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Team Trump still isn't telling the truth about that 2016 Trump Tower meeting

First Read is your briefing from "Meet the Press" and the NBC Political Unit on the day's most important political stories and why they matter.
by Chuck Todd, Mark Murray and Carrie Dann /
Image: Natalia Veselnitskaya
Kremlin-linked lawyer Natalia Veselnitskaya speaks to a journalist in Moscow on Nov. 8, 2016.Yury Martyanov / AP, file

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WASHINGTON — For all the attention to Rudy Giuliani’s “Truth isn’t truth” comment on “Meet the Press” yesterday — and we’ll get to it below — President Donald Trump’s personal lawyer made an even more startling statement on the program. Giuliani declared that the Trump campaign representatives who met with Russians in that June 9, 2016 Trump Tower meeting (Donald Trump Jr., Paul Manafort, Jared Kushner) didn’t know they were representatives of the Russian government.

GIULIANI: [T]he meeting was originally for the purpose of getting information about, about Clinton… It turned out to be a meeting about another subject and it was not pursued at all. And, of course, any meeting with regard to getting information on your opponent is something any candidate’s staff would take. If someone said, I have information about your opponent, you would take that meeting. If it happens to be a person with a Russian —

CHUCK TODD: From the Russian government?

GIULIANI: She didn’t represent the Russian government, she’s a private citizen. I don’t even know if they knew she was Russian at the time. All they had was her name.

TODD: They didn’t know she was Russian, I think they knew she was Russian, but ok.

GIULIANI: Well, they knew it when they met with her, not when they set up the meeting. You, you told me, you, you asked me, you know, did they show an intention to do anything with Russians? Well, all they knew is that a woman with a Russian name wanted to meet with them. They didn’t know she was a representative of the Russian government and indeed, she’s not a representative of the Russian government. So, this is much ado about nothing.

Let’s unpack Giuliani’s comments: One, he admits the purpose of that 2016 meeting was to get dirt on Hillary Clinton (when their original explanation was Russian adoptions). Two, he says any campaign would have taken such a meeting (when past Democratic and Republican campaigns have said they never did). And three, Giuliani declares they didn’t know Natalia Veselnitskaya was connected with the Russian government. But we know that isn’t true.

Indeed, the June 3, 2016 email that publicist Rob Goldstone sent Donald Trump. Jr. about the meeting specifically said it was “part of Russia and its government’s support for Mr. Trump.”

GOLDSTONE: Emin [Agalarov] 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? (Emphasis is ours.)

DONALD TRUMP JR: 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?

Then, on June 7, 2016, Goldstone wrote to Trump Jr. again:

GOLDSTONE: 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. (Emphasis is ours.)

TRUMP JR: How about 3 at our offices? Thanks rob appreciate you helping set it up.

So for Giuliani to claim that Donald Trump Jr. — or anyone else associated with the Trump campaign — didn’t know Veselnitskaya and others were connected to the Russian government doesn’t pass the smell test. The facts don’t back it up.

Here’s every instance of Team Trump not telling the whole truth about that meeting

But there’s an even bigger story here: Time and again, Team Trump hasn’t told the truth about that June 2016 Trump Tower meeting.

  • Donald Trump Jr.’s original statement about the meeting (July 8, 2017): “We primarily discussed a program about the adoption of Russian children that was active and popular with American families years ago and was since ended by the Russian government, but it was not a campaign issue at the time and there was no follow up.”
  • Trump Jr.’s revised statement after the New York Times reported he was promised damaging information about Hillary Clinton in the meeting (July 9, 2017): "After pleasantries were exchanged, the woman stated that she had information that individuals connected to Russia were funding the Democratic National Committee and supporting Ms. Clinton. Her statements were vague, ambiguous and made no sense. No details or supporting information was provided or even offered.”
  • Trump lawyer Jay Sekulow (July 16, 2017): "Let me say this, but I do want to be clear that the president was not involved in the drafting of the statement and did not issue the statement. It came from Donald Trump Jr."
  • Trump’s legal team to Robert Mueller (June 2, 2018): "You have received all of the notes, communications and testimony indicating that the President dictated a short but accurate response to the New York Times article on behalf of his son, Donald Trump, Jr. His son then followed up by making a full public disclosure regarding the meeting, including his public testimony that there was nothing to the meeting and certainly no evidence of collusion."
  • Trump’s tweet (Aug. 5, 2018): "Fake News reporting, a complete fabrication, that I am concerned about the meeting my wonderful son, Donald, had in Trump Tower. This was a meeting to get information on an opponent, totally legal and done all the time in politics - and it went nowhere. I did not know about it!"

So every step of the way, Team Trump hasn’t told the truth about that 2016 Trump Tower meeting. If you were a judge, jury member, or special counsel Robert Mueller, what would you think?

Move over 'Alternative Facts.' Giuliani says 'Truth isn’t truth.'

There also was this exchange on “Meet” yesterday:

GIULIANI: I am not going to be rushed into having [President Trump] testify so that he gets trapped into perjury. And when you tell me that, you know, he should testify because he’s going to tell the truth and he shouldn’t worry, well that’s so silly because it’s somebody’s version of the truth. Not the truth. He didn’t have a, a conversation —

TODD: Truth is truth. I don’t mean to go like —

GIULIANI: No, it isn’t truth. Truth isn’t truth. The President of the United States says, “I didn’t — ”

TODD: Truth isn’t truth? Mr. Mayor, do you realize, what, I, I, I —

GIULIANI: No, no, no—

TODD: This is going to become a bad meme.

Why the White House counsel cooperating with Mueller is a big deal

Over the weekend, the New York Times reported that White House Counsel Robert McGahn has cooperated extensively in the Mueller inquiry, giving 30 hours of testimony over the last nine months.

Via Twitter yesterday, Trump responded, “The failing @nytimes wrote a Fake piece today implying that because White House Councel [sic] Don McGahn was giving hours of testimony to the Special Councel, he must be a John Dean type “RAT.” But I allowed him and all others to testify - I didn’t have to. I have nothing to hide.”

But this morning, the Times follows up that this is more than McGahn simply obeying Trump’s orders. “President Trump’s lawyers do not know just how much the White House counsel, Donald F. McGahn II, told the special counsel’s investigators during months of interviews, a lapse that has contributed to a growing recognition that an early strategy of full cooperation with the inquiry was a potentially damaging mistake.”

More: “Some of the episodes — like Mr. Trump’s attempt to fire Mr. Mueller last summer — would not have been revealed to investigators without Mr. McGahn’s help.”

Trump tweeted this morning, “Disgraced and discredited Bob Mueller and his whole group of Angry Democrat Thugs spent over 30 hours with the White House Councel, only with my approval, for purposes of transparency. Anybody needing that much time when they know there is no Russian Collusion is just someone… looking for trouble.”

But we ask again: What does it say when Team Trump hasn’t been upfront and honest about that June 9, 2016 Trump Tower meeting? What has it been hiding?

Jury begins third day of deliberations in the Manafort trial

Jurors in the trial of former Trump campaign chairman Paul Manafort will begin a third day of deliberations Monday, as the president continues to rail against special counsel Robert Mueller,” CNN writes. “Manafort is charged with 18 counts of tax evasion, bank fraud and hiding foreign bank accounts in the first case brought to trial by Mueller as part of the investigation into Russian interference in the 2016 US election. Manafort has pleaded not guilty to all the charges.”

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