Why Trump Believed He Could Withhold the June 9 Email: Because He Succeeded in Withholding Moscow Trump Tower Ones

In this post, I showed that I was correct when I wrote, back in January, that the Trump Organization did not turn over all the documents requested in the House Intelligence Committee subpoena to Michael Cohen. Trump Organization withheld — from HPSCI and from Cohen — the email that shows Dmitry Peskov’s office did respond to Cohen’s request for help (as well as emails showing that he kept trying to reach Peskov’s office).

On January 20, 2016, Cohen received an email from Elena Poliakova, Peskov’s personal assistant. Writing from her personal email account, Poliakova stated that she had been trying to reach Cohen and asked that he call her on the personal number that she provided.350 Shortly after receiving Poliakova’s email, Cohen called and spoke to her for 20 minutes.

I also showed that Trump’s sworn response to a Mueller question about all this replicates the lies that Cohen told in his false statement to Congress.

I had few conversations with Mr. Cohen on this subject. As I recall, they were brief, and they were not memorable. I was not enthused about the proposal, and I do not recall any discussion of travel to Russia in connection with it. I do not remember discussing it with anyone else at the Trump Organization, although it is possible. I do not recall being aware at the time of any communications between Mr. Cohen or Felix Sater and any Russian government official regarding the Letter of Intent. In the course of preparing to respond to your questions, I have become aware that Mr. Cohen sent an email regarding the Letter of Intent to “Mr. Peskov” at a general, public email account, which should show there was no meaningful relationship with people in power in Russia. I understand those documents already have been provided to you.


With that in mind, consider the substance of that middle paragraph. It repeats the key lies that Cohen pled guilty to in December:

  • Trump and Cohen only have a few (three) conversations about the deal rather than ten or more
  • Trump did not know of any travel plans to Russia
  • Trump didn’t discuss the project with anyone else at Trump Org, including Ivanka and Don Jr
  • Cohen’s attempt to contact Dmitry Peskov in January 2016 was via a public email address and proved unsuccessful

Compare those lies with the three main lies Cohen pled guilty to.

  • The Moscow Project ended in January 201 6 and was not discussed extensively with others in the Company.
  • COHEN never agreed to travel to Russia in connection with the Moscow Project and “never considered” asking Individual 1 to travel for the project.
  • COHEN did not recall any Russian government response or contact about the Moscow Project.

Not knowing (or caring) that his former fixer was already cooperating with Mueller, Trump repeated precisely the same lies Cohen is now in prison for, did so under oath, and refused to fix those responses when given an opportunity to.

All that’s important background for something explained in the Mueller Report: that it was Trump — not Hope Hicks (as Mark Corallo feared) — who planned to withhold the thread of emails setting up the June 9 meeting to hide that Don Jr had accepted dirt from the Russian government. In the weeks before the NYT learned of the emails, Trump repeatedly tried to insulate himself from being shown the emails and said that “just one lawyer should deal with the matter” to prevent them from leaking.

According to Hicks, Kushner said that he wanted to fill the President in on something that had been discovered in the documents he was to provide to the congressional committees involving a meeting with him, Manafort, and Trump Jr.678 Kushner brought a folder of documents to the meeting and tried to show them to the President, but the President stopped Kushner and said he did not want to know about it, shutting the conversation down.679

On June 28, 2017, Hicks viewed the emails at Kushner’s attorney’s office.680 She recalled being shocked by the emails because they looked “really bad.”681 The next day, Hicks spoke privately with the President to mention her concern about the emails, which she understood were soon going to be shared with Congress.682 The President seemed upset because too many people knew about the emails and he told Hicks that just one lawyer should deal with the matter.683 The President indicated that he did not think the emails would leak, but said they would leak if everyone had access to them.684

Later that day, Hicks, Kushner, and Ivanka Trump went together to talk to the President.685 Hicks recalled that Kushner told the President the June 9 meeting was not a big deal and was about Russian adoption, but that emails existed setting up the meeting.686 Hicks said she wanted to get in front of the story and have Trump Jr. release the emails as part of an interview with “softball questions.”687 The President said he did not want to know about it and they should not go to the press.688 Hicks warned the President that the emails were “really bad” and the story would be “massive” when it broke, but the President was insistent that he did not want to talk about it and said he did not want details.689 Hicks recalled that the President asked Kushner when his document production was due. 690 Kushner responded that it would be a couple of weeks and the President said, “then leave it alone.”691 Hicks also recalled that the President said Kushner’s attorney should give the emails to whomever he needed to give them to, but the President did not think they would be leaked to the press.692 Raffel later heard from Hicks that the President had directed the group not to be proactive in disclosing the emails because the President believed they would not leak.693

When the NYT reached out to the White House for the story, Trump uncharacteristically told Hicks not to comment for the story.

On July 7, 2017, while the President was overseas, Hicks and Raffel learned that the New York Times was working on a story about the June 9 meeting.695 The next day, Hicks told the President about the story and he directed her not to comment.696 Hicks thought the President’s reaction was odd because he usually considered not responding to the press to be the ultimate sin.697

Then, when Trump, who was with Hicks, was chewing Mark Corallo out for the counter-statement he released, Hicks, “channel[ed] the President” by saying that the email would never get out.

The next day, July 9, 2017, Hicks and the President called Corallo together and the President criticized Corallo for the statement he had released.721 Corallo told the President the statement had been authorized and further observed that Trump Jr. ‘s statement was inaccurate and that a document existed that would contradict it.722 Corallo said that he purposely used the term “document” to refer to the emails setting up the June 9 meeting because he did not know what the President knew about the emails.723 Corallo recalled that when he referred to the “document” on the call with the President, Hicks responded that only a few people had access to it and said “it will never get out.”724 Corallo took contemporaneous notes of the call that say: “Also mention existence of doc. Hope says ‘ only a few people have it. It will never get out.”‘725 Hicks later told investigators that she had no memory of making that comment and had always believed the emails would eventually be leaked, but she might have been channeling the President on the phone call because it was clear to her throughout her conversations with the President that he did not think the emails would leak.726

In the period when the Joint Defense Agreement was trying to respond to Congressional requests for documents on Trump’s ties to Russia, the President’s response was to argue that “just one lawyer should deal with the matter” to ensure that the emails did not get out.

That lawyer is Alan Garten.

We know that because in Cohen’s March 6 testimony to the House Intelligence Committee, he described that Alan Garten and Alan Futerfas were in charge of document collection for the Trump Organization.

THE CHAIRMAN: A number of those emails were never turned over to our committee in the document production. Do you know who was responsible for the document production and who would have withheld those documents from this committee?

MR. COHEN: Alan Futerfas and Alan Garten.

More specifically, Cohen’s February 28 testimony to the House Intelligence Committee, he described a meeting he had with Garten on document production. He was telling the story to explain that at the meeting, Garten told Cohen enough for him to figure out that Trump was the one who drafted the false statement on the June 9 meeting.

THE CHAIRMAN: You mentioned a meeting also with Alan Garten?

MR. COHEN: Yes, sir.

THE CHAIRMAN: And can you tell us who that is?

MR. COHEN: Alan Garten is now general counsel at The Trump Organization, And prior to that, he was assistant general counsel.

THE CHAIRMAN: You referenced that in the context of this also raised your suspicion of collusion. What in particular were you referring to?

MR. COHEN: My conversation with Alan Garten was in regard to, I believe, this committee’s subpoena where they wanted all of my contacts from the Trump Org server. And in order to limit the amount, because there were about 10,000, he brought to me a stack of pages and wanted me to go through each one of those email addresses to the best of my ability to mark off which ones were family, which ones were friends, which ones related to Trump Org business, which ones were just solicitations, Google alerts, et cetera. We started to engage in conversation, because at the time the news cycle was all over the allegation that the conversation going back and forth was about adoption. And I said, well, what’s going on? Tell me what happened. So he told me that he was with Don Jr. and that they were communicating back and forth with Air Force One. And he goes, you know how it gets, back and forth and back and forth. He goes, it was such a process. That was the conversation with Alan Garten.

THE CHAIRMAN: And tell me what raised your suspicion about that conversation.

MR. COHEN: lt was about how to describe the meeting, the Trump Tower meeting, as to whether it was about obtaining dirt on Hillary Clinton or it was about adoption. And what he expressed to me is that, you know, Mr. Trump drafted the first round, and it came to Don and him, and then they sent it back, and back and forth.

THE CHAIRMAN: So what he described to you was Mr. Trump’s participation in the creation of a false statement about what took place in that meeting?

MR. COHEN: Yes, that’s how he described it. Well, that’s how I understood it.

But the point of the meeting was to begin the document response process from Trump Organization that resulted in the most damning emails — emails that would prove false the story Cohen and the Trump family lawyers planned to tell about the Trump Tower Moscow deal — being withheld.

In the March 6 one, Adam Schiff got Cohen to repeat that the reason he and Garten were having this conversation in the first place is because Garten was pulling documents to reply to Congressional requests.

Q Well, let me ask it a different way. What was the purpose of him showing you your contacts and other documents?

A The Trump Organization received a subpoena in order to turn over documents, and since I had no documents, everything being in their custody and control, they wanted the contacts to be limited to, I suspect, non-business-related, you know, removal, family removal emails that are not pertaining to the investigation.

Q So the purpose of the meeting was to discuss a document production that The Trump Organization needed to provide?

A Correct.

Q And was it to provide to this committee?

A I don’t know which committee, but I suspect it was all the committees.

Q All right. And do you recall that the false statement that Don Jr. issued about the Trump Tower meeting that was discussed on Air Force One, do you recall that happened in approximately June of 2017?

A I believe so.

Garten was with Don Jr in person as they worked back and forth with Hope Hicks and Donald Trump on Air Force One to draft the June 9 meeting that Trump wanted to lie about by making sure the email didn’t leak.

There were no lawyers on Air Force One. This is the conversation that, in his appearances before Congress, Don Jr successfully avoided discussing because he was with his lawyer. But no privilege should have attached to that conversation because Garten did not represent Trump personally (Trump was supposed to be walled off from Trump Organization matters), much less Hope Hicks.

In June 2017, when Donald Trump was trying to sustain a false story about the June 9 meeting by suggesting that if just one lawyer dealt with the matter, the email disproving that story would not be “leaked,” Alan Garten was ensuring that the email disproving Michael Cohen’s false story did not get turned over to Congress.

That’s why Trump thought he’d get away with the lie. Because he almost got away with it on the Trump Tower Moscow story.

As I disclosed last July, I provided information to the FBI on issues related to the Mueller investigation, so I’m going to include disclosure statements on Mueller investigation posts from here on out. I will include the disclosure whether or not the stuff I shared with the FBI pertains to the subject of the post. 

33 replies
  1. CaliLawyer says:

    Trump’s spent his whole life dodging accountability. Of course he thought he’d get away with it. And is Hicks the one Michael Wolfe insinuated was having an affair with? I suspect she’s who Wolfe was trying to finger.

  2. earlofhuntingdon says:

    Even if Garten had attorney-client or work product privilege here, he seems to be fasting losing its protection (via his client’s assertion of it). His client appears to have been engaged in lying to federal authorities and Garten appears to have joined him.

    But as you say, Garten appears to be representing various Trump Org entities, not Don Jr, Sr or Hicks. (Trump shows no awareness of or respect for that any more than he understands that WH Counsel are not his personal lawyers.) And Don Sr should have been playing no active executive role for the Trump Org. Authority should have passed to Don Jr and/or to Eric. That absence of privilege should make congressional inquiry easier.

    I don’t know how many people believe Trump is no longer managing his own businesses, but if he’s still calling the shots, it would be another in a long list of lies and another reason to launch an impeachment inquiry.

  3. CaliLawyer says:

    FWIW, I think this version of the story is still BS. I don’t believe Jr would take a meeting like that w/o dad’s sign off in advance, so Kushner claiming to have told him it was about adoption is BS.

    • Tom says:

      If the President can claim before the whole world, as he recently tweeted, that nobody told him about Michael Flynn being a bad choice for NSA despite ample evidence to the contrary, then I think he’s capable of putting on a show of not knowing about the June 9th Trump Tower meeting in front of Hicks, Kushner, and Ivanka when they met with him on June 28, 2017. Trump didn’t want anyone talking–especially to him–about the emails setting up the June 9th meeting because that would undermine the false version of events he had already constructed in his mind to cover himself. If Hicks could “channel” the President by agreeing with him that the emails setting up the Trump Tower meeting would never get out, it seems possible that Kushner could likewise slip into Trump’s alternate reality and tell him not to worry, the June 9th meeting was only about adoption (“Get it, Mr. President? Adoption.”) In other words, “Don’t worry, Mr. President, we’ve already come up with a cover story,” but without saying so explicitly. But I agree that I don’t think Junior would have met with the Russians without getting the okay from Pop.

      • CaliLawyer says:

        Maybe it is a form of self-delusion; Trump’s certainly capable of it. Again, though, nothing in Trump’s history suggests he trusts either of his sons to make any significant decisions on their own. Javanka’s different, and JK probably attended at Trump’s request – unless Trump was listening in via speaker phone, which also seems plausible given his history of listening in on people at Mar-a-Lago.

        • Tom says:

          I suppose Trump could have been eavesdropping on the Trump Tower meeting, but I find difficult to imagine him not blurting out to the Russians over the speakerphone: “Where’s the dirt!? You said you were gonna bring dirt on Hillary!”

          Come to think of it, Jared Kushner actually did get some “dirt” from the Russians. That was on December 13, 2016 when he met with Sergey Gorkov, the head of a Russian government-owned bank VEB. “At the start of the meeting, Gorkov presented Kushner with two gifts: a painting [I’d love to know what it was] and a bag of soil from the town in Belarus where Kushner’s family originated.” (p. 162 of the Mueller Report) And that was probably the only dirt that anyone on the Trump team ever got from the Russians.

          • CaliLawyer says:

            It’s telling that Kushner, not Jr, was at the follow up meeting with Hicks for the cover story.

  4. Jenny says:

    Thanks Marcy for this post. I appreciate your insight.
    Trump is obstructing justice in the investigations of obstruction of justice.
    Consistent criminal actions.

    • 200Toros says:

      YES! Overwhelming and damning evidence of behavior utterly unacceptable in ANY elected official, much less the highest office. Totally agree with bmaz that Speaker Pelosi is in full-on dereliction of her duty to defend the Constitution. My question is why? At what point do we wonder if someone has something on her? Why has she become a Trump enabler? How could she think that anything could possibly get better if he is allowed a pass for all the many travesties detailed in the Mueller report? We have seen in recent days, that we are dealing with a psychotic who has gotten us into a trade ware with China, when he knows less than zero about international trade and tariffs, and is now toying with the idea of war with Iran, both actions as a red herring ploy to distract us from impeachment considerations. He’d rather run the country into the ground than see himself slighted in any way. Amazing state of affairs, while Pelosi sits idly by…

      • RWood says:

        I’ve been kicking that question around for weeks now.

        The only theory that holds up is the push/pull one. It starts with the fact that she’s SOH and third in line, so she can’t appear to be calling for impeachment. She instead must appear forced to do so. This all in an attempt to kill any claim by Trump that it’s a “Left-wing coup!” or some similar nonsense.

        If this theory holds true we can count on her continuing to push back on impeachment while her support slowly (as if on schedule!) erodes around her until some predetermined breaking point is reached and she declares that, despite her opposition, the party and people are demanding it, and she launches the impeachment investigations.

        Personally, I feel she already has what cover she needs and is just wasting time. But I’m only one voice. If enough voices continue to cry out for it the polls will move and I would expect to see her opposition in the House to grow at the same rate.

        Her subpoenas, breakfast table issues, and infrastructure plans are all equally dead in the water. She needs to move on impeachment soon or its going to start costing her I think.

        • timbo says:

          How about another theory, the theory that the DP leadership itself is compromised in some significant way. Not sure why so many people find it hard to believe that powerful politicians might not have skeletons in their closets… the Framers certainly tried to put a system in place to prevent such people from staying in power for any significant length of time… but when mechanisms for rooting out corrupt officials are let languish… I mean, I hope she’s just an idiot and not a greedy grasper… but it’s difficult to reconcile her positions with being squeeky clean. Pelosi is trying to soft glove a major scandal in our government for a second time in 15 years. She was somehow rewarded for not insisting on impeachment back in 2006-07. What was in it for her back then? Frankly, I believe that she signed off on the torture regime under GWB. If my theory there is correct, she couldn’t very well impeach Bush or anyone working on that/those program/s without a good chance of her collusion coming to light. (I am reminded about what happened to Bob Livingston during the impeachment of Bill Clinton…) Basically, you have to be relatively clean of easily identified grime yourself before you will lead the troops willingly into the Land of Impeachment.

          • Rayne says:

            I was told by a congressional staffer back in 2007 the reason impeachment wasn’t pursued against GWBush was that it didn’t poll well with the public — like well under 50%. Try getting a party House caucus with a weak grip on Congress by the numbers and a short time frame to rally behind impeachment. Wasn’t going to happen no matter who was speaker; it was still too easy for the GOP to cry “9/11!” then, making an impeachment attempt likely to toss at least one house to the GOP in 2008. You do remember the Dem vs GOP head count in 2009, yes?

            I get it. You don’t like Pelosi. Put yourself in her place and figure out how you keep a far more diverse caucus on the same page. You already know if you’re paying attention the problem is centrists like Steny Hoyer whom she has to drag along. Focus on who those centrists are.

            • Leu2500 says:

              Is Hoyer someone she has to “drag along,” or are they more alike than you think. I ask this question because of the actions Rep. Cheri Bustos, in her capacity as head of the DCCC, is taking to keep incumbents from being primaried. It strains credulity to believe that Pelosi is opposed to Busto’s actions.

              • P J Evans says:

                Hoyer may be being dragged. And I don’t know anyone who knows WTF Bustos is up to, supporting DINOs like Lipinski.

                  • P J Evans says:

                    I heard about that – but Bustos is still supporting him; she’s just not going to do that fundraiser. (We also have to deal with Sinema, Cuellar and Costa, as the rest of the worst four, off the top of my head.)

                    • Rayne says:

                      Pretty sure Bustos is getting her ears filled by other women’s reproductive rights groups. She’s also a centrist — if she’s not careful she’s going to draw a progressive primary candidate (if I were in her district I’d be recruiting just to force her to run left). May even be why she has been so protective of the DCCC funds.

              • Rayne says:

                First, I don’t think we’re taking into consideration the fact that Pelosi as House Speaker is 3rd in line to the presidency. This is an issue on the verge of weaponization when Trump calls the investigations into Trump-Russia a ‘coup’. How would you handle this in a way that does not self-weaponize this point? Remember that orange wanker still has unacknowledged help from overseas ready to tear into this.

                Second, look at the districts you’re talking about. Look at the history of the people you’re talking about. Pelosi isn’t like Hoyer except that they are senior members of the Dem caucus.

                Three, you’re going to have to give up the “DCCC unfair to primary candidates” because an incumbent just got told to pack off this week because of his anti-abortion stance (not to mention his history during Obama admin).

                Fourth, you and a bunch of other people who aren’t active in Democratic politics at local/state/national level need to understand something fundamental: The Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee’s mission is to support Democratic House candidates. It is composed of CURRENT Democratic members of Congress who raise funds to support their campaigns as well as candidates in open seats.

                Why the hell would such an organization fund races against themselves?

                Primary candidates need to understand this, and they also need to understand another fundamental fact: if they cannot raise the money to run for office against a primary candidate, they aren’t likely to raise sufficient money *or interest* to survive a race against a Republican. Primary candidates cannot and should not look at DCCC as a piggy bank when it’s there to support incumbents who’ve proven they’re winners. They need to offer their intended constituency a more compelling reason to invest in their candidacy. And they need to understand once they win both primary and election, the fundraising doesn’t end. They’ll be on the other end of the stick with uninformed people haranguing them about not funding their primary race against them.

                And don’t think GOP primary candidates aren’t facing this same reality. Does it ever occur to you to wonder if the *amount* of negative press against DCCC isn’t an active measure given how much we hear about one party and not the other?

      • Dcom says:

        It’s pretty powerful when the courts rule against Trump, and not Congress. Weakens the political counterargument.
        That’d be a reason to continue this strategy.

  5. bokeh9 says:

    (I get lost in some of it here, so please forgive if this has been adjudicated previously.)

    I raised two sons who are now (relatively?) happy adults. From Day One, I worried, What if they find out they can just say “No”, and there’s not a lot of recourse for the parents, that mutual respect for each other is the grease that keeps the gears turning?

    It seems pretty clear that Donald J. Trump has always lived in a privileged fantasy world enabling his total disregard for societal norms, institutions, and even the Law. It’s not that “he just doesn’t care”; it’s that he has no awareness. It’s the Cartman-Costanza Conundrum: He’s not lying if he knows no Truths. What if it’s that bad, and all discussion of cause and effect doesn’t directly apply to Trump?

    Of course, the country isn’t a family with a sociopathic child, and there is a (perhaps only one) recourse, but that, too, depends on the same grease and gears.

    • Rayne says:

      Nice to see you here at emptywheel. I’ll let some of our community members tackle your comment, though as a parent I appreciate your concern about teaching children limits. When raising my two kids I often talked openly with them about learning how to say No to themselves. If they couldn’t say No at the right times to their own impulses and desires, how would they learn to say No to others’ impulses and desires? I get the feeling the Trumps haven’t learned how to deny themselves anything though they are more than willing to deny others.

    • OmAli says:

      Welcome, bokeh9,

      I love your comment about mutual respect keeping the wheels turning. I must disagree, though, that Trump lacks awareness, or knows no truths.

      He is keenly aware of truth, just see how determined he is to do everything in his power to keep those truths hidden. He has awareness, he simply doesn’t care. The rules have never applied to him. Rules are for losers.

      He is a meanspirited, manipulative sociopath, possesed of a low cunning and casual cruelty. Pelosi must begin impeachment hearings at once.

  6. 200Toros says:

    Trump presser, Trump says he’s not going to work with Dems on policy issues until they stop investigating him.

    Well okay then…

      • P J Evans says:

        You must have blinked. (He talks about doing it, but then Mulvaney or Miller or one of his advisers at Fox gets to him.)

  7. klynn says:

    OT sort of:
    Over 1000 phone/text contacts with Columbus Nova by Cohen? Starting on election day? (Wonder what time they started on election day?)

    I can almost hear EW, “What the hell is on those iPods?”

  8. CD54 says:

    This is just the Executive Office Groupthink version of criminal Mob obstruction.

    [From Wikipedia]

    “Groupthink is a psychological phenomenon that occurs within a group of people in which the desire for harmony or conformity in the group results in an irrational or dysfunctional decision-making outcome.”


    Symptoms . . .

    Type III: Pressures toward uniformity . . .

    Direct pressure to conform placed on any member who questions the group, couched in terms of “disloyalty”

    Shorter Fox News: “What’s this country coming to when you can’t even pay your lawyer to hide embarrassing information?”

  9. Jenny says:

    Trump covering up for himself and Jr. All in the family.
    “The apple doesn’t fall too far from the orange.” John Oliver

  10. Savage Librarian says:

    Trumpet Out

    Cornered by a cover-up
    Uncovered by a scam,
    I wonder if the runner up
    is smirking at your jam.

    Some polling says your number’s up,
    Is it worse than Viet Nam?
    Some say that even Mueller’s stuck
    on how to deal with Graham.

    And what about that Tucker schmuck,
    Grand bargain or grand slam?
    Will he help you suck it up
    after exposure of your sham?

    Is there any other tougher stuff
    than being on the lam?
    Especially for the upper crust
    who failed the last exam.

    Do you feel the sucker punch
    of being such a ham?
    And never having governed much
    you’d like to fix it with Iran.

    But maybe you should pucker up
    and kiss another plan.
    Remember that we trumpet out,
    “It’s united that we stand.”

  11. Manqueman says:

    Donnie is ever the protege of a mob lawyer (Roy Cohn).
    Mobsters don’t comply with anything possibly incriminating ever, until forced.

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