Why the infamous Trump Tower meeting didn’t take down Trump

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New Delhi | Published: April 21, 2019 1:00:31 AM

Mueller's analysis tells how Trump, his son and many of those in the White House came to escape being charged due to the difficulty of making indictments stick.

Donald Trump, us president donald trump, us, president donald rump, trump towerFile picture of Donald Trump

When news first broke in July 2017 about the now-famous Trump Tower meeting, it looked like just the caught-in-the-act moment critics thought could ensnare Donald Trump.The 20-minute gathering in Manhattan seemed to have everything: Donald Trump Jr meeting with a Kremlin-linked lawyer.

The supposed promise of dirt on Hillary Clinton. The president personally dictating parts of a statement that smacked of cover-up.Collusion with Russia, obstruction of justice —Robert Mueller’s twin targets —all seemingly taking place right inside Trump’s signature landmark, just a few months before the election.

In Mueller’s final report, however, the Trump Tower meeting is little more than a blip, just one of a host of incidents that drew his attention. His analysis tells the story of how Trump, his son and many of those in the White House came to escape being charged — due to the difficulty of making indictments stick and the high legal bar Mueller faced to establish criminal intent.

Put simply, it’s hard to catch someone red-handed committing collusion, obstruction or even campaign finance violations , no matter how suspicious or unpatriotic it might look to a legal
layperson.

The meeting, Mueller concluded, ultimately didn’t amount to illegal collusion because the Trump campaign officials weren’t well-versed in the law and the information that was promised by the Kremlin-linked lawyer didn’t pan out.

There’s nothing illegal about meeting with a Russian with ties to Vladimir Putin, even if you’re the candidate’s son.If anything, the offer of valuable information on Democrat Clinton from a foreigner was a potential campaign-finance violation, but Mueller said even that would have been too hard to prove.

For one thing, he would have had to show that the promised “dirt” was worth more than $25,000. And when it came to obstruction, Mueller said that he couldn’t establish that Trump “intended” to prevent the special counsel from obtaining information about the meeting.

Mueller spends 14 pages of his 448-page report laying out the chronology of the June 9, 2016 meeting, and an additional 10 detailing Trump’s efforts to prevent the disclosure of emails related to the encounter.

The gathering was the brainchild of Emin Agalarov —the pop singer son of Russian real estate developer Aras Agalarov who had known Trump for several years.Emin Agalarov called his then-publicist, Rob Goldstone, on June 3, 2016, and suggested setting up a meeting between the Trump campaign and Natalia Veselnitskaya, a Russian lawyer, to offer Russia’s aid, according to the report. Several details about the genesis of Agalarov’s idea were redacted due to a grand jury proceeding.

The same day, Goldstone reportedly emailed Trump Jr to say that the Crown Prosecutor of Russia wanted to offer the Trump campaign “official documents and information that would incriminate Hillary and her dealings with Russia,” according to the report.”This is obviously very high level and sensitive information but is part of Russia and Its government’s support for Trump — helped along by Aras and Emin,” Goldstone said.Trump Jr shot back minutes later to say he appreciated the offer. “If it’s what you say I love it,” he said. A few days later, Trump Jr and Emin Agalarov had multiple brief phone calls about the “Hillary info.” Mueller’s ConclusionMueller’s dry conclusion: “The written communications setting up the meeting showed that tes,” Mueller said.Kushner became aggravated and asked “[w]hat are we doing here?” according to the report. Akhmetshin then turned the conversation to US sanctions imposed under the Magnitsky Act and Russia’s retaliation prohibiting the US adoption of Russian children, according to the report.

“Several participants recalled that Trump Jr commented that Trump is a private citizen, and there was nothing they could do at that time,” Mueller said.

Trump Jr also said that they could revisit the issue if and when they were in government.”Manafort took notes on his phone that reflect the general flow of the conversation, Mueller said.
Trump told Mueller in written answers to the special counsel’s questions that he had “no recollection of learning at the time” that Trump Jr or Kushner were planning the meeting.The younger men both told Mueller that Trump wasn’t told in advance about the gathering.

The special counsel said evidence showed Kushner sent an iMessage to Manafort during the meeting saying it was a “waste of time.” Kushner sent two emails to assistants at his company asking them to call him “to give him an excuse to leave,” the report says.

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