hired to work with him in lobbying for the Magnitsky Act. Juleanna Glover had also worked for VP Dick Cheney previously.
Veselnitskaya, who now admits she is a Russian informant, made the case to those in attendance at the meeting that Browder is the corrupt one and is responsible for Magnitsky’s death. If one doubts how important Bill Browder is to the Kremlin, one needs only to watch today’s joint press conference between President’s Trump and Putin, where Putin mentions Browder by name.
Off-Shore – Cyprus, 133m shares, Companies
Business Insider reports this is likely a reference to Browder’s hedge fund activities.
According to testimony from Glenn Simpson, the cofounder of the opposition-research firm Fusion GPS, “Cyprus Offshore” likely referred to Browder’s hedge fund’s practice of setting up companies in Cyprus “to engage in inward investment into Russia.” Simpson added that it was “a common structure, both partially for tax reasons but also to have entities outside of Russia, you know, managing specific investments.”
133 million shares in the Russian company Gazprom is likely the references being made in this portion of Manafort’s notes.
“Illici” is assumed to be a typo for “illicit” and, according to the Washington Post, “RNC” was possibly a typo or auto correction for “DNC”.
Rinat Akhmetshin, who attended the meeting with Veselnitskaya, told the Associated Press that the Democratic National Committee had been the recipient of a “flow of illicit funds” tied to people in Russia. It’s possible that Manafort, taking notes on his phone, meant to type “DNC” but instead typed (or had his notes corrected to) “RNC.”
Russian adoption by American families
At this point, apparently Manafort stopped taking notes after he realized that the dirt on Hillary Clinton was not forthcoming, as the lawyer revealed her real objective: to lobby the Republican candidate for president for the repeal of the Magnitsky sanctions so Russia could once again allow Americans to adopt Russian children. This might be chalked up to a miscommunication if not for the fact that Natalia Veselnitskaya is working for the Kremlin. And Manfort’s notes lining up with the talking points she released and abruptly stopping seems of note.
In addition to the obvious problems surrounding the deceptive statement that President Trump crafted for Jr. to give to the press and Hope Hick’s statement that the emails never had to come out, there are other aspects that Mueller is undoubtedly delving into. Vox reports that the evolving stories and partial admissions from the Trump administration are concerning.
When it comes to the Trump Tower meeting, Wheeler posits that the various meeting participants and associated lawyers could be trying to “craft a story” that will provide a seemingly benign explanation for all the potentially incriminating documents and evidence they know of. She says the disclosures so far could be a “limited hangout,” which is a spy term used by Nixon’s aides during the Watergate cover-up. Essentially, this refers to partial admissions meant to serve as a smokescreen to obscure something else.
It’s not, Wheeler posits, that everything we’ve heard about the Trump Tower meeting is totally false. It’s more that it’s incomplete. In particular, her writings have raised several interesting questions about the story.
Manafort, facing his first trial in Virginia beginning on July 25, attended the Trump Tower meeting and, to our knowledge, is the only one in the campaign who took notes. His deputy, Rick Gates, has pleaded guilty and is cooperating with the investigation. Whether Paul Manafort takes his chances with the justice system or gives into pressure to cooperate with the Special Counsel’s investigation remains to be seen.
Donald Trump Jr.
Trump Tower Meeting