Mark Corallo’s Obstruction Concerns: “The President…did not attend the meeting.”

Mark Corallo reportedly told Michael Wolff that he quit working for Donald Trump as Marc Kasowitz’ spokesperson because he believed the Air Force One response to the June  9 meeting to be a cover-up.

An aggrieved, unyielding, and threatening president dominated the discussion, pushing into line his daughter and her husband, Hicks, and Raffel. Kasowitz—the lawyer whose specific job was to keep Trump at arm’s length from Russian-related matters—was kept on hold on the phone for an hour and then not put through. The president insisted that the meeting in Trump Tower was purely and simply about Russian adoption policy. That’s what was discussed, period. Period. Even though it was likely, if not certain, that the Times had the incriminating email chain—in fact, it was quite possible that Jared and Ivanka and the lawyers knew the Times had this email chain—the president ordered that no one should let on to the more problematic discussion about Hillary Clinton.

[snip]

In Washington, Kasowitz and the legal team’s spokesperson, Mark Corallo, weren’t informed of either the Times article or the plan for how to respond to it until Don Jr.’s initial statement went out just before the story broke that Saturday.

[snip]

Mark Corallo was instructed not to speak to the press, indeed not to even answer his phone. Later that week, Corallo, seeing no good outcome—and privately confiding that he believed the meeting on Air Force One represented a likely obstruction of justice—quit.

Though as the book makes clear, Trump’s handling (which came just after spending an hour speaking with Vladimir Putin with no minders) of the June 9 meeting story is also what led Kasowitz to leave — both parts of a legal firewall that Steve Bannon had personally put in place.

Given my increasing suspicion that there was a second part of the meeting that has not yet been made public and Bannon’s claim — one Stephen Miller spent 12 minutes not denying over the weekend — that there was no chance that Trump wasn’t part of the meeting, I want to look more closely at the things Corallo said before he was silenced, before the former DOJ spox left out of concerns real obstruction of justice had just occurred.

Here’s some of what appeared in the first NYT story on the June 9 meeting, including a Mark Corallo statement that got repeated elsewhere.

In his statement, Donald Trump Jr. said: “It was a short introductory meeting. I asked Jared and Paul to stop by. 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.”

He added: “I was asked to attend the meeting by an acquaintance, but was not told the name of the person I would be meeting with beforehand.”

Late Saturday, Mark Corallo, a spokesman for the president’s lawyer, issued a statement implying that the meeting was a setup. Ms. Veselnitskaya and the translator who accompanied her to the meeting “misrepresented who they were,” it said.

In an interview, Mr. Corallo explained that Ms. Veselnitskaya, in her anti-Magnitsky campaign, employs a private investigator whose firm, Fusion GPS, produced an intelligence dossier that contained unproven allegations against the president. In a statement, the firm said, “Fusion GPS learned about this meeting from news reports and had no prior knowledge of it. Any claim that Fusion GPS arranged or facilitated this meeting in any way is false.”

That’s interesting enough, because it piggy backs on the larger efforts to treat the dossier as the sole basis for the Russian investigation, and more importantly because it focuses on Natalia Veselitskaya and Rinat Akhmetshin, and not Ike Kaveladze and Rob Goldstone — whom I increasingly suspect stuck around for a second part of the meeting.

If there were two parts to this meeting, then Corallo’s statement and NYT interview addressed just one part of it.

But that’s not the last thing Corallo did that week, before leaving.

He also released this statement to the AP and others.

Mark Corallo, a spokesman for Trump’s legal team, said only, “The President was not aware of and did not attend the meeting.”

The guy who left the White House out of concern about obstruction of justice that very same week, the guy whom Steve Bannon (he who was sure that Trump did meet the meeting attendees) as a firewall in the Russia investigation, denied that Trump had been at the meeting.

The last words Corallo said before leaving out of concerns about obstruction of justice were that Trump did not attend the meeting.

37 replies
  1. Avattoir says:

    “did not attend the meeting”

    (for the hard of reading)

    Mark Corallo [sigh] … such memories. Ms. W by now has pulled up her Corallo <-> English Translation codebook.

    • dalloway says:

      I’m sure Mr. Mueller has that codebook, too — along with the testimony of Mr. Corallo and Mr. Kevaladze and Mr. Goldstone.  No wonder Drumpf is now saying he won’t talk to Mueller.  He either tells the truth and admits consciousness of guilt in fabricating the cover story or he lies and commits perjury.  Not that it will make any difference, mind you.  Treason, money-laundering, tax-evasion, obstruction and perjury don’t matter to Republicans in Congress.  The only impeachable offense they recognize is using a private e-mail server (their grounds for impeaching Clinton, had she been elected) and as everyone knows, Drumpf doesn’t e-mail.  Case closed.  We have Drumpf until 2024 (Russia will have perfected altering our elections by 2020) or he drops dead.

        • dalloway says:

          Yes, I assume you mean conspiring with a hostile foreign power to damage the U.S.  But again, it doesn’t matter what the crime is.  Even if Drumpf is impeached by a Democratic House, even if his many crimes are proved there beyond a reasonable doubt, there won’t be sixty-six votes in the Senate to convict, ever.  Thanks to Murdoch and Fox News and its transformation of a solid third of Americans into a cult immune to reasoned judgment, we don’t have a working constitution any more.

    • Trip says:

      Yes, the decoder ring. It still doesn’t explain why Corallo would quit and want to go out by splitting hairs.  If you are quitting because of some personal integrity, then you just effectively killed it. If you are quitting because you fear criminal liability, why say anything at all, especially if it’s not the absolute truth?

      • earlofhuntingdon says:

        To create distance from the principals, to demonstrate that you did not cooperate or conspire with them.

        But you don’t do that as a junior staffer in connection with the President unless you think the crime is significant, obvious and will obviously come out.

        • Trip says:

          I think I misread the context. I was thinking initially that he had quit and then his parting words were that Trump never attended the meeting. If he said it, and then quit, it makes more sense from the perspective you’ve written.

          • emptywheel says:

            My thinking is he said it based on orders from Trump, came to realize it was not true and he had been part of obstruction, and he — as former DOJ flack and so well aware of the criminal exposure — quit.

            • Desider says:

              Not to get all conspiratorial (okay, maybe yes to…) but I wonder who this rumored kompromat business extends to – like in the good ol’ Communist days, a few tidbits of juicy inside dirt or debts to be paid off can make for some good if reluctant allies, and could explain some recent bizarre behavior, but that way lies madness and paranoia as well, usually with no good way to verify.

            • bmaz says:

              Tend to agree with Marcy at 6:47pm blog time. That said, I strain to take Corallo at much of face value. It has been a while, but I remember Corallo. He did not split out of his amazing personal constitution of Jeffersonian ethics. He just isn’t that guy.

    • Silence Hand says:

      I grew up in a place called Corrales.  The Spaniards kept their horses and prostitutes there back in the day. Never heard of a Corralo, though.

    • cat herder says:

      Corallo: “The President was not aware of and did not attend the meeting.”

      Marcy: “[…]denied that Trump had been at the meeting.”

      Marcy: “Corallo said […] Trump did not attend the meeting.”

      Ah, Marcy, that is not, technically, what he said. He did not say ‘Trump was not aware…’, or ‘candidate Trump’ or ‘DJT’ or anything else. He used the words he used, I have to assume, on purpose. He said ‘The President’ which at the time of the meeting was that Obama guy and he definitely wasn’t there, so he may be telling the absolute truth, in a lawyer-speak (apologies, bmaz) kind of way…

      He also did not deny that “the meeting” went upstairs and “attended” Donald Trump.

      • Avattoir says:

        Or else he came down near whatever’s being characterized as ‘the end’ of “the meeting” Junior convened. Like on the way out or in, he likes working the tables in the dining lounges of his various golf clubs – all very American CEO / Glengarry Glen Ross.

        I’ve acted for a number of these guys; so, you know, … believe me.

      • greengiant says:

        Marcy’s home page teaser:  The last words Mark Corallo issued before leaving the Trump White House out of concerns of obstruction of justice were, “The President was not aware of and did not attend the meeting.”

        It is a test for the reader that the teasers are not copied into the post.

        • cat herder says:

          Is it also part of the test that I’m confused now? All the quotes are from the last 3 paragraphs.

  2. earlofhuntingdon says:

    There’s also the point you’ve raised before, in that the denial relates to the original meeting, not a possible later meeting that might have included principals from the first meeting, either in person or via telecoms.

    If the Russians disclosed that they had real goodies on Hillary, and samples or evidence of it passed muster at the acknowledged meeting, then it seems impossible that the Trump we know, secure in his own building, would not have met with the Russian principals.

    This is a guy with no restraint, desperate to become the GOP nominee, who hated Hillary with a rare passion, and who had his “foreign policy experts” constantly working to put him in touch with top Russians, including Putin.  He could not have sidestepped that meeting.  That would also explain Trump’s desperation to control so crudely the cover story about the real purposes of the meeting(s) at Trump Tower on June 9th.

    • Trip says:

      It depends on what your definition of “Is” is, too. Remember that classic?
      Merriam-Webster~Attend:Define attend: to be present at : to go to.
      Doesn’t necessarily mean you weren’t on speaker phone, texting and so on, as well.

    • emptywheel says:

      Remember that Jared — who helped him craft this statement — left part way through the meeting.

      So maybe it was Jared pitching it to Pops, not Uday.

      • Silence Hand says:

        Yeah, this has always been striking to me.  Wouldn’t everyone up to DJT be fully aware of the meeting and totally on deck?  Odds on, Jared left to get a face-to-face between Ike and DJT all set, and possibly to relay info in a non-electronic way.  That, of course, is all speculation that will probably never be confirmed.  But it seems plausible.

        Again, why show up in person for things that can be communicated by text / email / teleconference / press release?  Of course, I understand that adoptions are an extremely fraught issue when non-shithole countries are involved.

    • Silence Hand says:

      On. The. Money.  I can’t see any scenario, no matter how chaotic we imagine  Trump’s campaign to be in June, where the Russians come bearing gifts and the whole upper third of 721-25 5th Ave. isn’t at a state of highest attention.  Fully erect, one might say.  It strains credulity to say that DJT wasn’t aware of the meeting, and at the least keenly interested in its outcome.  I agree the Ike was essentially the Russian physics package here.  Marcy’s question is fully on-point: where did he go when the other Russians adjourned?  Sadly, it’s chasing ghosts at this point.

      Let’s discount Earl’s closing paragraph for the moment though.  Even doing this, Trump Sr. has a long history of deep Russian entanglement, and already manifests an odd fealty to Putin et al.  Well, odd to you and me – I think Trump sincerely holds that crew in high regard.  Given all of this, how could an impending appearance of Russian emissaries in his gold-tone elevators not be a three-line whip?

      Now lets factor Earl’s final paragraph back in.  I suspect we will find out that the corporeal appearance of Ike et al. was an all-hands-on-deck affair, and that the physics package was in fact delivered to the appropriate coordinates.

      Over the holiday I had the privilege of long conversations with an old friend who’s recently retired from Naval Intelligence.  Like most pros, he has a very common-sense smell test.  His view of all the bullshit we’ve heard thus far about the meeting from Trump et al.?   Well.  Put simple: given that the Russians involved are clearly high-level pros, why show up in person to deliver any of that?

  3. arbusto says:

    In Washington, Kasowitz and the legal team’s spokesperson, Mark Corallo, weren’t informed of either the Times article….

    I guess the lawyers gave Trump the Silver plan, no clipping service or real time updates  vs the Platinum.  Some crisis management team.

    • earlofhuntingdon says:

      You’re assuming Trump would have listened to advice meant to keep him farther from harm’s way, but which would have required him to stay farther away from the Russians and dirt that could be used against the dreaded pirate Hillary in an election still months away.

      Trump’s self-destructive streak is as outrageous as his hair.  I suspect he wouldn’t be able to follow that advice now.

      • Silence Hand says:

        I’m  beginning to suspect that the Russians have had Trump fully wired shut for decades.  I disagree with your sense that any of this is self-destructive.  I think Trump genuinely believes that the Russians are apple pie A-OK.  I mean, we have no problem with England, right?  Why not Russia too?

        The fundamental problem for the Russians here is not that Trump lacks loyalty, but that he lacks brains and stability.  I wouldn’t be surprised if, at this point, his handlers are sending him soothing messages not to nuke North Korea.

        • earlofhuntingdon says:

          Trump’s self-destructive streak is one of his defining characteristics.  He’s just had enough money to buy and intimidate his way out of the trouble it causes.

          The Don has no restraint.  He cannot behave with any other interest in mind but relieving himself of his feeling of the moment. He’s like a spoiled, rich-kid frat boy with half a gallon of beer in him who has to stream it NOW on the closest object.

          Trump might be the asset of a foreign government, but only without him knowing it.  Otherwise, he would blab about it to a lot of the wrong people.  He could, however, be knowingly rolled over a barrel by what he considers a private business matter, such as control over his access to credit.  Cutting it off could topple him.  That would make him sit up and beg.

  4. Anon says:

    This is just speculation but, what are the odds that Trump would have been supportive of the meeting if he genuinely thought it was about adoption. After all he does seem to like “non-shithole” countries.

    • Silence Hand says:

      There is zero chance that Trump considered this about adoption. That explanation speaks only to the unhinged idiocy of the mind that devised it.  Well, and the total idiocy of anyone who actually buys it.  If you know anyone who does, I can put them in touch with a certain African prince who seeks financial arrangements.

  5. Willis Warren says:

    Bannon got an attorney today.  It’s beginning to look like his comments to Wolfe may have been an attempt to blackmail trump or fire a warning shot that he knew about a second meeting.  This is going to be over very soon if that’s true.

    • earlofhuntingdon says:

      Oh, I think the shithole’s escapades with Bob Mueller and even Steve Bannon are just beginning.  And being Trump, he will do his best to drag it out, episode after episode, season after season, until the network cancels him and physically escorts him off the premises, when he will form a parade while slinking back to his by then repossessed former tower.

      The boys with the codes and buttons had best keep them well hidden.  Donald Trump does not share well with others, or experience frustration without luxuriating in rage.

  6. Trip says:

    @Willis Warren

    Or is Bannon simply speaking negotiation language that Trump understands, as in a very public threat? He changed his tune pretty quickly, walking back comments on junior. Then, being in front of the collective defense table of the Republicans, it’s not inconceivable that he will just babble on about what a patriot and good man Trump is, in a grand theatrical production, intended to get him back in good graces and on the gravy train.

    Or, one could argue that being bankrolled by the Mercers was key to getting Trump in and then replacing him with Pence, all along.

      • Trip says:

        I really didn’t intend to comment specifically on Pence as an alternative, but that that could have been the Mercer game plan all along (with or without Bannon being simpatico).

        I think current GOP policies (ie deregulation, religious freedom which is actually creating a state religion, etc) and their legislation is identical to what a Pence presidency would be, aside from the tics and Tourettes-like utterances and tweets of Trump. One example right before our eyes: where are the vast majority of GOP condemning Trump’s shithole comments? They are using pretzel logic to alter meaning. They went from dog whistle to megaphone with Trump. Otherwise, there isn’t much of difference. They support the policies and underlying sentiment.

         

         

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