Manafort Memo Raises New Questions About Trump Tower Meeting


Notes provided to federal investigators by former Trump campaign chairman Paul Manafort are raising new questions about what was discussed in the Trump Tower meeting hosted last June by Donald Trump Jr.

NBC News is reporting that Manafort’s notes from the June 9, 2016, session show that the word “donations” was placed near a reference to the Republican National Committee. Manafort typed notes from the meeting into his phone as he sat in on the session, which was attended by Trump Jr., Jared Kushner and a group of Russians.

It is not clear what exactly Manafort’s notes referred to, though they have reportedly raised the suspicion of investigators working for Special Counsel Robert Mueller, a former FBI director leading the investigation into Russian meddling in the presidential campaign.

Another possibility for Manafort’s notes would be donations to the Democratic National Committee or Hillary Clinton campaign. The Trump Tower meeting was organized by Donald Trump Jr. after he was approached by an acquaintance who offered damaging information about Clinton.

It has been reported that the person offering the information, a Russian lawyer named Natalia Veselnitskaya, provided Trump Jr. with documents alleging that associates of a London-based businessman named Bill Browder made political contributions to Democrats.

Veselnitskaya and Rinat Akhmetshin, who both attended the Trump Tower meeting, were operating a smear campaign of Browder as part of a lobbying effort to undercut the Magnitsky Act, a sanctions law that Browder helped push through Congress.

Manafort, whose foreign business activities are being investigated by Mueller, gave his notes to Mueller’s investigators and the House and Senate Intelligence Committees.

According to NBC, Mueller’s team is also interested in whether President Trump gave misleading statements about whether he knew about the Trump Tower meeting.

Trump Jr. organized the event after being contacted by an acquaintance who offered to provide damaging information about Hillary Clinton. The acquaintance, a music publicist named Rob Goldstone, attended along with Veslenitskaya and Akhmetshin, a former Soviet military official and Washington, D.C.-based political operative.

Akhmetshin was reportedly interviewed by Mueller’s team on Aug. 11 about the Trump Tower meeting.

There have been conflicting claims about what was discussed in the meeting, which all parties have said lasted less than 30 minutes.

Trump Jr. initially claimed in a statement to The New York Times, which broke the story of the meeting, that it was held to discuss Russia’s policy on adoptions of Russian children by U.S. citizens. The Russian government banned the adoptions in 2013 as retaliation for passage of the Magnitsky Act.

After the first Times report, Trump Jr. and Veselnitskaya came out and said that the meeting was actually about the Magnitsky Act rather than strictly about adoptions. Veselnitskaya and Akhmetshin have worked on a lobbying campaign to rollback the Magtnisky Act. Part of their strategy to convince lawmakers to neuter the law is to portray it as a hindrance to adoptions of Russian children.

Akhmetshin, who is said to have links to Russian government officials, has claimed in at least one interview that political information was exchanged during the meeting. He told the Associated Press that Veselnitskaya left behind documents after the meeting.

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