CNN reports that the mystery of who was behind the blocked numbers Donald Trump Jr spoke to as the June 9, 2016 Trump Tower meeting was being planned has been uncovered by Senate investigators.
ABC and the New York Times both reported on the identities of the blocked numbers which produced speculation after Donald Trump Jr told the Senate Judiciary Committee that he couldn’t remember who he talked to in while planning the Trump Tower meeting with Emin Agalarov. The speculation came from whether Trump Jr informed his then-candidate father about the offer of dirt on his opponent Hillary Clinton from Russian nationals during three calls with a blocked number.
Sources say that the calls were between Donald Trump Jr and real estate developer Howard Lorber and Brian France, NASCAR CEO. Both men are friends of the Trump family and were supporters of the Trump campaign. Lorber has had extensive investments in Russia and worked with the elder Trump, accompanying Trump to Moscow in 1996 as they worked on developing a Trump Tower there, the Times reports.
The planning for the Trump Tower meeting, which Jr, Kushner, and Manafort attended with Natalia Neselvitskaya, who since has admitted to being a Russian informant and was indicted on a separate case in January, spanned several days. On June 6, in the midst of several calls back and forth between Jr and Agalarov, Trump Jr received two calls from a blocked number, either Lorber or France. One call of the blocked calls was at 4:47 pm, the other at 8:40 pm. A final call came after the meeting was over on June 9.
President Trump tweeted about the revelations, which he believes exonerates him from any involvement in a meeting that he helped cover up and claims was totally innocent.
Why It Matters
As usual, President Trump has claimed victory from evidence that doesn’t quite get him there. It is true that the calls that Democrats, and many others, have wondered about for more than a year were not made by Trump.
However, that fact does not mean the president knew nothing about a meeting his son, son-in-law, and campaign manager took with Russians offering dirt on his opponent. The very offer of such a meeting immediately should have been turned over to the FBI, who had in fact warned the Trump campaign of the Russians desire to meddle in the election.
That it wasn’t raises concerns. The fact that when the meeting was discovered by the press, President Trump helped cover it up also is a problem. Why did Jr lie about not knowing who the blocked calls were from? The possibility of the calls being from Lorber is also interesting, given his work in the past to make Trump Tower Moscow a reality.
Then there is the statement President Trump made on June 7 in his victory speech, the night he claimed the mantle of the GOP nominee. He said, “I am going to give a major speech on probably Monday of next week, and we’re going to be discussing all of the things that have taken place with the Clintons. I think you’re going to find it very informative and very, very interesting.” June 7 was the day Donald Trump Jr finalized the plans to have the meeting he had been told would give him dirt on Hillary Clinton.
The bottom line is we still don’t know the extent of the knowledge President Trump had about this meeting and, in light of the intelligence community assessment that Russia meddled in our 2016 president election, the public deserves to know what the President knew and when he knew it.
The Washington Post offers a timeline of the events leading up to the meeting, based on the transcripts of Donald Trump Jr’s testimony to the Senate Judiciary Committee in May 2018, that is useful to understanding this story and I recommend you give it a look