By Aaron Klein
NEW YORK — A Russian businessman who was present at the infamous, brief meeting at Trump Tower on June 9, 2016 has provided the most extensive publicly documented description yet about what allegedly transpired inside the room in which Russian nationals met with Donald Trump Jr. and other campaign officials.
Irakly “Ike” Kaveladze is senior vice president at Crocus Group, the real estate development firm run by Russian oligarch Aras Agalarov, whose associate and son were both reportedly involved in setting up the Trump Tower meeting.
In testimony before the Senate Judiciary Committee that was recently made public, Kaveladze related that no one at the meeting presented themselves there as representing the Russian government, no one discussed hacked emails and no conversation took place that could possibly be characterized as “collusion” between Russia and the Trump campaign.
In the testimony, reviewed in full by Breitbart News, Kaveladze asserted that the meeting was an informational presentation that focused largely the Magnitsky Act, which sanctions Russian officials accused of involvement in the death of a Russian tax accountant. In his testimony, he further related how he called the meeting “boring” when describing it afterwards.
Kaveladze said that the senior Trump campaign officials present at the meeting — Paul Manafort, Donald Trump Jr. and Jared Kushner — didn’t seem interested in any of the information discussed.
He described Kushner as being “very frustrated” that he was wasting his time at the meeting and Manafort as busy on his phone and not even paying attention during the presentation.
“And at some point of time, Mr. Kushner asked a question,” recalled Kaveladze, who does not seem to speak fluent English. “I can’t give you word by word, but I think the idea was: ‘Why are we here and why are we listening to that Magnitsky Act story?’”
Kaveladze also described Trump Jr. as politely ending the meeting by telling participants that “we’re in the middle of electoral campaign” and “we’re extremely busy right now.”
Contrary to suggestions that the meeting represented some sort of shadowy intended collusion, Kaveladze said that the meeting was not arranged as a secret and that he told “a lot of people” about it beforehand, including family members and even a neighbor.
While the get-together reportedly involved a Russian attorney largely discussing the Magnitsky Act, the confab was scheduled with Trump Jr. under very different pretenses.
Trump Jr. previously explained that he took the meeting thinking it was about “opposition research” on Hillary Clinton and was disappointed that it wasn’t. Trump Jr. also said the meeting lasted about 20 minutes, “ended up being about essentially nothing that was relevant,” was set up in a manner that “was essentially a bait and switch” and “everyone has basically said that in testimony already.”
The meeting was arranged by Rob Goldstone, the English publicist and music manager.
Goldstone admitted that when he wrote Trump Jr. to set up the meeting with the Russian attorney at Trump Tower he used deliberately hyperbolic language to ensure that the meeting took place. In testimony to the Senate Judiciary Committee, Goldstone further said that he believes the meeting was a “bait and switch” by a Russian lobbyist seeking a meeting on another matter by misleadingly claiming to be bringing the Trump campaign dirt on Clinton.
Goldstone contacted Trump Jr. on behalf of his client Emin Agalarov, a Russian singer and businessman who is the son the Russian oligarch Aras Agalarov.
Aras Agalarov organized the 2013 Miss Universe pageant in Moscow when the pageant was partially owned by Donald Trump.
On June 3, 2016, Goldstone sent the following email to Trump Jr.:
Emin just called and asked me to contact you with something very interesting.
The Crown prosecutor of Russia met with his father Aras this morning and in their meeting offered to provide the Trump campaign with some official documents and information that would incriminate Hillary and her dealings with Russia and would be very useful to your father. This is obviously very high level and sensitive information but is part of Russia and its government’s support for Mr. Trump — helped along by Aras and Emin.
What do you think is the best way to handle this information and would you be able to speak to Emin about it directly?
I can also send this info to your father via Rhona, but it is ultra sensitive so wanted to send to you first.
Russia does not have a “Crown prosecutor.” Rhona Graff served as President Donald Trump’s longtime secretary.
Speaking in his Senate testimony, Kaveladze said that he didn’t see Goldstone’s email claiming incriminating information on Clinton before the meeting. He says that Aras Agalarov contacted him on June 6, 2016 to tell him about the meeting. He said Agalarov “asked me if I knew anything about (the) Magnitsky Act, and I said I did, and so he said the meeting is going to be about Magnitsky Act.”
Kaveladze said that two days prior to the meeting, he received an email from Goldstone informing him about three individuals who were going to be at the meeting.
That was when Kaveladze says he called an associate of Goldstone, Roman Beniaminov, who first told him that “as far as he heard” an attorney who would be present “had some negative information on Hillary Clinton.” He said that Beniaminov told him that he did not have any details on the alleged “negative information” concerning Clinton and that he overheard that suggestion from Goldstone.
Kaveladze, who attended as a representative of Agalarov, says that he grew concerned about the suggestion the meeting would involve opposition information on Clinton.
He said that his concerns were put to rest just before the Trump Tower meeting when he had lunch with the attorney in question, Russian lawyer Natalia Veselnitskaya, who opposes the Magnitsky Act and led the meeting at Trump Tower.
The businessman says that Veselnitskaya gave him an 11-page synopsis of what she had planned to discuss at the meeting. He says the only reference to Clinton was “one sentence” about how Ziff Brothers Investments, an American firm, had been accused of evading Russian taxes and two of the company’s leaders are major donors to Democratic candidates, including Clinton. That information was already a matter of public record.
Kaveladze says that the Russian attorney said that she would stick to the synopsis and stated that he was “relieved” that nothing else about Clinton would be discussed.
“I didn’t want to be a part of a meeting where some negative information on a presidential candidate would be discussed,” the businessman told the Senate hearing. “So, honestly, I was considering if I realized during the lunch that the meeting would be about negative information on Ms. Clinton, I’m not going to go to that meeting.”
In the following exchange, Kaveladze affirmed, under the penalty of perjury, that the meeting did not involve any coordination between the Trump campaign and Russia, and that no one at the meeting even claimed to be representing the Russian government:
Q: Did anyone at the meeting offer to release hacked emails to aid the Trump campaign?
Q: Did anyone offer to manufacture and distribute fake news to aid the Trump campaign?
Q: Did anyone offer to hack State voter registration systems to obtain voter data to aid the Trump campaign?
Q: To the best of your recollection, was there any discussion of anything that might reasonably be considered collusion between the Trump campaign and the Russian Government?
“No one claimed to be working for Russian government,” he further testified.
“So, Ms. Veselnitskaya did not claim that she was working for the Russian Government in her introduction; is that correct?” Kaveladze was asked.
“No, she did not,” he responded.
Kaveladze says that when the meeting ended after Veselnitskaya’s presentation, he recalls seeing Goldstone “approaching Donald Trump Jr., and apologizing for — I mean, I don’t remember the wording, but for stupid meeting, or something like that, he has set up.”
Kaveladze says that he doesn’t believe anyone from the Trump campaign made any comment about wanting a follow-up meeting, and no action was asked of the Trump campaign if Donald Trump won the 2016 presidential election.
Later in his testimony, Kaveladze recalls describing the meeting as “boring” to an unnamed individual, also mentioning that “no negative information” about Clinton was presented.
Meanwhile, amid renewed news media attention focusing on the infamous, brief Trump Tower meeting, there are largely unreported details surrounding the get-together that point to the increasing likelihood of the encounter being set up as a dirty trick against Trump’s presidential campaign.
One largely unreported issue centers on the two Russians at the meeting evidencing a larger relationship with Fusion GPS and the controversial firm’s co-founder Glenn Simpson. The Russia collusion conspiracy theory was sparked by the discredited dossier produced by Fusion GPS, which was paid for its anti-Trump work by Trump’s primary political opponents, namely Clinton’s 2016 presidential campaign and the Democratic National Committee (DNC) via the Perkins Coie law firm.
Email transcripts and other information disclosed in testimony released by the Senate Judiciary Committee reveal a significant relationship between Russian-born Washington lobbyist Rinat Akhmetshin, who was present at the Trump Tower meeting, and Fusion GPS. Russian lawyer Natalia Veselnitskaya also evidenced a relationship with Fusion GPS.
Akhmetshin’s November 14, 2017 testimony before the Senate Judiciary Committee contained numerous sections that detail his past relationship with Fusion GPS and Simpson. Some of that relationship, which also involved Veselnitskaya, spanned the period just prior to the meeting with Trump Jr.
In one instance, Akhmetshin was asked about an email obtained by the Senate committee in which he described Fusion’s Simpson as a “colleague.”
The email related to the Russian-linked Prevezon Holdings Ltd., a firm that had settled a case in the U.S. involving the purchase of real estate with allegedly laundered money, accusations that centered around the Magnitsky Act.
Veselnitskaya, who countered the Magnitsky Act along with Akhmetshin, was an attorney for Prevezon. Veselnitskaya was involved in the case since it investigated financier Bill Browder, who successfully lobbied Congress to pass the Magnitsky Act and was a witness in the Prevezon legal matter. Fusion GPS investigated Browder for another client and their findings were used in the Prevezon trial.
In his testimony, one Senate griller asked Akhmetshin about a December 2015 email from a Bloomberg News reporter that states he was told that Akhmetshin was “handling media calls” for Prevezon and its owner.
Akhmetshin’s email reply, in which he calls Fusion GPS’s Simpson “my colleague” was read aloud: “I am traveling this week, but my colleague Glenn Simpson, cc’d, will be able to brief you on the particulars of the case.”
Another email read in the testimony described plans for a February 4, 2016 dinner meeting between Simpson, Akhmetshin and Veselnitskaya, with Akhmetshin confirming that he did have a meeting with Simpson and Veselnitskaya around that time, possibly dinner. This puts Simpson in person with two participants in the Trump Jr. meeting just four months before the June 2016 Trump Tower meet, although Akhmetshin described the meeting with Simpson as being about the Prevezon case.
Akhmetshin further describes pitching stories directly to Simpson while Simpson was a journalist prior to his co-founding of Fusion GPS. Simpson previously worked for the Wall Street Journal.
Akhmetshin also relates a previous working relationship with Simpson’s wife, pitching her stories while she served at the Journal.
Another under-reported issue pointing to the possibility of dirty tricks at play in setting up the Trump Tower meeting surrounds Akhmetshin’s claimed relationship with Clinton and his meeting with a Clinton associate the same day as the Trump Tower meeting.
In fact, in his Senate testimony, Akhmetshin says that he “knows” Hillary Clinton and has a personal relationship with her that dates back to the late-1990s. Besides describing a direct connection to Clinton, Akhmetshin also testified that he “knew some people who worked on” Clinton’s 2016 presidential campaign. Akhmetshin further revealed that the same day of the Trump Tower meeting he met with a Clinton associate after the confab and possibly also just before.
In his Senate testimony, Akhmetshin related a personal connection to Clinton via attorney Ed Lieberman, whose late wife Evelyn previously served as Clinton’s chief of staff when she was First Lady. Evelyn Lieberman also served as Bill Clinton’s deputy chief of staff, and famously transferred Monica Lewinsky out of the White House to the Defense Department.
The New York Times previously reported that Lieberman in 1998 arranged for Akhmitshin’s position at “an organization pushing what he described as a pro-democracy agenda for Kazakhstan.” Investigative journalist Seymour Hersh says he met Akhmetshin through Lieberman.
In his Senate testimony, Akhmetshin described taking an Acela train to New York the day of the June 9, 2016 Trump Tower meeting, and says that Lieberman “may” have been with him on the train.
Akhmetshin says his dealings with Lieberman in New York that day were “personal” and centered on a scholarship program that he claims Lieberman started. “And he was in New York that day to discuss arrangements with Metropolitan Museum with kind of taking care of that scholarship award,” Akhmetshin stated.
Akhmetshin says that while he was in New York, he had lunch with Veselnitskaya, who told him about the scheduled meeting that day at Trump Tower, but she didn’t say anything about him attending.
He claims that after he had lunch with Veselnitskaya, she called him and asked him to attend the Trump Tower meeting, but she didn’t suggest any role he would play at the meeting or why he should attend.
After the meeting at Trump Tower, Akhmetshin says he went to dinner and a play with Lieberman, and the subject of the meeting that same day did not come up in his conversations with Lieberman at dinner or during the play. Akhmetshin also stated in the testimony that he was not asked to keep the meeting confidential.
In other words, Akhmetshin is claiming that he attended a meeting at the campaign headquarters of Clinton’s presidential challenger with that challenger’s son and other top Trump staffers, and that same night Akhmetshin did not even mention the meeting to his friend Lieberman, a Clinton associate.
He also said he had drinks that same night with another “friend,” but could not remember who that friend was.
Later in the testimony, when Akhmetshin described disclosing another matter to journalist friends, he was questioned about his claim that he didn’t tell Lieberman that same night about the Trump Jr. meeting, yet he seemingly evidenced a lack of discretion with reporters.
During further questioning in Senate testimony, Akhmetshin admitted to possibly telling Clinton associate Lieberman about the Trump Tower meeting, but says he may have told him on another day and not the night they met the same day as the meeting.
Akhmetshin detailed knowing Hillary Clinton since the late 1990s and last seeing her at Evelyn Lieberman’s 2015 funeral. In the same testimony, Akhmetshin says he “knew” some of the people who worked on Clinton’s 2016 campaign.
In yet another under-reported issue raising questions about the Trump Tower meeting, Akhmetshin admitted to being present at the same security conference in Canada where Sen. John McCain was reportedly first informed about the anti-Trump dossier. Akhmetshin says he might have spoken to McCain and the senator’s assistant David J. Kramer at the Halifax International Security Forum in 2016.
It was at the security conference in Canada in November 2016 that McCain says he was approached by Sir Andrew Wood, a former British ambassador to Moscow and friend of ex-British spy Christopher Steele, the author of the dossier.
Wood briefed McCain and Kramer, a former State Department official and longtime McCain associate who agreed to meet Steele in London for a fuller briefing on the dossier contents.
The Washington Post reported in February that after meeting with Steele, Kramer went to Washington and received the dossier document directly from Fusion GPS. McCain then passed the dossier to FBI Director James Comey.
In a New York Times oped in January, GPS co-founders Glenn Simpson and Peter Fritch wrote that they helped McCain share their anti-Trump dossier with the Obama-era intelligence community via an unnamed “emissary.”
In his Senate testimony, Akhmetshin describes attending the Halifax security conference in 2016, but claimed he played no role in the contact where Wood connected with McCain and Kramer to inform them of the dossier’s existence. Akhmetshin also claimed he was not aware of the dossier at the time.
Akhmetshin said he “might” have “said hi” to McCain but could not say for sure. In other words, Akhmetshin is claiming he is not certain whether he spoke to one of the most famous American politicians, something that would seemingly be quite memorable to most people.
The Russian lobbyist also said he “might have spoken with” Kramer but would not give a definitive answer.
Akhmetshin also stated that he had a previous relationship with McCain. “I knew Senator McCain when he was running years ago because I had friends who were — did advance work for him,” Akmetshin said, referring to McCain’s 2008 presidential campaign.
Aaron Klein is a Jerusalem bureau chief and senior investigative reporter. He is a New York Times bestselling author and hosts the popular weekend talk radio program, “Aaron Klein Investigative Radio.” Follow him on Twitter @AaronKleinShow. Follow him on Facebook.