NBC News has a story out this afternoon about the infamous Trump Tower meeting between Russian attorney Natalia Veselnitskaya and Donald Trump Jr. The gist of the story is that Veselnitskaya’s written testimony to the Senate Judiciary Committee confirms what Trump Jr. has already said about the meeting, i.e. he was told she had dirt on Hillary but in fact, she wanted to talk about the Magnitsky Act. The only real news here appears to be the fact that Veselnitskaya confirms Trump Jr. did ask if she had dirt on Hillary at a meeting he admits he only took to get dirt on Hillary.
Donald Trump Jr. asked a Russian lawyer at the June 2016 Trump Tower meeting whether she had evidence of illegal donations to the Clinton Foundation, the lawyer told the Senate Judiciary Committee in answers to written questions obtained exclusively by NBC News.
The lawyer, Natalia Veselnitskaya, told the committee that she didn’t have any such evidence, and that she believes Trump misunderstood the nature of the meeting after receiving emails from a music promoter promising incriminating information on Hillary Clinton, Donald Trump’s Democratic opponent.
Once it became apparent that she did not have meaningful information about Clinton, Trump seemed to lose interest, Veselnitskaya said, and the meeting petered out…
Veselnitskaya said there was no discussion at the Trump Tower meeting of hacked or leaked emails, social media campaigns or any of the other main aspects of Russian interference in the U.S. election.
If you’re keeping score, this matches with what Donald Trump Jr. said happened at the meeting when he went on Sean Hannity’s show in July. Trump Jr. said, “The pretext of the meeting was ‘Hey I have information about your opponent.’” Shaking his head, Trump Jr. continued, “It was this ‘Hey, some DNC donors may have done something in Russia and they didn’t pay taxes…I was like, what does this have to do with anything?” Trump Jr. said the meeting broke up quickly and Rob Goldstone, who had written the letter promising dirt on Clinton, apologized for wasting his time.
While Trump Jr.’s description of Veselnitskaya’s concerns isn’t precise, it matches closely enough with the contents of a memo which we know she brought to the meeting, hoping to get Trump Jr. interested in it. From the NY Times:
The memo that Ms. Veselnitskaya brought to the Trump Tower meeting alleged that Ziff Brothers Investments, an American firm, had illegally purchased shares in a Russian company and evaded tens of millions of dollars of Russian taxes. The company was the financial vehicle of three billionaire brothers, two of them major donors to Democratic candidates including Mrs. Clinton. By implication, Ms. Veselnitskaya, said, those political contributions were tainted by “stolen” money.
Veselnitskaya’s account also seems to be backed up by notes taken at the time by Paul Manafort who was also in the meeting. In September, Politico reported the notes did not appear damaging:
The notes from the meeting do not contain any damaging information about Clinton or references to promises of damaging information about her, nor do they indicate that officials on the campaign were promising favors or seeking them in return for money, the people who’ve seen them said.
So we have three accounts of the meeting from three different participants all of which seem to generally agree about what happened. Trump Jr. wanted dirt on Clinton which he didn’t get and Veselnitskaya wanted to interest Trump Jr. in her Magnitsky Act story but found Trump Jr. wasn’t interested.
Could the story change? Of course. As Tom Hanks said in Cast Away, “tomorrow the sun will rise, and who knows what the tide will bring in.” Maybe Mueller will get Paul Manafort to contradict his own notes from the meeting. Maybe Jared Kushner will sing a different tune. But at least for the moment, it doesn’t seem that any collusion with Russia took place at this meeting.