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Donald Trump Junior and the Russian lawyer: non story and possible sting

Whilst the story of Donald Trump Junior’s dealings with Russian lawyer Natalia Veselnitskaya is tangled, the facts show no evidence of any wrongdoing on his part. On the contrary he is the only person who can be shown to have acted straightforwardly and honestly in the whole affair.

Alexander Mercouris

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A consistent pattern of the Russiagate affair is that the New York Times or the Washington Post “expose” what is presented as some dark and terrible twist to the story of Donald Trump’s connections to Russia.

The rest of the news media and the Democrats in Congress following up by greeting the “revelation” with a mixture of enthusiasm and feigned horror.

The days and weeks pass, it turns out that nothing of importance has been “exposed” and that the “revelation” is not so dark or terrible after all.

At that point it quietly drops out of the news.

This has happened with the telephone conversation between ambassador Kislyak and General Flynn, the meeting between ambassador Kislyak and Geoff Sessions, the meeting between ambassador Kislyak and Jared Kushner (when they supposedly discussed setting up a backchannel), and the conversations between President Trump and former FBI Director James Comey.

The latest “revelation” of the meeting between Donald Trump Junior and lawyer Natalia Veselntiskaya on 9th June 2016 is a further example.

The outline of the story can be reconstructed in detail from the emails that Donald Trump Junior published earlier today.  They show that the meeting was set up at the instigation of a British pop music presenter called Rob Goldstone.

On 3rd June 2016 Goldstone wrote to Donald Trump Junior the following email

Emin [Agalarov, a Russian pop star represented by Goldstone] just called and asked me to contact you with something very interesting.

The Crown prosecutor of Russia met with his father Aras [a Moscow-based developer who tried to partner with Trump in a hotel project] this morning and in their meeting offered to provide the Trump campaign with some official documents and information that would incriminate Hillary [Clinton] 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 [presumably Rhona Graff, Trump’s longtime executive assistant], but it is ultra sensitive so wanted to send to you first.

(bold italics added)

Donald Trump Junior replied on the same day as follows

Thanks Rob I appreciate that. I am on the road at the moment but perhaps I just speak to Emin first. Seems we have some time and if it’s what you say I love it especially later in the summer. Could we do a call first thing next week when I am back?

(bold italics added)

Several emails followed but the only one of interest is a further email sent to Donald Trump Junior by Rob Goldstone on 7th June 2016.  It reads as follows

Hope all is well. Emin asked that I schedule a meeting with you and the Russian government attorney who is flying over from Moscow for this Thursday. I believe you are aware of the meeting – and so wondered if 3pm or later on Thursday works for you? I assume it would be at your office.

(bold italics added)

There are a number of oddities about Goldstone’s emails which I will come to shortly.  However here it is merely important to note the following:

(1) there is no reference in these emails to hacking whether of the DNC ‘s or of John Podesta’s computers or of computers belonging to anyone else;

(2) Donald Trump Junior is being led to believe that the Russian government is offering to provide the Trump campaign with official documents – which must mean official Russian government documents – detailing Hillary Clinton’s dealings with Russia.

(3) there is no suggestion that this help would be provided covertly or secretly.  On the contrary since what is supposedly being offered are official Russian government documents it would be impossible to deny the source if this information was going to be used.

The meeting with Veselnitskaya duly took place on 9th June 2016.  It turned out that she had no information about Hillary Clinton to offer and was not a “Russian government attorney”.  Instead she wanted to discuss the Magnitsky Act, upon which a baffled Donald Trump Junior politely showed her the door.

That is the unanimous account of all the participants of the meeting including Donald Trump Junior and Veselnitskaya herself.  All agree that the meeting lasted no more than 20 minutes.

There is no evidence that contradicts their account and the absence of any follow-up to the meeting essentially corroborates their account.

It seems that Donald Trump Junior and Veselnitskaya have never met since and have had no further contact with each other.

There is no evidence here of any crime or wrongdoing being committed or – contrary to what many are saying – of any intention to commit one.

What Donald Trump Junior was offered was official documents supposedly provided by the Russian government which would expose Hillary Clinton as a hypocrite in light of her dealings with Russia.  At a time when Donald Trump was already being criticised for wanting a rapprochement with Russia it is not surprising that Donald Trump Junior’s interest was piqued.

However this information – whatever it was – would have had to have been made public if it was going to be used, and since it was supposed to take the form of official Russian government documents provided to the Trump campaign by the Russian government that would have meant that the fact that the Russian government was involved and was the source would have had to be disclosed.  There was and could have been no intention to keep the fact secret.

That is what Donald Trump Junior obviously anticipated when he agreed to meet Veselnitskaya, and what he must have thought the Russian government intended.  The emails cannot be read in any other way.

This is a wholly different scenario from the one suggested in the Russiagate affair.  That alleges secret collusion between the Trump campaign and the Russian government as part of a ‘dirty tricks’ campaign involving an illegal hack of the DNC’s and John Podesta’s computers in order to publish stolen emails which would swing the election from Hillary Clinton to Donald Trump.

This by contrast was or was supposed to be a straightforward and above the board offer of information by the Russian government to the Trump campaign that might be useful in the election.

There is nothing wrong or sinister or illegal in Donald Trump Junior being interested in this.  There would have been nothing wrong or illegal in Donald Trump Junior receiving from the Russian government official Russian government documents about Hillary Clinton’s dealings with Russia in this way.

Nor would there have been anything wrong or illegal if Donald Trump Junior or the Trump campaign had made this information public, all the more so as the fact that the Russian government was the source would have had to be disclosed.

Some people of course refuse to see it this way.  Take for example these words in the Guardian’s editorial on the story

Mr Trump Jr stressed that the lawyer was not, in fact, a Russian government official. But he met her believing that she was, and having heard that Moscow wished to intervene in a US election. He did not report the approach to the FBI.

(bold italics added)

Why however should Donald Trump Junior have “reported the approach to the FBI”?  Since nothing wrong or illegal was proposed or happened what was there to report?

To repeat, there would have been nothing wrong or illegal about Donald Trump Junior receiving openly from a representative of the Russian government official Russian government documents detailing Hillary Clinton’s dealings with Russia.  Not only would that have been neither wrong nor illegal, had it happened it would arguably have been in the public interest.

We now have come to the strangest aspect of this strange affair.

Veselnitskaya was not a representative of the Russian government.  The Russian government claims to have no knowledge of her.  She was definitely not a “Russian government attorney” (whatever that means).  Not only did she turn up to the meeting empty-handed, with no information or official Russian government documents about Hillary Clinton’s dealings with Russia, but by her own account she was surprised that Donald Trump Junior expected her to be in possession of such information

“I never had any damaging or sensitive information about Hillary Clinton. It was never my intention to have that,” Natalia Veselnitskaya said.

When asked how Trump Jr. seemed to have the impression that she had information about the Democratic National Committee, she responded:

“It is quite possible that maybe they were longing for such an information. They wanted it so badly that they could only hear the thought that they wanted.”

This is extremely strange, and is wholly at odds with how Rob Goldstone describes her in his emails.

In those emails Veselnitskaya is clearly described as a “Russian government attorney” representing the Russian government.  Moreover she is coming to the US from Moscow on behalf of a senior Russian official –  the “Crown Prosecutor of Russia” – who is supposed to have offered information including official Russian government documents detailing Hillary Clinton’s dealings with Russia in a conversation with the father of one of Goldstone’s clients.  This supposedly was done as “part of Russia and its government’s support for Mr Trump“.

Clearly someone was misrepresenting who and what Veselnitskaya actually was.

There is no Russian official with the title “Crown Prosecutor of Russia”.  However the fact that Goldstone claims that it was this official – whoever he is – who instigated Veselnitskaya’s mission after making an offer to help the Trump campaign to the father of one of Goldstone’s clients argues against Veselnitskaya being the person who was behind the deception.

Veselnitskaya’s claim that she was baffled that Donald Trump Junior seemed to expect her to have information about Hillary Clinton might therefore be true.

In that case it must have been either the “Crown Prosecutor of Russia” – whoever he is – or the father of Goldstone’s client, or Goldstone’s client, or conceivably Goldstone himself, who was behind the deception.

I am not going to try to guess who was the person behind the deception.  The one point I would make is that Goldstone is British and that though Russia has no official with the title “Crown Prosecutor of Russia” the title “crown prosecutor” is used in Britain as the official title of state officials roughly analogous to US District Attorneys.

Possibly someone who knows Goldstone is British and therefore familiar with the title “crown prosecutor” took advantage of the fact to deceive him, though in that case whoever that was must have some knowledge of Britain.

Whatever the truth of this, there is no doubt that a deception took place, and Goldstone’s emails show that the person who was the target of the deception was Donald Trump Junior.

That in turn raises the uncomfortable question of whether what we have here are the traces of a failed sting operation.

I have previously pointed out that the first entry of the Trump Dossier dated 20th June 2016 makes no reference to hacking but instead speaks of the Russians helping Donald Trump by providing his campaign with information from a secret Dossier they hold on Hillary Clinton.

Here we have in Goldstone’s emails proof that in early June 2016 – the same month that the first entry of the Trump Dossier is dated – an offer was indeed made via Donald Trump Junior to the Trump campaign  – but importantly not by the Russian government – to provide the Trump campaign with damaging information about Hillary Clinton’s dealings with Russia, presumably from a file or a Dossier the Russians hold on her.

The follow up to these emails was a meeting between Donald Trump Junior and a Russian lawyer – Veselnitskaya – who allegedly has some connection to Fusion GPS, the company which paid for the Trump Dossier.

In the event the sting operation – if that is what it was – fell apart when it turned out during the meeting that Veselnitskaya had no information to offer and did not represent the Russian government, and that rather than press her further for ‘information’ about Hillary Clinton or admit either verbally to Veselnitskaya or in an email that the Trump campaign was already in receipt of such information from the Russians, Donald Trump Junior instead showed her the door.

This is of course speculation, though fact based.  As I have said previously, there is no doubt a deception of some sort took place and that Donald Trump Junior was its intended target.

What is not speculation – what is on the contrary incontrovertible fact – is that Donald Trump Junior at no time acted improperly or committed any crime either in the emails he wrote or when he met Veselnitskaya.

That for the moment is the single most important fact about this incident.

There are many unanswered questions about this incident, as indeed there are about the Flynn affair.  Perhaps one day we will have the answers to these questions.

The key point about these unanswered questions is however that they do not concern Donald Trump Junior.  It is for others not him to answer them.

On the contrary he is the only person of whom it can be said with confidence that he behaved straightforwardly and honestly throughout this whole strange affair.

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Trump Has Gifted “No More Wars” Policy Position To Bernie Sanders (Video)

The Duran Quick Take: Episode 148.

Alex Christoforou

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RT CrossTalk host Peter Lavelle and The Duran’s Alex Christoforou discuss how US President Donald Tump appears to have ceded his popular 2016 ‘no more wars’ campaign message and policy position to Bernie Sanders and any other US 2020 candidate willing to grad onto a non-interventionist approach to the upcoming Democrat primaries.

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“Is Bernie Stealing Trump’s ‘No More Wars’ Issue?” by Patrick J. Buchanan…


The center of gravity of U.S. politics is shifting toward the Trump position of 2016.

“The president has said that he does not want to see this country involved in endless wars… I agree with that,” Bernie Sanders told the Fox News audience at Monday’s town hall meeting in Bethlehem, Pennsylvania.

Then turning and staring straight into the camera, Bernie added:

“Mr. President, tonight you have the opportunity to do something extraordinary: Sign that resolution. Saudi Arabia should not be determining the military or foreign policy of this country.”

Sanders was talking about a War Powers Act resolution that would have ended U.S. involvement in the five-year civil war in Yemen that has created one of the great humanitarian crises of our time, with thousands of dead children amidst an epidemic of cholera and a famine.

Supported by a united Democratic Party on the Hill, and an anti-interventionist faction of the GOP led by Sens. Rand Paul and Mike Lee of Utah, the War Powers resolution had passed both houses of Congress.

But 24 hours after Sanders urged him to sign it, Trump, heeding the hawks in his Cabinet and National Security Council, vetoed S.J.Res.7, calling it a “dangerous attempt to weaken my constitutional authorities.”

With sufficient Republican votes in both houses to sustain Trump’s veto, that should be the end of the matter.

It is not: Trump may have just ceded the peace issue in 2020 to the Democrats. If Sanders emerges as the nominee, we will have an election with a Democrat running on the “no-more-wars” theme Trump touted in 2016. And Trump will be left defending the bombing of Yemeni rebels and civilians by Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman of Saudi Arabia.

Does Trump really want to go into 2020 as a war party president?

Does he want to go into 2020 with Democrats denouncing “Trump’s endless wars” in the Middle East? Because that is where he is headed.

In 2008, John McCain, leading hawk in the Senate, was routed by a left-wing first-term senator from Illinois, Barack Obama, who had won his nomination by defeating the more hawkish Hillary Clinton, who had voted to authorize the war in Iraq.

In 2012, the Republican nominee Mitt Romney, who was far more hawkish than Obama on Russia, lost.

Yet, in 2016, Trump ran as a different kind of Republican, an opponent of the Iraq War and an anti-interventionist who wanted to get along with Russia’s Vladimir Putin and get out of these Middle East wars.

Looking closely at the front-running candidates for the Democratic nomination of 2020 — Joe Biden, Sanders, Kamala Harris, Beto O’Rourke, Pete Buttigieg, Elizabeth Warren, Cory Booker — not one appears to be as hawkish as Trump has become.

Trump pulled us out of the nuclear deal with Iran negotiated by Secretary of State John Kerry and reimposed severe sanctions.

He declared Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps a terrorist organization, to which Iran has responded by declaring U.S. Central Command a terrorist organization. Ominously, the IRGC and its trained Shiite militias in Iraq are in close proximity to U.S. troops.

Trump has recognized Jerusalem as Israel’s capital, moved the U.S. Embassy there, closed the consulate that dealt with Palestinian affairs, cut off aid to the Palestinians, recognized Israel’s annexation of the Golan Heights seized from Syria in 1967, and gone silent on Bibi Netanyahu’s threat to annex Jewish settlements on the West Bank.

Sanders, however, though he stands by Israel, is supporting a two-state solution and castigating the “right-wing” Netanyahu regime.

Trump has talked of pulling all U.S. troops out of Syria, Iraq and Afghanistan. Yet the troops are still there.

Though Trump came into office promising to get along with the Russians, he sent Javelin anti-tank missiles to Ukraine and announced a pullout from Ronald Reagan’s 1987 INF treaty that outlawed all land-based intermediate-range nuclear missiles.

When Putin provocatively sent 100 Russian troops to Caracas — ostensibly to repair the S-400 anti-aircraft and anti-missile system that was damaged in recent blackouts — Trump, drawing a red line, ordered the Russians to “get out.”

Biden is expected to announce next week. If the stands he takes on Russia, China, Israel and the Middle East are more hawkish than the rest of the field, he will be challenged by the left wing of his party, and by Sanders, who voted “no” on the Iraq War that Biden supported.

The center of gravity of U.S. politics is shifting toward the Trump position of 2016. And the anti-interventionist wing of the GOP is growing.

And when added to the anti-interventionist and anti-war wing of the Democratic Party on the Hill, together, they are able, as on the Yemen War Powers resolution, to produce a new bipartisan majority.

Prediction: By the primaries of 2020, foreign policy will be front and center, and the Democratic Party will have captured the “no-more-wars” political high ground that Candidate Donald Trump occupied in 2016.

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Over 200 killed, hundreds injured in series of blasts at Sri Lankan hotels & churches

A series of bombings hit churches and hotels across Sri Lanka on Easter Sunday, killing more than 200 people.

RT

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Via RT…


A series of eight explosions rocked Catholic churches and luxury hotels in Sri Lanka as Christians began Easter Sunday celebrations, with over 200 killed and hundreds injured, media reported, citing police.

The blasts started at around 8:45am local time at St. Anthony’s Church in Colombo and St. Sebastian’s Church in Negombo, a Catholic-majority town outside of the capital. The Zion Church in Batticaloa on the eastern coast was also targeted. At around the same time, the Shangri-La, Cinnamon Grand and Kingsbury five-star hotels were also hit, police confirmed.

Two more explosions happened later in the day, targeting two more locations in Colombo. All attacks appear to have been coordinated.

At least 207 people were killed, Reuters reported, citing police. More than 450 were injured in the attacks.

Alleged footage of the aftermath, shared on social media, showed chaos and large-scale destruction inside at least one of the churches.

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Mike Pompeo reveals true motto of CIA: ‘We lied, we cheated, we stole’ (Video)

The Duran Quick Take: Episode 147.

Alex Christoforou

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The Duran’s Alex Christoforou and Editor-in-Chief Alexander Mercouris take a look at a Texas A&M University speech, and subsequent interview, with US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo.

The former CIA Director admitted, ‘as an aside’ to the question asked, that the Intelligence agency he headed up before being appointed as the top US Diplomat had a motto “we lied, we cheated, we stole”…which, according to Pompeo, contained entire CIA training courses based on ‘lying, cheating and stealing.’

Pompeo finally speaks some truth.

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