Trump Jr. business partner has had access to government officials

A Texas hedge fund manager with business ties to Donald Trump Jr. was able to meet with top national security officials in the last year to pitch a plan that would help U.S. companies in Venezuela, The Associated Press reported Monday.

The news outlet obtained court records and documents that show Trump Jr. has been in business with Gentry Beach dating back to the mid-2000s, and that the two recently formed a company.

Beach and an Iraqi-American businessman met last year with National Security Council officials and pitched a proposal to curb sanctions in Venezuela and open up business for U.S. companies there, the AP reported.

An official told the news outlet that officials didn’t act on the pitch, but were told to take the meeting because of Beach’s ties to Trump Jr.

The Trump Organization said in a statement that Trump Jr. hasn’t played a role arranging meetings with “anyone at the White House or any other government agency.”

Beach told the AP in a statement that he never used his relationship with Trump Jr. to try and influence the government.

A Trump Organization attorney acknowledged that Trump Jr. had business relations with Beach in the past, but pointed the AP to a previously released statement that said their relationship was “strictly personal.”

The Trump administration has drawn scrutiny from watchdog groups since President Trump took office over concerns that the president has not adequately separated himself from his family’s business affairs.

Trump turned over the Trump Organization to his two adult sons, Trump Jr. and Eric Trump, when he took office. Multiple watchdog groups have filed complaints that the business is using the presidency to enrich itself.

[The Hill]

Trump Touts Mark Levin Segment to Slam ‘Mainstream Media’: ‘They’ve Gone CRAZY!’

President Donald Trump threw a jab at his favorite punching bag from Mar-a-Lago on Saturday, taking to Twitter to declare the “Mainstream Media” is “being mocked all over the world.”

Trump’s tweet was in response to one from his adult son, Donald Jr., who was touting a clip from conservative commentator Mark Levin declaring that media attacks on the president are “unparalleled in American history.”

“They’ve gone CRAZY!” Trump wrote of the American media:

Levin, whose Sunday Fox News show debuted last week, argued on his radio show that Trump is facing a degree of criticism from the press that was not seen by his predecessors, Presidents Obama and Clinton.

The president is spending the weekend at his Mar-a-Lago resort in Florida. After a visit to the golf course, Trump is expected to speak at a Trump Victory reception, a joint fundraiser for his reelection campaign and the RNC.

Tickets to the event are reportedly set at $2,700, while a reception and a pair of seats at a dinner with Trump will run you $25,000.

[Mediaite]

Donald Trump Jr’s Indian visit raises ethical eyebrows across the globe

Donald Trump Junior will be arriving in India this week to sell condominiums for the Trump Organisation, with a sideline event of a foreign policy speech on behalf of his father, the US President.

India is the country with the most Trump business entities registered outside the United States, and one of its developments in the country is being constructed by a company belonging to a member of the ruling party.

Richard Painter, a former White House ethicist under George W Bush, says the ethics of the situation are so problematic the the US Congress should intervene.

[Australia Broadcasting Company]

Media

http://www.abc.net.au/radio/sydney/programs/pm/trump-jrs-indian-visit-raises-ethical-eyebrows-across-the-globe/9467982

Don Jr. Applauds Poor Indians For Smiling Unlike People in ‘Other Parts of the Emerging World’

Don Jr., President Donald Trump’s eldest adult son and most industrious online defender, is in India this week to peddle luxury apartments bearing the family name.

And Jr., who has oft been referred to as the “smart Trump son,” had some cringeworthy comments about poor Indians that he expressed in an interview with CNBC TV18 in New Dehli.

“I think there is something about the spirit of the Indian people that is unique here to other parts of the emerging world,” Don Jr. started.

“You go through a town — and I don’t mean to be glib about it, but you can see the poorest of the poor and there is still a smile on a face,” he said. “It is a different spirit that you don’t see in other parts of the world and I think there is something unique about that.”

Don Jr. concluded with a comment that sounds like it was inspired by a fortune cookie: “I know some of the most successful people in the world, and some of them are the most miserable people in the world.”

The Trump son’s career in punditry was launched by a rousing speech he gave at his father’s nomination at the Republican National Convention in July 2016, which led many to speculate the scion harbored political ambitions. Since, Don Jr.’s political career has been mostly confined to his very active Twitter profile, which he recently used to tout fringe conspiracy websites suggesting the victims of the Florida school shooting are FBI plants.

[Mediaite]

Media

Donald Trump Jr. Liked Tweets Promoting A Conspiracy Theory About A Florida Shooting Survivor

Donald Trump Jr. liked two tweets on Tuesday that peddled a conspiracy theory about a 17-year-old survivor of the Parkland school shooting, suggesting that he was “coached” to propagate an anti-Trump narrative by his father who is a retired FBI agent.

Both tweets attacked David Hogg, one of the students who documented the horror felt by his peers during the Parkland school shooting, and who has since been outspoken in his call for lawmakers and politicians to take action against guns.

Hogg had referred to President Trump’s tweet blaming the FBI for the shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School as “disgusting” and told CNN that his father was a retired FBI agent.

“The FBI are some of the hardest-working individuals I’ve ever seen in my life,” Hogg said.

In an interview with NBC, Hogg also urged Trump to take gun reform action, saying, “You’re the president. You’re supposed to bring this nation together, not divide us. How dare you? Children are dying, and their blood is on your hands because of that. Please take action. Stop going on vacation in Mar-a-Lago. Take action. Work with Congress. Your party controls both the House and Senate. Take action, get some bills passed, and for God’s sake, let’s save some lives.”

Trump Jr. liked a tweet from conservative TV show host Graham Ledger that linked to a story by far-right, pro-Trump website, Gateway Pundit, suggesting that Hogg’s father had “coached” his son in propagating “anti-Trump rhetoric and anti-gun legislation.”

Trump Jr. also liked a tweet linking to a story by True Pundit — a far-right website that has published several false stories — which referred to Hogg as “the kid who has been running his mouth about how Donald Trump and the GOP are teaming to help murder high school kids by upholding the Second Amendment.”

The piece blamed “the Deep State media” for giving Hogg a platform and appeared to express doubt that he was a survivor of the shooting.

Hogg told BuzzFeed News on Tuesday that Trump Jr.’s peddling of conspiracy theories was “immature, rude, and inhuman.”

“I just think it’s a testament to the sick immaturity and broken state of our government when these people feel the need to pedal conspiracy theories about people that were in a school shooting where 17 people died and it just makes me sick,” Hogg told BuzzFeed News via text. “It’s immature, rude, and inhuman for these people to destroy the people trying to prevent the death of the future of America because they won’t,” he said.

One of his classmates also pointed out on Twitter that the idea of Hogg being a professional actor was, well, laughable.

BuzzFeed News has reached out to Trump Jr. and the White House for comment.

[Buzzfeed]

Donald Trump Jr. asked Russian lawyer for info on Clinton Foundation

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.

“Today, I understand why it took place to begin with and why it ended so quickly with a feeling of mutual disappointment and time wasted,” Veselnitskaya wrote. “The answer lies in the roguish letters of Mr. Goldstone.”

She was referring to Rob Goldstone, a music promoter who worked for the Agalarov family. They are Russian oligarchs with Kremlin connections who had business and social ties to the Trump family. Goldstone’s emails to Trump Jr. arranging the meeting on behalf of the Agalarovs called Veselnitskaya a “Russian government lawyer” who had dirt on Clinton as part of a Russian government effort to help Trump. Goldstone has since said he exaggerated.

In her 51-page statement to the Senate Judiciary Committee, Veselnitskaya said she did not work for the Russian government and was not carrying any messages from government officials. She said her motive was to get the Trump team to examine what she argues is a fraud that led the U.S. to impose sanctions on Russia known as the Magnitsky Act.

Her ultimate goal was a congressional investigation into that matter, she said. She has long argued that U.S.-born hedge fund investor Bill Browder lied about the circumstances of the death of his accountant, Sergei Magnitsky, who died in a Russian jail, and that the U.S. government imposed Magnitsky Act sanctions on Russia, which are named after the accountant, based on a fraud. Browder and American officials dismiss that allegation, calling it part of a Russian disinformation campaign.

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. Previously, she told NBC News she had raised the issue of potential questionable contributions to Clinton’s campaign by Americans accused in Russia of tax evasion.

Though some may see her answers as self-serving, Veselnitskaya’s written answers reinforced what has long been understood about the Trump Tower meeting: that Donald Trump Jr. accepted it on the promise of incriminating information about Clinton that he had been told was coming from the Russian government. And he asked Veselnitskaya directly whether she had it, according to her written answers. Jared Kushner and Paul Manafort were also in attendance, as were a Russian lobbyist, a Russian businessman and a translator.

Special counsel Robert Mueller and the House and Senate investigating committees continue to look into the Trump Tower meeting, according to multiple officials familiar with the probes.

Veselnitskaya insists they will find nothing that isn’t already known. She says she wishes the meeting had never happened.

“Now that I know the kind of apocalyptic Hollywood scenario that a private conversation between a lawyer and a businessman can be turned into, I very much regret that the desire to bring the truth to the [Congress] has thrown the U.S. president’s family, as well as Mrs. Clinton, into the whirlwind of mutual political accusations and fueled the fire of the morbid, completely groundless hatred for Russia,” Veselnitskaya wrote.

In another noteworthy aspect of her answers, Veselnitskaya acknowledged that she worked with Glenn Simpson, a former Wall Street Journal reporter, in an investigation of Browder, whose campaign led Congress to pass the Magnitsky Act.

At the time he was working on that case, Simpson and his firm, Fusion GPS, were also working with former British intelligence operative Christopher Steele on the infamous Trump dossier.

But Veselnitskaya says she had no idea about that, confirming testimony Simpson has provided to House and Senate investigators.

Some Republicans have suggested that Simpson’s work on behalf of a Russian client investigating the premise of the Magnitsky Act means the dossier could be tainted by Russian disinformation, but no evidence has surfaced to buttress that allegation.

Veselnitskaya called those allegations “unsubstantiated and outrageous insinuations.”

A lawyer for Trump Jr. declined to comment, but referred NBC News to the statement his client released in September, which said Trump Jr. wanted to “hear (the Russians) out” if they had information concerning Clinton’s “fitness, character or qualifications.”

[NBC News]

Trump Dictated Son’s Misleading Statement on Meeting with Russian Lawyer

President Trump reportedly dictated a misleading statement about his son’s meeting with a Russian lawyer that was ultimately issued to the New York Times by Donald Trump Jr., The Washington Post reported Monday evening.

Trump dictated the statement on July 8, while he was en route back to the United States from the G-20 summit in Germany, to director of strategic communications Hope Hicks, the Post said.

The statement about a meeting Trump Jr. had with a Russian lawyer during the 2016 campaign emphasized that it was “not a campaign issue at the time.” Instead, it said the topic had been primarily Russian adoption policy.

But a few days later, news broke that Trump Jr. arranged the meeting believing he would obtain harmful information about Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton. The New York Times first disclosed details of the meeting that took place in July 2016, and also included Jared Kushner, and then-Trump campaign chairman Paul Manafort.

According to the report, Ivanka Trump and Kushner, her husband, worked with advisors during breaks at the G-20 summit to craft a response to questions from the Times. Hicks and another aide pushed transparency, The Post said.

But the president reportedly overruled the consensus his advisors had reached on how to respond to inquires about the meeting.

Trump Jr. did not respond to the Post’s requests for comment Monday, while his attorney said he and his client “were fully prepared and absolutely prepared to make a fulsome statement” about the details surrounding the meeting.

His lawyer also said he has “no evidence to support” the “theory” that Trump was involved in writing the statement.

The president’s attorney, Jay Sekulow, refused to speak about details regarding Trump’s involvement with the statement.

“Apart from being of no consequence, the characterizations are misinformed, inaccurate, and not pertinent,” Sekulow said in his statement to The Post.

[The Hill]

Spicer Contradicts Emails, President on Trump Jr Meeting

White House press secretary Sean Spicer contradicted President Donald Trump Monday when he insisted that a meeting Donald Trump Jr. had with a Russian lawyer in the months leading up to the election was about adoption policy.

“The President has made it clear through this tweet. And there was nothing, as far as we know, that would lead anyone to believe that there was anything except for a discussion about adoption and the Magnitsky Act,” Spicer said at an off-camera briefing with reporters. “But I would refer you back to counsel on that one.”

In his first appearance at the White House briefing since June 26, Spicer repeated the same defense that Trump Jr. originally offered on July 8 when he was asked about the meeting — that it was a nothing but “short introductory meeting … about the adoption of Russian children that was active and popular with American families years ago.”

However, Trump Jr. later admitted he took the meeting because he was promised compromising information about Hillary Clinton when he publicly released his email exchange with Rob Goldstone, a publicist who helped set up the meeting.

The subject line of the back-and-forth between the two was “Russia – Clinton – private and confidential,” and Trump Jr. was promised incriminating information on Hillary Clinton from a “Russian government attorney” that was “part of Russia and its government’s support for Mr. Trump,” according to the emails.

“If it is what you say I love it,” Trump Jr. wrote.

Though Spicer maintained that the meeting was only about “adoption and the Magnitsky Act,” Trump Jr. told Sean Hannity last Tuesday he had “never even heard of” the Magnitsky Act “before, you know, that day.”

Spicer’s statement also contradicts the President, who has acknowledged his son took the meeting in order to get damaging information on his opponent and defended him for doing so, saying “that’s politics.”

“Most politicians would have gone to a meeting like the one Don jr attended in order to get info on an opponent. That’s politics!” Trump tweeted earlier Monday.

Trump said the same during a gaggle with reporters on Air Force One as he flew to Paris last week.

“Honestly, in a world of politics, most people are going to take that meeting,” Trump said. “If somebody called and said, ‘hey’ — and you’re a Democrat — and by the way, they have taken them — ‘hey, I have really some information on Donald Trump. You’re running against Donald Trump. Can I see you?’ I mean, how many people are not going to take the meeting?”

The White House did not immediately respond to a CNN request for clarification about Spicer’s remark.

[CNN]

Trump Defends Trump Jr.: ‘I Applaud His Transparency’

President Trump on Tuesday praised his son, Donald Trump Jr., who is under fire for meeting with a Russian lawyer who claimed to have compromising information about Trump’s Democratic rival in the presidential race, Hillary Clinton.

“My son is a high-quality person and I applaud his transparency,” Trump said in a brief statement, which White House spokeswoman Sarah Huckabee Sanders read to reporters during an off-camera briefing.

Trump had previously remained silent on the growing controversy surrounding the meeting at the height of the campaign, which became public Saturday.

The revelation has shaken the White House, which for months has struggled to contain the fallout from a wide-ranging investigation into Russia’s election-meddling effort in 2016.

Sanders acknowledged that, “the president is, I would say, frustrated with the process of the fact that this continues to be an issue.”

“He would love for us to be focused on things like … the economy, on healthcare, on tax reform, on infrastructure and that’s the place that his mind is and that’s what he’d like to be discussing,” she said.

Sanders, however, did not dispute stunning new emails disclosed by Trump Jr. Tuesday detailing efforts to set up the meeting.

She was peppered with questions about the stunning disclosure during the 21-minute briefing, repeatedly referring reporters to attorneys representing the president and his eldest son.

The lawyers did not immediately respond to requests for comment.

Sanders did engage some questions about the meeting, saying it’s “ridiculous” to use the words “treason” or “perjury” to describe Trump Jr.’s behavior, as some critics have alleged.

The spokesman stood by her Monday claim that Trump Jr. did not collude with Russia’s efforts to interfere in the 2016 presidential election.

She said she was not able to say the last time the president spoke with his son and refused to say whether Trump now believes Russia interfered with last year’s election.

Sanders also denied that Vice President Pence was trying to distance himself from the Trump Jr. controversy by putting out a statement saying he is “not focused on stories about the campaign… especially those about the time he joined the ticket.”

“There is absolutely no distance between the president and the vice president,” she said.

Michael Flynn was fired in February as national security adviser in large part because he misrepresented his conversation with Russia’s U.S. ambassador to Pence. The vice president went on television and denied Flynn discussed sanctions with the Russian envoy, even though he did.

[The Hill]

Reality

Donald Trump Jr. didn’t release the emails out of some altruistic sense of transparency, the New York Times obtained the emails and asked him for a comment from him before releasing them to the public.

Trump Jr. never responded to the request, and instead released the emails, most likely in a self-server move to get out in front of the story.

If it really was about transparency, Trump Jr. would have released the emails months before the New York Times broke this story.

Trump Son Met With Russian Lawyer Who Promised Info Helpful to Campaign

Donald Trump Jr., the eldest son of the president, acknowledged Sunday that he met with a woman who turned out to be a Kremlin-connected lawyer during the 2016 presidential election — after being told she allegedly had information that could help his father’s presidential campaign.

The New York Times first reported on Saturday that Donald Trump Jr. met with the lawyer, Natalia Veselnitskaya, prompting him to respond with a short statement confirming that the meeting occurred.

He said he attended “a short introductory meeting” with Veselnitskaya, where the topic of conversation was primarily about adoption. He added that the topic was not a campaign issue at the time and there was no follow-up conversation.

“I was asked to attend the meeting by an acquaintance, but was not told the name of the person I would be meeting beforehand,” he added in Saturday’s statement. According to Donald Trump Jr., the meeting occurred in June 2016 and Jared Kushner, the president’s son-in-law, and Trump campaign chairman Paul Manafort also attended.

Then on Sunday, The Times reported that Donald Trump Jr. attended the meeting after being told that the person there had information that would be damaging to Hillary Clinton’s campaign. The Times article, which was based conversations with three anonymous White House advisers, said news of the meeting represented the first public indication that members of the 2016 Trump campaign were willing to accept Russian help.

Donald Trump Jr. then released a more detailed statement after the Sunday report.

“I was asked to have a meeting by an acquaintance I knew from the 2013 Miss Universe pageant with an individual who I was told might have information helpful to the campaign,” Trump Jr. said in Sunday’s statement. “I was not told her name prior to the meeting.”

He added that he asked Kushner and Manafort to attend but that they knew “nothing of the substance.”

“After pleasantries were exchanged, the woman stated that she had information that individuals connected to Russia were funding the Democratic National Committee and supporting Ms. Clinton,” he said. “Her statements were vague, ambiguous and made no sense.”

Donald Trump Jr. said that Veselnitskaya did not provide any details or information that related to Hillary Clinton and that the topic of conversation turned to American adoption of Russian children.

He claimed that the conversation continued to revolve around adoption and the Magnitsky Act, a 2012 law that barred Russian human rights abusers from entering the country. In response, the Russian government stopped American families from adopting Russian children.

“It became clear to me that this was the true agenda all along and that the claims of potentially helpful information were a pretext for the meeting,” Donald Trump Jr. said in Sunday’s statement. “I interrupted and advised her that my father was not an elected official, but rather a private citizen, and that her comments and concerns were better addressed if and when he held public office.”

The meeting took about 20 to 30 minutes, he added.

The Times had previously identified the lawyer as Veselnitskaya, a Russian national known to push the Kremlin’s agenda and its continued battle against the Magnitsky Act.

Donald Trump Jr. said his father did not know about the meeting.

“The President was not aware of and did not attend the meeting,” President Trump’s legal team said in a statement.

Manafort and Kushner did not respond to NBC News’ requests for comment, though Kushner’s attorney confirmed on Saturday that the meeting did occur.

Kushner did not initially include the meeting on his national security questionnaire that his lawyer, Jamie Gorelick, said was filed prematurely.

“Mr. Kushner has submitted additional updates and included, out of an abundance of caution, this meeting with a Russian person, which he briefly attended at the request of his brother-in-law, Donald Trump Jr.,” Gorelick said. “As Mr. Kushner has consistently stated, he is eager to cooperate and share what he knows.”

The United States intelligence community has concluded that Russia was the mastermind behind a series of hacks and propaganda campaigns in an effort to interfere with the 2016 election. NBC News has reported that senior intelligence officials believe — with a “high degree of confidence — that Russian President Vladimir Putin was personally involved.

On “Fox News Sunday,” White House Chief of Staff Rience Priebus called the meeting a “big nothing-burger.”

Special Counsel Robert Mueller is leading a team of investigators that is looking into whether the Trump campaign coordinated with the Russian government’s campaign. The House and Senate intelligence committees are also looking into Russian interference in the 2016 election.

Trump and his campaign have maintained that there was no collusion.

President Trump and Secretary of State Rex Tillerson met with Russian President Vladimir Putin and Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov at the 2017 G-20 Hamburg Summit on Friday where they discussed the 2016 election and Russian-linked cyber-attacks.

Lavrov told reporters after the bilateral meeting that Trump had accepted Russia’s denial of interfering in the 2016 election, which would differ from the consensus reached in the U.S. intelligence community.

[NBC News]

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