The Same Day Aras Agalarov Was Talking about Restoring Communication with Trump, Jared Kushner Pitched a Back Channel

I want to pull out a few details regarding the December 1, 2016 meeting between Mike Flynn, Jared Kushner, and Russian Ambassador Sergey Kislyak that come out of the SJC materials released some weeks back. They show that the same day that Jared pitched Kislyak on a back channel, Trump’s handler was in Moscow trying to figure out how to restore communications in the wake of the election.

In his statement (remember, he chickened out of testifying before SJC after Flynn pled guilty, though he attributed the decision to Dianne Feinstein’s release of Glenn Simpson’s transcript), Kushner stated that Kislyak requested the meeting on November 16.

On November 16, 2016, my assistant received a request for a meeting from the Russian Ambassador.

On November 18, Ike Kaveladze texted Aras Agalarov, following up on a phone conversation they had already had, reporting on Rob Goldstone’s outreach to the Trump team to set up a second meeting with Natalia Veselnitskaya to discuss Magnitsky sanctions again.

Q. Could you please take a look at the entry for November 18, 2016, at 17:45. This appears to  be a message from you to Aras Agalarov. Mr. Kaveladze, could you please translate the content of that message?

A. “Hello. Rob spoke with Trump people. They asked a short synopsis of what is she going to be discussing. Last time she produced a lot of emotions and less facts. Most of the people who took part in that meeting are moving to Washington, D. C. Some of them already fired. When they receive synopsis, they will decide who to send to that meeting.”

The text is bizarre for several reasons. While Kaveladze’s English is not great, the description of what has happened to the attendees at the June 9 meeting would suggest more than three attendees, not least because by saying “some” people got fired suggests more than one person — Paul Manafort — had been. In any case, the text makes it clear that the Agalarovs had already started their efforts to resume the discussion about raising Magnitsky sanctions first presented during the summer, which Don Jr had said  in that meeting they would revisit after his father won.

Indeed, while we don’t know when those calls occurred, the outreach seems to nearly if not exactly coincide with Kislyak’s outreach to Kushner, the one known June 9 meeting attendee who was already headed to Washington.

In his testimony, Goldstone claimed he hadn’t done the outreach clearly reflected in Kaveladze’s text and hadn’t forwarded Veselnitskaya’s document the previous week, as reflected in another text to Kaveladze.

Q. So in your November 27th message to Mr. Kaveladze, you said you forwarded the information last week. The last email was an email sent on November 28th, the day after this message with Kaveladze, forwarding the document to Ms. Graff. Had you, in fact, forwarded the document the week before your November 27th message with Kaveladze?

A. I don’t recall, but because I know myself, and I know how I write , I would imagine that the minute he reminded me of it in here, I forwarded it to Rhona, probably the next day. So I don’t recall one before then, no.

Q. All right. Prior to sending that email to Ms. Graff on November 28th, 2016, did you speak with Ms. Graff or any other Trump associates about a second meeting with Veselnitskaya?

A. I don’t believe so.

The Kaveladze transcript and his text messages reveal that the efforts to get Veselnitskaya back in to meet with the Trump team continued for the rest of November.

Probably because he was interviewed before Kaveladze’s documents were provided to the committee, Don Jr was not asked about any of those texts (and Goldstone wasn’t asked about the Kaveladze ones that clearly rebutted his story). Don Jr was asked only about a November 28, 2016 email from Goldstone to Rhona Graff forwarding Veselnitskaya’s document, which was not CCed to Junior. Even though he was probably the one whom Goldstone spoke to and was instructed by to send a synopsis and probably got a synopsis a week before Graff did, Junior claimed not to recall any other follow-up besides the email to Graff.

Q. It appears Mr. Goldstone continued his anti-Magnitsky effort beyond your June 9, 2016 meeting. Other than this e-mail, were you aware of any other effort he made on this issue after your meeting?

A. Not that I recall, no.

Goldstone told Kaveladze he made a bunch of calls following up on the synopsis on November 28, but got no response (though he testified he didn’t make the calls because he didn’t want to pitch the second meeting). He also texted Kaveladze about having Emin call “Trump” (presumably Junior) directly.

In a text on November 29 to Veselnitskaya, Kaveladze explained, without describing from whom Goldstone had learned this, that “Robert says that logistics of organizations of meetings with Team Trump now would be difficult and lengthy. I’ve landed in Moscow. I will discuss this situation … with my boss.”

The next day, December 1 at 11:49AM, Kaveladze texted again (Veselnitskaya was by this point frantic because Trump had met with Preet Bharara, with her even discussing who Trump might, “Wet and not to wet” with respect to the US Attorney, which Kaveladze translated as “crush”), explaining that Aras planned on meeting with Trump to restore communications. “Unfortunately, we don’t have communication. My boss planned to meet with him. We will send a formal request. Hopefully after the meeting we will keep communication.”

The timing on all of Kaveladze’s communications are difficult to track since he travels to Moscow so often, but his time stamps probably reflect PT, meaning that text would have been sent in the evening Moscow time, which is 7 hours ahead of DC.

On December 1, Jared Kushner (the one June 9 meeting attendee definitely on his way to DC at that point) and Mike Flynn met with Sergey Kislyak. Even according to Jared’s prepared statement, that meeting was about establishing communication channels to Russia.

The meeting occurred in Trump Tower where we had our transition office, and lasted twenty-thirty minutes. Lt. General Michael Flynn (Ret.), who became the President’s National Security Advisor, also attended. During the meeting, after pleasantries were exchanged, as I had done in many of the meetings I had and would have with foreign officials, I stated our desire for a fresh start in relations. Also, as I had done in other meetings with foreign officials, I asked Ambassador Kislyak if he would identify the best person (whether the Ambassador or someone else) with whom to have direct discussions and who had contact with his President. The fact that I was asking about ways to start a dialogue after Election Day should of course be viewed as strong evidence that I was not aware of one that existed before Election Day.

The Ambassador expressed similar sentiments about relations, and then said he especially wanted to address US. policy in Syria, and that he wanted to convey information from what he called his “generals.” He said he wanted to provide information that would help inform the new administration. He said the generals could not easily come to the U.S. to convey this information and he asked if there was a secure line in the transition office to conduct a conversation. General Flynn or I explained that there were no such lines. I believed developing a thoughtful approach on Syria was a very high priority given the ongoing humanitarian crisis, and I asked if they had an existing communications channel at his embassy we could use where they would be comfortable transmitting the information they wanted to relay to General Flynn. The Ambassador said that would not be possible and so we all agreed that we would receive this information after the Inauguration. [emphasis original]

Of course, intercepts of Kislyak’s calls back to Moscow captured his alarm that Kushner wanted to use Russian diplomatic facilities to communicate with Russia.

Ambassador Sergey Kislyak reported to his superiors in Moscow that Kushner, son-in-law and confidant to then-President-elect Trump, made the proposal during a meeting on Dec. 1 or 2 at Trump Tower, according to intercepts of Russian communications that were reviewed by U.S. officials. Kislyak said Kushner suggested using Russian diplomatic facilities in the United States for the communications.


Kislyak reportedly was taken aback by the suggestion of allowing an American to use Russian communications gear at its embassy or consulate — a proposal that would have carried security risks for Moscow as well as the Trump team.

In any case, this makes it clear that the same day that Trump’s handler, Aras Agalarov, was discussing restoring communication channels with Trump in the post-election period, Jared was pitching the Russian Ambassador on using Russian facilities to conduct such communication. And even though Kushner claims he and Kislyak deferred such communications until after the inauguration, we know that within weeks, Kislyak had set up a meeting with the head of a sanctioned bank to meet with Kushner, a meeting that would precede Flynn’s calls with Kislyak about delaying any response to Obama’s December 28 sanctions, which would, in turn, lead to another meeting in Seychelles, all before the inauguration.

Natalia Veselnitskaya never got her second meeting to pitch the end to Magnitsky sanctions, but Sergey Gorkov got a meeting.

One more detail. Kushner’s statement suggests the meeting with Kislyak took place in formal transition space. But that’s not the case.

Don Jr revealed that meeting took place in his office (he came in at the end, sweaty from a workout).

Q. You mentioned during the conversation with my colleagues that you had become aware of a meeting or meetings with Ambassador Kislyak. Can you just explain like what meetings did you become aware of? When did they take place?

A. I don’t remember the exact timing of when they took place. I believe it was after we had already secured — meaning after the election, but I could be mistaken. The only reason I’m aware of it is because it occurred in my office. I came back from the gym and they were in there.

Q. So when you say after the election, you mean after November 8, 2016?

A. I believe so.

Q. Was it a meeting in December of 2016?

A. That would fit the description, yes, I believe so.

Q. So it was a meeting in Trump Tower?

A. Yes.

Q. In your office but you hadn’t known about it beforehand?

A. Correct.

Q. Do you know why they used your office?

A. It was open, I was at the gym.

Q. And who was in that meeting?

A. I believe it was Jared Kushner, the Ambassador, maybe Flynn, but I don’t remember.

Q. Anyone else, to the best of your recollection?

A. No, not that I recall.

Q. Was the meeting still ongoing when you returned?

A. I believe it was, yes.

Q. Did you go in and join the meeting?

A. No, I did not.

Q. Why not?

A. Because I didn’t know what it was about and I was sweaty from the gym.

Q. Did you ask Mr. Kushner or Lieutenant General Flynn about the meeting after?

A. No, I don’t think I did.

Don’t people shower at the gym before they head back to work? Especially if it’s a fancy schmancy private gym?

At the very least, this suggests that the meeting between Kushner, Flynn, and Kislyak took place outside of formal transition space, which might mean it took place outside the view of Secret Service (a habit Don Jr himself adopted the following year for a period). Don Jr’s claims to have been at the gym, ignorant to the meeting that seemed to parallel one taking place that day in Moscow between Agalarov team members in the wake of discussions about Emin reaching out to Don Jr, are suspicious, not least because he claimed to have forgone the normal shower process following a workout. Had he been in the meeting, you’d think Kislyak would have reported that back. Maybe he did.

But one thing is clear: In NYC and Moscow, on the same day, the Trump team and their Russian handlers were trying to figure out how to restore communications in the wake of the election.

72 replies
  1. Peterr says:

    Don’t people shower at the gym before they head back to work? Especially if it’s a fancy schmancy private gym?

    If you’ve got a fancy schmancy office, the private executive washroom may have a shower.

    • earlofhuntingdon says:

      And probably its own private gym, in addition to whatever memberships are available elsewhere.  These guys savor privacy, exclusivity and not sharing germs.

    • SteveB says:

      From the photos available at oyster Trump Tower fitness centre is not the place to take a shower if you can avoid it : see photo 19 Donald Trump hand cleanser and wet wipes eeewwww!

      • earlofhuntingdon says:

        Building owners and top executives, if they want them, often have their own private gyms.

    • Drew says:

      I once was the director of a library where one of my predecessors had had control of its design. My office had a fully private bathroom. No shower in it, but it was a particularly nice kind of privacy to have. Now, in uber-luxurious Trump Tower c-suite, that in-the-office, it would surprise me if his office didn’t have a shower, and that it would be preferable to take his shower in that privacy than in a shared facility.

  2. earlofhuntingdon says:

    Funny how Junior tried so hard to characterize a request for a direct channel between the president-elect and Putin as “evidence” that one did not exist.  That leaves out the issue of when such a channel might have existed.

    Junior also takes the position that talking to Putin’s ambassador to the US is somehow itself not a direct channel.  In fact, it’s the principal one most presidents and presidents-in-waiting ever used\.

    That Trump’s team wanted another one – that the USG did not have access to – at all, let alone so close to Trump’s swearing in, is remarkable.  It is hard to imagine a legitimate purpose for it, or one that does not actively interfere with existing US relations with a foreign power.

    • Peterr says:

      Kislyak shares your opinion. I’d love to see the full text of the cables back and forth with the Kremlin over that.

      Junior Kushner also takes the position that talking to Putin’s ambassador to the US is somehow itself not a direct channel.

      This also demonstrates the Trump view that everything is personal. Trump personifies the US and Putin personifies Russia, in a very literal sense. I think it also is true that Trump wants to be able to talk directly with whomever he wants, without going through minions. (See also my comment below re Preet, who was surprised when Trump asked for his personal cell phone and office phone numbers.)

  3. Peterr says:

    The next day, December 1 at 11:49AM, Kaveladze texted again (Veselnitskaya was by this point frantic because Trump had met with Preet Bharara, with her even discussing who Trump might, “Wet and not to wet” with respect to the US Attorney, which Kaveladze translated as “crush”), explaining that Aras planned on meeting with Trump to restore communications. “Unfortunately, we don’t have communication. My boss planned to meet with him. We will send a formal request. Hopefully after the meeting we will keep communication.”

    This is *really* interesting. Is Veselnitskaya speculating about who Trump might direct Preet to come down on – meaning various Russian interests within the jurisdiction of SDNY? If so, that puts Preet’s firing in a very different light.

    This being EW, a timeline is in order (from 2 CNN stories about his contacts with Trump and his firing . . .

    “shortly after the election”:

    Schumer calls Preet to say that Trump wants to keep him on

    Nov 30:

    Bharara said that the call [from Schumer] came as a surprise to him but was “flattered at the time.” It led to an in-person meet-and-greet . . . with the President-elect along with his right-hand campaign aides — and later White House advisers — Steve Bannon and Jared Kushner.

    During the meeting, Bharara said nothing “inappropriate” or “untoward” came up, including discussing the details of any ongoing cases. But something peculiar did happen: Trump requested Bharara’s personal cell phone and office numbers.

    “It was odd, because as a general matter, Presidents don’t speak directly to United States attorneys. It’s unheard of in my experience,” he said. “You know the number of times President (Barack) Obama called me? Zero.”

    Dec 12:

    “I wondered what it was about and I also wondered why the President-elect would not have foremost in his mind the awkwardness that was the tarmac incident where there was a private conversation between Bill Clinton and then Attorney General Loretta Lynch. And the most notable critic of that meeting was Donald Trump himself,” Bharara said. “But he was not yet the President. He couldn’t direct me to do anything.”

    Bharara chose to return Trump’s call. But he said he noted at the time that it “wasn’t the greatest thing in the world to have a direct and casual line of communication between a sitting United States attorney and a future President of the United States. Particularly given the kinds of jurisdiction I have in Manhattan.”

    Which, Bharara added, included “interests close to the President of the United States.”

    However, the call ended up being pretty unmemorable, Bharara said. He described Trump as “genial” and said he sounded like he wanted to “cultivate a relationship.”

    Jan 19:

    “This time again the President-elect seemed to simply be calling to shoot the breeze,” Bharara said, adding that he thought it was “odd that (Trump) had time for a five-minute chit-chat to the local US attorney in Manhattan” especially considering that it was the day before he took office.

    Bharara added: “To my knowledge, Donald Trump did not reach out to any other US attorney, and none has come forward to say they got a phone call — it seemed like it was just me.”

    March 9:

    Bharara went about his job for a month and a half before he got another direct call from Trump on March 9. But this time was different. Trump was now the President. Bharara said what was especially notable about the date of the call was that at the time there had been much many cries from multiple corners to investigate aspects of Trump’s business dealings and other ethics issues.

    “I have reason to believe later that nobody knew that Donald Trump was calling me from the Oval Office,” Bharara said. “I’m not saying he was going to tell me to do something I shouldn’t do, but I thought even the phone call was a problem.”

    Bharara said he mulled over how to react to the call. He considered having someone listen in to the call but said it didn’t seem proper. He even considered recording the phone conversation but said he ultimately decided it was “a bridge too far.”

    So instead, he decided to decline the call completely, and called back the President’s office to let them know.

    March 10:

    Preet is asked to resign, and refuses.

    March 11:

    Preet is fired.

    It looks as if once Preet signaled that he wouldn’t play ball by not taking Trump’s call, Trump canned him. Speculation to this point has been that Trump was worried about Preet causing problems for the Trump Organization, but Veselnitskaya’s “frantic” concerns on December 1 makes me wonder if that is the only thing Trump was worried about. On March 10, it was Trump who became frantic, causing him to can not just Preet but all (save Boente) of the USAttys to cover for going after Preet. The question is why?

    And the other very interesting question is “Has Mueller talked with Preet about this?”

      • earlofhuntingdon says:

        Not that the Attorney General doesn’t normally process such things through his office, since they nominally work for the DoJ.  Jefferson Beauregard, the top executive of the DoJ, must have been sleeping the afternoon his boss told him to fire all the USA’s.

      • Peterr says:

        That’s where Preet’s comments above about the Jan 19 call is rather interesting: “I have reason to believe later that nobody knew that Donald Trump was calling me from the Oval Office.”

        First, note the word “later.” Preet didn’t know this at the time he looked down at his phone and saw that Trump was calling and he chose to let it go to voicemail rather than take the call.

        This leads me to think that when Preet called the WH back to tell them why he didn’t take the call and wouldn’t take calls like this in the future, he spoke to someone (Reince?) whose reaction was “He did WHAT!?!? Christ, you can’t leave him alone for five minutes.”

        Or words to that effect.

        To borrow from Comey, “Lordy, I hope there are tapes.”

        • emptywheel says:

          Also possible he did it on his cell. At least one of the calls to Comey (I think a later one) went thru WH switchboard.

          • Peterr says:

            Whether Trump called from his cell or via the switchboard isn’t the point. Preet says he knows that Trump was alone in the Oval when it happened.

            And I’m sure Preet would have called the switchboard when he returned the call, to make sure he *didn’t* get Trump on the other end.

      • Peterr says:

        From the transcript of his testimony:

        Sessions: I can’t re — I can’t believe I can’t remember that.

        I can’t believe it either, Ol’ Jefferson Beauregard. On this we are in complete agreement: I can’t believe it at all.

    • orionATL says:

      veselnitskya was an attorney involved in the prevezon case before doj-sdny where preet bahrara was u. s. attorney. the prevezon case involved real estate money laundering charges and is related to discoveries of fraud by russian gov’t officials’ uncovered by russian attorney sergei magnitsky who died (was killed) in a russian prison. the magnitsky act was named for him and resulted in sanctions against russia for magnitsky’s imprisonment and mistreatment. putin’s response to those sanctions was to prevent russian orphand from being adopted. it was this topic ms. v. raised in the june 9 meeting.

      when veselnitskya met with the trump boys on june 9, 2016 and (presumably) talked about the magnitsky act and russian orphans, she was wearing a second hat as an attorney with a related case (prevezon) before doj (sdny territory) . it is hard to believe she would not have been very interested in whether bahrara would continue at sdny or be relaced by trump. that may be what “vetting” was about.

      the prevezon case was settled by a doj offer in may, 2017. there is suspicion that the trump camp forced the settlement. others believe it was a reasonable doj action. i land on the side of suspicion primarily bacause of the reaction of the defense attorneys – “we were ready for trial and surprised.”

  4. Bob Conyers says:

    I love the highlighted bit from Kushner:

    “The fact that I was asking about ways to start a dialogue after Election Day should of course be viewed as strong evidence that I was not aware of one that existed before Election Day.”

    Yeah, there is no way your actions conform to what someone would do if they were trying to cover their tracks. I mean, it’s theoretically possible he had no idea of anything going on during the campaign, but this stuff sure doesn’t count as strong evidence. They were worried at that point that people were watching, and the people they were worried about were not the Russians.

    • SteveB says:

      ” the fact that I have carefully chosen the phrase ‘asking to START a dialogue’ is strong evidence I am shoring up the plausible deniabilty of the prior connivance and contact via cut-outs”

      • Bob Conyers says:

        You see, Detective Columbo, the fact that I bought a brand new revolver right after the murder and announced to the gun store owner that I had never owned a gun before is proof that I had nothing to do with the murder weapon that was found at the bottom of the river half a mile away from my house.

  5. johno says:

    “The fact that I was asking about ways to start a dialogue….”  Like using the Russian’s own secret comms at their embassy – shocking even the Russians? And then he gets a security clearance?

    • Rusharuse says:

      Some say the “Rootin Ramessis” himself demanded the clearances? Other reports tied the clearances to Kushners marathon interview with Mueller. Then Kush got his lawyer on tv (I swear thats Woody Allen) to bury the issue with bullshit. So, how did those two good kids, great kids get their papers on the same day? . . FWIW. I go with the Royal decree/”fuck u general” story!

      • bmaz says:

        Hey, don’t laugh at “Woody Allen”. The lawyer’s name is Abbe Lowell, and he is one kick ass fantastic lawyer. He is extremely good.

        • Peterr says:

          Assuming his clients listen to his advice.

          So far, that hasn’t been a particular problem with Kushner, but the day will come when Abbe will recommend something that forces Jared to choose between protecting his own skin and protecting his father in law.

          And if Jared chooses to protect Trump, would Abbe resign as Jared’s lawyer? Given that Jared is not (yet) charged with anything, am I right that Abbe would not have to ask anyone’s permission but could simply say “we’re done here” and leave Jared in the care of Trump, Rudy, & Co?

          • bmaz says:

            Yes, withdrawal easy until you are an attorney of record on the docket in a court on a criminal case. Easier even if attorney of record on a civil case, but far more problematic on a criminal case.

            • Peterr says:

              If I were Lowell, I’d be reminding Jared of that every day. “You hired me for my expertise and advice. The day you reject either of those two is the day I walk.”

  6. Michael S. Haugen says:

    bmaz, the only thing that scares me more’n refusing a subpoena and subsequent declaration of national emergency is Abby Lowell. He is that good. And he has been around.

  7. Michael S. Haugen says:

    bmaz, the only thing that scares me more than a refusal of a subpeona and subsequent declaration of national emergency is Abby Lowell. He is THAT good and he’s been in the wars. I wonder how much he got up front cuz regardless of how this plays out he isn’t gunna get paid by Trumpty.

    • Peterr says:

      The key is whether Lowell’s client realizes that he’s that good, and follows his advice. Trump has a demonstrated history of ignoring what his lawyers advise him to do (or not do). If/when Lowell advises Kushner to do something that will protect Jared and put Trump in legal jeopardy, which way will Kushner go?

      And yes, I strongly suspect he got a sizable up-front retainer. “You and I both know that this isn’t a battle over a parking ticket. You need long-term representation, and I need certainty that I’ll be paid. No offense, but the Trump Organization has a history of stiffing its subcontractors, and I have no intention of adding my name to that list.”

      • emptywheel says:

        I’ve long said I’ll be disappointed if Jared doesn’t sell out Pops. It’s in the family, after all. And, as I keep saying, HE hasn’t been in the family that long.

        • Trip says:

          Kushner would sell out Trump in a heartbeat, (rather than go to prison, if there is anything there),  if he hasn’t already. No way he’d take a bullet for Trump. He still has his own father to work with in business endeavors, and his tight connections with Bibi.

          • Peterr says:

            The missing element in this calculus is Ivanka. If we’re just talking about Jared and Donald, then I agree that he’d sell him out when it suited him. But when you add Ivanka to the equation, things change. If Jared is ready to sell out Donald and tells Ivanka about it, would Ivanka stand with her husband, or would she stand with her father and ask/demand that he reconsider his decision? If it’s the latter, would Jared be more inclined to decide to take a bullet for Donald to keep his wife?

            • Trip says:

              I really don’t know. All of them are cold and calculating people who, first and foremost, are concerned about themselves. So, given a choice that upsets Ivanka’s life too much, she’d stay with princess status, and whoever could provide it, be it either Jared or Donald.

              Donald Trump Jr, on the other hand, is needy and desperate for his father’s approval. I think he’s more likely to go down with the ship. And Donald would have no problem throwing him under the bus, if he had to.
              Editing to add, @southpaw’s thread mentioned Melania moving back to NYC. Don’t know if true.

    • SteveB says:

      I suspect that the origin is some idiom relating to water which got lost in translation, and conveying  neutralising or nullifying PreetB, perhaps something along the lines (assuming the originator was English speaker) “washing him out” or “flushing him out/away”

      • SteveB says:

        Rinse and wring, then hang out to dry : seems to fit what happened


        However, I saw on twitter Russian linguists confirmed to EW that it is a Russian idiom meaning restrict effectiveness or space to operate, which has made me wonder whether the etymology is maybe crowd control or prisoner control using hoses/watercannon.

        Trump would enjoy being hoser-in-chief I imagine as it combines control with malice and humilation.

  8. orionATL says:

    the suggestion to set up of a (hopefully :) ) secure, private channel between the trump group and the russian gov’t in the particular context ew discovered is an important discovery among the millions of words of testimony now available.

    what caught my attention though was the reappearance of natalya veselitskya. she apparently expected, and agaralov’s boys were working to get her, another trump meeting. i don’t quite know how to interpret this. i had assumed veselnitskya’s june 9 appearance to talk about magnitsky sanctions was just a ploy, a cover for “the real” operation. but maybe not. maybe the magnitsky sanctions removal was an easy job putin thought could be achieved with minimum political trouble for trump.

    a puzzle for now.

    • orionATL says:

      five months after the june 9 meeting and just days after trump’s election, three of the participants are back trying to arrange another meeting for lawyer natalya veselnitskya. publicist rob goldstone (who must speak and read russian) and agalarov corporation (crocus) vice-president-in-america, ike kaveladze, were working to arrange that meeting for ms. v., apparently with the encouragement of crocus boss aras agalarov.

      this suggests veselnitskya and kaveladze were the two key russian participants in the june 9 meeting. it also suggests that magnitsky act sanctions or the prevezon case or both were more important to these folks than i had imagined.

      • orionATL says:

        the relationship of lawyer n. veselnitskya to both the prevezon case and the magnitsky act and its sanctions, in addition to the russian response to those sanctions (banning russian orphan adoption) is not immediately obvious. veselnitskya’s work is said to have focused on legal issues of concern to moscow city government, but she also has been called on as a skilled lawyer whom the russian government trusts tobrepresent its interests.

        ms. v. represents businessman denys katsyv who owns prevezon holdings and who has lobbied in the u. s. against the magnitsky act – with assistance from ms. vm and russian-american lobbyist reanat akmeteshin, another attendee of the 6/7/16 meeting.

        i don’t know of any personal or business connection between denys katsyv (or his father petor) and aras agalarov who “sponsored” the june 9 meeting.

        these stories may help make v’s professional relationships clearer.

        • orionATL says:

          a useful summary from the wapo article cited above:

          “… The Magnitsky Act imposes sanctions on Russian officials identified by the U.S. government as having been involved in violations of human rights. The Kremlin hates the law — and banned the adoption of Russian children by Americans in retaliation. One of Veselnitskaya’s clients, Denis Katsyv, has been lobbying hard to get the American law overturned. He is the son of senior Russian government official Pyotr Katsyv and the owner of Prevezon, under investigation by the Department of Justice for laundering millions of dollars into New York City real estate. Katsyv registered a nonprofit company in Delaware in February 2016 called the Human Rights Accountability Global Initiative to lobby for the repeal of the American law and the end of the Russian adoption ban.

          Veselnitskaya has worked closely with the Katsyv family on the issue. She has lobbied extensively for repeal of the Magnitsky Act and helped organize a Brussels screening of an anti-Magnitsky film… “

        • orionATL says:

          “… i don’t know of any personal or business connection between denys katsyv (or his father petor) and aras agalarov who “sponsored” the june 9 meeting…”

          it seems to me there should be some connection between the katsyv father or son and aras agaralov other than lawyer veselnitskya. it might be personal, but it could be thru intermediaries in the russian (or moscow) government. it could be thru yuri chaika, but there’s no evidence i know of a katsyv, chaika, agalarov alliance.

          • orionATL says:

            with respect to discovering a bridge connecting the katsyv’s (father and son) and their personal interest in the magnitsky act with aras agarlov who had no known interest, none is apparent.

            to put matters differently, i cannot see why aras agarlov would have any interest at all in magnitsky or its repercussions.

            so maybe someone arranged a marriage of convenience: the katsyv’s and their attorney, ms. v., were interested in magnitsky; agaralov had access to trump thru the comraderie of the 2013 moscow miss universe contest.

            who had an interest in arranging that marriage between the two sides? that might give a clue to the june 9 meeting.

    • orionATL says:

      the younger americans at the june 9 meeting were nonplussed by the russian (veselnetskya’s) presentation involving magnitsky act and orphans, however, i have never read what the much older and russian-experienced manafort thought of the meeting. if there was ever any channel opened between the russian state and the trump campaign, i would expect that it ran thru manafort. manafort joined the campaign in march 2016. he became chairman later and then manager of the campaign in june (as landowski was deposed), the same month as the trump tower meeting. emptywheel has pointed out that the russian website gucifer 2.0 became active a week after the meeting.

      i haven’t read about any surveillance of manafort messaging. i assume from what emptywheel just wrote about the fbi’s surveillance of papadoupolis that it is highly unlikely manafort’s conversations were spied on. and yet, and yet there is said to be a section of the nsa that surveills any and all matters. so who knows?
      the point of interest to me is that manafort had enough experience in eastern europe to know how to interpret the june 9 meeting and he had enough contacts in russsia to be able to communicate back and forth during his time as trump campaign manager.

      it seems clear that the russian government had every intention of doing whatever harm possible to the clinton candidacy, independent of any agreement with the trump campaign. the trump campaign had to actively “volunteer” to work with the russians. apparently they did. the convention (7/18-7/21) fight about ukraine may have been part of the public evidence of this alliance becoming active. more evidence may have come after the election victory with, e. g., the appointment of flynn to national security adviser.

      • orionATL says:

        i failed to list perhaps the outstanding example of trump campaign interaction with russian officials after the june 9 meeting, former trump BFF and earliest supporter, senator jeff sessions’ sessions with ambassador kisylak:

        an interesting part of the wapo chronology is the march 17, 2016 comment by senator sessions about changing the u. s.’ relationship with russia. this was at the same time that russian-wise paul manafort joined (was brought in to) the trump campaign. one could speculate that a deal with the russians started way before the june 9 meeting.

        • orionATL says:

          a way to look at this speculation is:

          trump supporter, confidant, and unofficial campaign honcho jeff sessions’ mid-march 2016 comment about changing american relations with russia for the better (never a normal republican political position), combined with the mid-march hiring of paul manafort could have been the beginning of a process to woo the russians.

          perhaps the reason the june 9 was set up by agalarov, et. al., was because this cooperation was known among a set of russian officials

        • orionATL says:

          following on the 7:16pm comment –

          if you are willing to assume that the trump campaign played footsie early on, e. g., march 2016, with the russian gov (or even if not) –

          then one can say of the june 9 meeting, that there was only one message, one condition that needed to be met by the trump campaign –

          “are you interested in getting damaging info on candidate clinton?”

          to the russians the acceptable answer to that questionwas agreeing to hold a meeting to discuss their offer – nothing more was needed!!

          not only did the campaign agree, but the three most senior campaign leaders attended the subsequent meeting.

          the prescence of madam v. was simply a protective measure. if the russians were being double-crossed then they could point to a legitimate congressional and public lobbying effort against the magnitsky act that had been ongoing in the u. s. as the topic of the meeting.

          it was not necessary that any documents change hands. it was only necessary that the trump campaign agree to hold a meeting when an offer of dirt on clinton was made in the message from goldstone to don jr. that acceptance was the handshake. after that the game was on and, as ew has written, a week later guciffer 2.0 burst into bloom.

          • orionATL says:

            now i’ve gone and soft-pedaled the importance of the magnitsky presentation on june 9. let me balance things out.

            there were two equally important overt “lines” lines of communication from russians to the trump campaign involved in the june 9 meeting. recognizing these removes mystery from the meeting (for me).

            1) the first message “would you like dirt on clinton” was a clear verbal message. the answer, as i have suggested, was not only verbal “i’m loving it if….” (don jr.), but more importantly, nonverbal in setting up a meeting with russians that included the top three power brokers in the trump campaign at the time.

            2) the second message from russian was nonverbal but equally important, the appearance of veselnitskya and her assistants who went on to talk about the magnitsky act and orphans, a matter said to involve the personal pique of putin.

            message number 1 was the “quid”, though no clinton docs were exchanged nor arrangements made to exchange at that meeting (so far as i know). although, as ew has written, guciffer 2. 0 appeared on the campaign scene within a week.

            message number 2 was the “quo”, though no arrangements were discussed then or since then about easing magnitsky or any of the two sets of sanctions the u. s. put on russia (so far as i know).

  9. Mitch Neher says:

    Negotiations between the Trump team and the Russians for sanctions relief make more sense if the unstated goal was for Trump to rescind Obama’s EO 13685 (Crimea sanctions). The discussion of the Magnitsky Act would then be coded language that furnishes plausible deniability for the real deal. OTOH, the negotiation also could have aimed for lax enforcement of the Magnitsky sanctions. And the effort to set-up back-channel communications could have facilitated novel money-laundering schemes to circumvent enforcement of the Magnitsky sanctions. So the actual quid pro quo could have involved all of the foregoing forms of sanctions relief.

    • orionATL says:

      this is interesting.

      are you saying magnitsky act/sanctions included repressing money-laundering?


      • Mitch Neher says:

        I’m not a lawyer. But there are Russians whose property is blocked under something called 31 CFR 584. There’s another law that authorizes the Treasury Dept. to enforce the blocking of property. The Magnitsky Act authorized the POTUS and Treasury to determine which people were responsible for Sergei Magnitsky’s death and block them from the use of their property. That makes it possible for Trump to remove individual Russians from the sanctions list without Congress repealing the Magnitsky Act. I’ll try to avoid legal issues in the future. Sorry.

        • bmaz says:

          Oh there are certainly ways to attach property and funds. In fact, that was exactly how the now infamous Natalia Veselnitskaya first came around, as a Russian minder on the  Katsyv/Prevezon case in SDNY.

          • Mitch Neher says:

            Thanks again, bmaz. I made another mistake on legal turf. What I was trying to say is that oligarchs who lost access to previously laundered money placed in US real estate would need to launder new money. The back-channel communications might facilitate those new money-laundering schemes without changing the existing laws and enforcement efforts.

  10. Trip says:

    CNN is back to categorizing Giuliani’s and Trump’s LIES as “strategy”. That gives an air of legitimacy to LIES. They are LYING to cover up. They keep spewing LIES because, even beyond Trump TV, the MSM diffuses damaging LIES as a perfectly acceptable political maneuver. The LIARS thank you for your service CNN in allowing LIES to be seen as political genius. In this sense, YOU LIE to the public, too.

  11. Trip says:

    From back on May 16th, someone replied to southpaw, who claimed to speak Russian fluently, here was her take (overall):

    southpaw‏ @nycsouthpaw

    Ike Kaveladze and Natalya last-name-redacted text about Donald Trump meeting with @PreetBharara during the transition.

    ellie mae‏ @RuningWildly
~Replying to @nycsouthpaw @PreetBharara

    Natalya (about Bharara):

    “He kept him. How is it possible? Maybe it’s a game? Maybe this is a way to control him?”

    ellie mae‏ @RuningWildly

    Natalya is surprised that Trump kept @PreetBharara. She then speculated that maybe it was done to control Bharara, allow him to go after some people, but not others. Ike’s reply is “Maybe”. She then asks if there is a back channel to understand what this means.

  12. earlofhuntingdon says:

    We know we’re in fantasyland when David Brooks begins his tale with:

    Once upon a time, white male Protestants ruled the roost. You got into a fancy school if your father had gone to the fancy school. You got a job at a white-shoe law firm or climbed the corporate ladder if you golfed at the right club.

    Then we smashed all that.

    We replaced an aristocracy of birth with one based on “merit.”  Merit, of course, has been manipulated beyond recognition by limiting access to elite schools and colleges, by high-cost tutoring to get into them, by massive increases in tuition and student debt, by no-income internships only the well-off can afford.  The list goes on.

    Merit replaced aristocracy about as thoroughly as Jim Crow, debt and prison replaced overt slavery.  The means changed, but not the social and economic relations.  Mr. Brooks claims to have recognized this and argued against it, and for “a meritocracy that is true to its values, truly open to all,” for twenty years.

    Among meritocracy’s faults is that it places too great an emphasis on the individual.  Worse, meritocrats lacked what made aristocrats great.  Not inherited money, no income tax, and rules stacked in their favor, but,

    a civic consciousness, a sense that we live life embedded in community and nation, that we owe a debt to community and nation and that the essence of the admirable life is community before self.

    Ayn Rand, Margaret Thatcher, and neoliberalism be damned then. Mr. Brooks describes Newport, Skull & Bones, and the Business Roundtable, not society as a whole.  He might ponder that as he stables his unicorn behind the big rock candy mountain.

  13. Willis Warren says:

    So, back to a few things that have been floated here.  Dave (upside down on twitter) has suggested to Marcy that the fact that Kushner got his security clearance predicts that Kushner won’t be indicted.  I’m skeptical of that.  Does anyone know the legal angle with which Abby Lowell may have gotten Kush cleared, pun intended?

    In broad terms, wouldn’t a “put up or shut up” approach have gotten the clearance?  I mean, show that a crime has been committed and show why he’s under investigation, or just give him the clearance.

    Zaid doesn’t seem very clear about all this.


    • Willis Warren says:

      Primarily, I’m concerned about the severity of the potential crimes that  Mueller is investigating.  If the IC was only looking at, say, someone like Roger Stone, then flagging Kush would be inconsequential.  But because the IC seems to be going after the BIG FISH, flagging Kush would jeopardize the investigation.

      • Trip says:

        I said that jokingly the other day, that he got clearance because he flipped. But look at what has happened: McCabe’s investigation gets accelerated for political expediency. Sessions and Rosenstein allowed the fiasco of briefings on “spies”. So many norms and procedures have been broken, that there’s no way to tell what inspired Kushner’s approval suddenly. I wish that it was because of what I joked about. On the other hand, some ridiculous shite has gone down that is baffling, worrisome, outside the norm and without adequate explanation. Kushner could have simply gotten a pass because he’s family, and it’s likely Trump shared things with him that he shouldn’t have anyway.

        • Willis Warren says:

          I think Mueller and Rosenstein know the DOJ is in a precarious position with a crooked President and a cover up congress.  If Mueller is, as we suspect, withholding indictments because of pardons, then all of this makes sense and Zaid is wrong.

          • SpaceLifeForm says:

            Nothing big will happen until next year. Past mid-terms.
            Minor indictments or settlements this year to stir pot.
            Greitens resignation an attempt to keep things hidden.
            To try to hide NRA connection. Will not fly.

    • earlofhuntingdon says:

      Supposedly Kushner received it as a result of a decision by civil servants working inside the WH.  Don has as much regard for process as he does for women, and being inside the WH would not insulate them from the Don’s wish that it be issued.

      That tells me that simply because it was issued is neither here nor there with regard to Kushner’s potential exposure to Mueller’s probe.

    • earlofhuntingdon says:

      That’s not how clearances work.  If it were you or I, we would have to be affirmatively vetted.  Pass or forget it.  Reasonable suspicion of a serious problem is sufficient to fail, especially as the clearance sought is higher up the chain.

      Presumably in order to see the PDB, Kushner needed above top secret.  That’s a tough standard.  Given suspicions about Kushner’s past and his present potential conflicts of interest – or corruption – it is highly suspicious that he received the clearance, absent a presidential directive.

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