The Trump Organization fed a prepared statement to a publicist for Russians involved in the notorious 2016 meeting at Trump Tower on what to tell the press about what was discussed, it emerged on Wednesday.
An attorney for the Trump family’s company urged the publicist in an email to endorse Donald Trump Jr’s version of events on the meeting and said it “would be our preference” if he did not say anything else in response to inquiries.
The attorney, Alan Futerfas, also directly contacted two Russians involved in the meeting shortly before its existence was made public in the media, according to copies of emails released by Congress.
Another email showed the incoming White House communications director Anthony Scaramucci told the same publicist, Rob Goldstone, it was important that “we remain consistent and united” in the face of public pressure about the meeting.
The emails were released among 2,500 documents published on Wednesday by the Senate judiciary committee, which has been investigating possible collusion between Donald Trump’s 2016 presidential campaign and Russia.
Trump Jr, along with Trump’s son-in-law Jared Kushner and the 2016 presidential campaign chairman Paul Manafort, met a group including Natalia Veselnitskaya, a Kremlin-connected lawyer, at Trump Tower in New York in June 2016.
The meeting is a key flashpoint for investigations into alleged collusion between Trump’s team and Russian interference in the election. US intelligence concluded the Kremlin intervened to help Trump beat Clinton.
The proposed statement about the meeting was sent by Futerfas to Goldstone, a British publicist who arranged the meeting on behalf of his Russian clients. The date of the email was not clear from the records.
“Please consider the following as a statement,” Futerfas said to Goldstone. “Please note that there will always be potential follow-up questions to any statement, but if you feel comfortable with this statement and are comfortable saying nothing more, at least for the time being, that would be our preference. Again, any statement should be accurate as to your very best recollection.”
The statement supported Trump Jr’s account of the meeting as a “complete waste of time” which had focused on policy issues such as economic sanctions and a ban on Americans adopting Russian children.
In a statement on Wednesday, Democratic senators on the judiciary committee said the records showed Trump’s team were left “frustrated and angry” that the meeting did not produce enough damaging information about Clinton.
“Their efforts to conceal the meeting and its true purpose are consistent with a larger pattern of false statements about the Trump campaign’s relationship with Russia,” the Democrats said.
Another email released on Wednesday showed that on 23 July Scaramucci, who had just been named the new White House communications director, emailed Goldstone with encouraging remarks amid a storm over the Trump Tower meeting.
“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,” wrote Scaramucci, who was fired by Trump a week later after a tumultuous week of disputes with other aides.
Goldstone was working as a publicist for Emin Agalarov, a Russian singer, whose father, Aras Agalarov, is a Russian property developer on good terms with Vladimir Putin.
Goldstone emailed Trump Jr, purportedly on behalf of Emin Agalarov, to arrange the meeting at Trump Tower, saying that his clients had information on Clinton from the Russian government.
The released documents show that Goldstone forwarded Futerfas’s email about the proposed statement on 10 July to Ike Kaveladze, one of Aras Agalarov’s executives, who attended the meeting at Trump Tower.
“Here is statement by Trump lawyers which they have asked me to release,” Goldstone wrote in the subject bar.
Futerfas also contacted Kaveladze and Emin Agalarov directly around the time that details of the meeting became public, the records show. He emailed Kaveladze on 7 July – the day before the news broke – asking: “Can you give me a call?”
Kaveladze and Futerfas then exchanged emails apparently arranging a call.
The Trump attorney had already emailed Emin Agalarov on June 30 asking Agalarov to contact him, the records show. “Can you please give me a call at your convenience regarding certain matters,” Futerfas said.
The records show that Goldstone also made contact in June 2016 with Dan Scavino, Trump’s social media chief, to propose an effort to gather support for Trump’s campaign on Russian social media.
Goldstone also offered to arrange a meeting between Trump and Putin less than six weeks into Trump’s presidential campaign, the records show.
The publicist suggested in a July 2015 email to Rhona Graff, Trump’s longtime executive assistant, that Trump may “welcome a meeting with President Putin, which Emin would set up”. There was no indication the offer was accepted.
The transcripts also show that, during an interview, Trump Jr told the committee that he couldn’t remember whether he had discussed the Russia investigation with his father.
Trump Jr also deflected a question on whether his father had been involved in drafting the Trump team’s official statement on the meeting, which claimed it was a policy discussion with little relevance to the presidential campaign.
Reports have said the president took a direct role in the preparation of the statement. Robert Mueller, the special counsel investigating possible collusion, is understood to want to ask Trump about his involvement.
Asked in the interview if his father was involved in drafting the statement, Trump said: “I don’t know. I never spoke to my father about it.”
According to the transcripts, Trump Jr also said he didn’t think there was anything wrong with attending the Trump Tower meeting in which he was promised dirt on Hillary Clinton.
Goldstone told the committee he thought the meeting was a “bad idea”.
“I believed it was a bad idea and that we shouldn’t do it. And I gave the reason for that being that I’m a music publicist. Politics, I knew nothing about,” Goldstone said.
He said he reported back to Emin Agalarov that “this was the most embarrassing thing you’ve ever asked me to do. I’ve just sat in a meeting about adoption.”