Scott Balber’s Sixth Attempt to Craft the June 9 Meeting Story

I’ve been tracking the considerable effort one-time Trump lawyer and current Agalarov lawyer Scott Balber has made to craft a legit story for the June 9 Trump Tower meeting. Heretofore, he has done so on five occasions:

  1. meeting between Rinat Akhmetshin and Ike Kaveladze (the latter of whom Balber represents as an employee of Agalarov) in Moscow in June 2017, just as Jared Kushner and Paul Manafort were both belatedly disclosing the meeting to various authorities; this story appears to have been an attempt to pre-empt the damage that would be done when Akhmetshin’s involvement became public
  2. Balber trip sometime before October to Russia to coordinate a story with and get documents from Natalia Veselnitskaya to back her version of the talking points she reportedly shared with Trump’s people
  3. Another October story, this “revealing” that Veselnitskaya’s research came from (or actually was shared with) Russian prosecutor Yuri Chaika, but insisting (per Balber) that Agalarov had no ties with the prosecutor
  4. Balber filling in a hole in the story for Goldstone: he told the Daily Beast that after his client Ike Kaveladze saw an email (from whom he doesn’t describe) indicating that Jared Kushner, Paul Manafort, and Don Jr would be at the meeting, he called a close associate of Goldstone’s (and a former employee of Balber’s client), Roman Beniaminov, to find out what the meeting was about. That’s the first he learned — at least as far as he told congressional investigators — that the meeting was about dealing “dirt” on Hillary.
  5. Balber insisting that Rob Goldstone’s email calling the news of the DNC hack and leak “eerie” “odd because hacking was never discussed in the meeting and it was not consistent with what was discussed.”

Number Six:

Balber’s back in this story, revealing that Rob Goldstone (who I believe had meetings with all major investigations in DC this week) offered to set up a meeting between Putin and Trump in July 2015. Balber insists that such a thing couldn’t really happen because his client can’t just set up meetings with Putin.

About a month after Donald Trump launched his presidential bid, a British music promoter suggested his Russian pop-star client could arrange for the new candidate to meet with Russian President Vladi­mir Putin, according to an email obtained by The Washington Post.

The July 2015 offer by publicist Rob Goldstone came about a year before he set up a meeting for Trump’s eldest son with a Russian lawyer who he said had incriminating information about Democratic candidate Hillary Clinton.

Goldstone’s overture came as he unsuccessfully urged Trump to travel to Moscow later that year to attend a birthday celebration for his client’s father.

“Maybe he would welcome a meeting with President Putin,” Goldstone wrote in a July 24, 2015, email to Trump’s longtime personal assistant, Rhona Graff. There is no indication Trump or his assistant followed up on Goldstone’s offer.


Scott Balber, an attorney for the pop star, Emin Agalarov, said Agalarov asked Goldstone to invite Trump to his father’s party but was not aware that the publicist dangled the possibility of meeting with Putin.

“It is certainly not the case that Emin Agalarov can arrange a meeting with Vladi­mir Putin for anybody,” Balber said.

In case you haven’t figured out, I think this is all an elaborate cover story to obscure what actually went on in the meeting and what the understanding about it was. Now that Goldstone has testified, this may start to fall apart.

In fact, I’m going to try to finish my last piece of analysis on this, because it may start falling apart that quickly.

28 replies
  1. Domye West says:

    As soon as I read his name, I immediately came here for this LOL. You have me conditioned to see his name and check out emptywheel.

    OT: WSJ reports that Mueller’s team has asked Cambridge Analytica for emails, I wonder if this is where we see some of the prosecutors whom we haven’t seen in the investigation yet.

  2. earlofhuntingdon says:

    We keep coming back to an issue that seems important: why would Trump have been so intent on meeting and having a close relationship with Putin?  That’s not normal Republican behavior.

    Why would Trump and so many on his team have been so nervous about what Putin might do that they rushed to assure him, even before taking office, of their commitment to him and their intent to reverse Obama-era policies affecting Russia? 

    Putin would have had no expectation that they do anything before taking office; the wait would have been short.  And yet they scrambled to give him assurances without the power to fulfill them, assurances that in form put their later ability to fulfill them in jeopardy.  That’s the behavior of someone deeply in debt to a powerful creditor who does his own collection work.

    Trump is our narcissist-in-chief.  He sees the world as one vast reflection of his greatness.  He treats everyone as if they owe him everything, most of all their dignity.  Except for Putin.  Putin he owes, for Putin he grovels.  Why and for what?

    • emptywheel says:

      I think some of this will be out before Christmas. I’ve been saying it’s coming out for a long time. boy do I hope I’m right this time.

      • earlofhuntingdon says:

        Sworn to secrecy?  Is that like being on double secret probation or a more seasonal triple dog dare?

        I hope you’re right, too.  Thanks.

      • pseudonymous in nc says:

        I also get the feeling that a dam may be about to break. That amicus brief harpie mentions downthread from Brennan, Clapper, Hayden, Nick Burns, McFaul and others filed in the case involving Roger Stone, the one that’s all  “la-di-da, [whistles] — oh, just in case you’re interested, this is how Russia uses local actors in active measures campaigns”? Hoo boy.

        There’s been a fortnight of chaff and prebuttals and limited hangouts over the past month, punctuated by Flynn taking his plea deal. Most of the major protagonists have now testified (in one venue or many) under oath.

        To get on topic: Team Mueller has shown its willingness to argue the crime-fraud exception to attorney-client privilege when dealing with Manafort; having Balber doing set-dressing duty with the media before Goldstone swears an oath probably stays on the safe side of the line, yes?

    • Rapier says:

      Excuse my crackpot analysis taking up space here where it doesn’t belong.

      Now I firmly believe that Trump has a  sort of lizard brain feeling that the US policy towards Russia hasn’t been right and I think that this is in fact a correct feeling to have.  Now this isn’t a popular position to say the least. After 10 or more years of thrice weekly at a minimum stories in the NY Times declaring that Putin is the devil most people are convinced that Putin, and by extension Russia,  are the devil.

      Certainly everyone within 2 degrees of separation from policy input or power in DC believe it. Which meant that there was and is nobody, literally nobody, no persons, no bodies or minds, in the US government to consider any change in Russia policy.  Then throw in Trump doesn’t do policy.  What policy does he seek with Russia?  Who knows?  Well there is America Great and……? So Trump  was and is stuck in Trump world. Do a few flashy deals one on one with the big man, so to establish  friendship with Russia. Done deal.  Or something like that. Since there was nobody at State or anywhere to  bring about such ‘deals’, Trump turned to the idiots and grifters who populate his world.  So we get Flynn et al. A clown show that has about as much to do with serious geopolitical tactics and strategic policy of a Great nation as a boys night out at Wrestlemania.

      Meanwhile the Putin is the devil crowd actually think some sorts of Putin/Trump deals and quid pro quos are happening, could happen, or soon will.  Which is absurd because Putin doesn’t care anymore. For 25 years we kicked Russia in the teeth so now Russia has gone all in with China on China’s dream of Eurasian economic integration, BRI it’s called for now.  The Euro part is open to question, cue NATO and the EU, our hoped for little cousin the United States of Europe.  Still there is the rest of the world.

      The US and EU have nothing to offer Russia anymore or not much. Not as much as Asia. One might say that the history of Russia has been trying to be European but they have finally given up, or alternately, it’s Eurasia baby. To wit I offer two articles seen just today.  Now you can discount the sources as much as you want but to my eyes we have ‘lost’ Russia.  As for Trump?  Well Trump has no clue. He’s every bodies fool. Even if he did have that sort of pre cognitive itch that something was off about our Russia policies.



      • greengiant says:

        Rapier:   From my bleacher seat, Russia was not the US’s to lose.  The neo****  have done a great job at destroying Europe, the mid East and the US and everywhere else they touch.

      • bell says:

        rapier… thanks.. i believe many others share a similar view to what you’ve articulated here.. as a canuck, i certainly do. russia has been on the usa/neocon shit list for a very long time.. the ramp up with ukraine with nuland handing out free cookies,  the war in syria with the usa happily supporting wahabbi headchoppers, while always claiming otherwise, not to mention the destruction of libya which continues as a failed state – all thanks the neo con agenda that the usa has become 24/7.. russia is in the usa msm 24/7 for a reason.. war is the overriding plan.. trump might have thought an alternative was possible.. it certainly wouldn’t be with h clinton..  here is a link that articulates it way better then i.. thanks for your post.  DOES THE UNITED STATES HAVE A FUTURE?

    • Trent says:

      Occam’s razor: “That’s the behavior of someone deeply in debt to a powerful creditor who does his own collection work.”

  3. harpie says:

    May be not OT:
    Former high-level officials submit ‘unusual’ Russia brief [on 12/8/17] in lawsuit against Trump and Roger Stone; Business Insider; 12/14/17 

    […] The former officials emphasized in the neutral brief that they could not disclose classified information. But their message was clear: The Kremlin uses local actors to help amplify the scope and impact of its influence operations, including the one targeting the US election in 2016. […]

      • pseudonymous in nc says:

        Natasha Bertrand is in good form right now, and it’s mostly from being attentive to dockets and other public documents and doing appropriate follow-up. She also noticed that Cummings and Nadler picked up on Parscale and CA not denying any contacts with foreign govts/actors when other data firms did.

        • Rapier says:

          Well aren’t most of us. Throwing in after phone, reading snippets of stuff on the internet and forming instant judgments.  Most of us that is, except saints like you.

          *absolutely no irony or sarcasm intended with that saint thing.

        • pseudonymous in nc says:


          (Though to be fair that amicus brief doesn’t require much close reading, since it’s a giant O HAI left on the docket.)

        • harpie says:

          Marcy, there’s absolutely no doubt that you are among the best readers-of-documents around, and that is very much appreciated by me and many others. :-)

          I don’t know if Bertrand read this doc poorly, but I do appreciate that she flagged it and posted it so that I could read it [hopefully somewhat competently]. I’m intrigued by the fact that this document was written, by these people at this time.

  4. Domye West says:

    For some reason I can’t reply directly to a comment, but this is in response to Silent Hand. Natasha Bertrand has been KILLING it for a while now, I really started paying attention when she kicked Trump’s legal team’s butt.

    • earlofhuntingdon says:

      When the “Reply” button doesn’t work, right click on it.  Open a new tab. The “leave a reply” box will be there.  Write comment.  Post.  It will post in the correct spot.

  5. earlofhuntingdon says:

    Slightly OT, on Trump’s talk of pardoning Flynn.  It seems legally nonsensical and intended to keep the base happy over the holidays.

    A pardon would not erase Flynn’s conviction. It would only avoid penalties for it.  If Mueller has agreed and can convince the court to accept it, Flynn may already do no jail time.  That leaves precious little to pardon.  Flynn and presumably his son would still be vulnerable to prosecution for state crimes, which a pardon would make a state prosecutor more willing to pursue.

    If Trump is telegraphing a pardon to Flynn in order to shut him up, it does no good.  (It might have done if Trump had issued it before Flynn started cooperating.) Flynn must continue cooperating with Mueller or face the consequences to himself and his family for violating his plea agreement.  That is, unless and until a pardon issues.  So Trump’s dangling the idea but not doing anything keeps Flynn talking and Trump in jeopardy.

    As with Scooter Libby, voiding criminal liability for pardoned crimes would also remove any Fifth Amendment right to shut up, lest talk lead to self-incrimination.  The pardon removes that threat, and so Flynn would have to talk or face contempt proceedings.  Trump could presumably issue a second pardon to Flynn for those.  But that would take Trump further down the obstruction rabbit hole into which he would already have jumped owing to the pardon (for corrupt purposes) itself.

    All in, the pardon talk seems a month late and legally short, even as a signal to Flynn or others.  And who, being close enough to Trump to put him in jeopardy by talking to the feds, would be self-wounding enough to rely on the promise of a pardon from Trump.  (For anyone in that category, I have a few condos in Panama to sell you.)  This happy talk from Trump looks a lot like a few snickerdoodles lofted to the base in lieu of paper towels.

    • emptywheel says:

      Agree. The moment to pardon was before Kushner testified and did not exonerate Flynn. Heck. It might be worth a quick post.

      • pseudonymous in nc says:

        Yeah, even before considering the 5th amendment stuff, a pardon doesn’t somehow wipe out any sworn testimony or agreed statement of facts, though I wouldn’t put it past these dummies to believe it does, as if it’s a mulligan on the golf course. “Yeah, we issued a pardon, so everything Flynn said happened is now #fakenews, no take backsies!”

        I honestly think it’s the “you’ll see” tic, not some kind of deliberate specific dangle. This is the “how do you keep an idiot in suspense?” presidency except it’s the idiot keeping everybody else in suspense.

    • lefty665 says:

      Thought that what Duhbya did was to commute Scooter’s sentence, not pardon him, and that it came after he was sentenced but before he started to serve his time. That preserved Scooter’s 5th amendment rights and kept him out of jail, but think I recall it was not enough to make Cheney happy. The live blogger I was reading back then can probably provide chapter and verse on that. Wink wink, nudge, nudge.

      Sure seems that pardoning Flynn now is worse than pointless. For Trump the damage was done when Flynn cut his deal with Mueller.  He must have had something really juicy since all Flynn had to plead to was a single count of lying to the FBI. Guess all the other stuff is Mueller’s insurance to make sure he stays bought. Hope Flynn coughed up Jared and Junior.

      • earlofhuntingdon says:

        That’s one reason Shrub only commuted Scooter’s sentence rather than pardoning him.  Cheney wanted an act of presidential acceptance, forgiveness and immunity.  What Scooter got was a get out of jail free card, instead, but one that protected the president by keeping in place Scooter’s Fifth Amendment rights so as to keep him quiet.

Comments are closed.