May 22, 2018
Senator Mark Warner of Virginia, the top Democrat on the Senate Intelligence Committee, told CNN on May 20 that Donald Trump Jr.’s alleged meeting at Trump Tower on August 3, 2016, with a Gulf emissary who offered help to his father’s presidential campaign could be “evidence of a larger pattern of concern.”
The meeting—which The New York Times disclosed on May 19—was supposedly arranged by former Blackwater head and Trump financial backer Erik Prince; and attended by the president’s eldest son; as well as George Nadar, an emissary for two princes from Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates; and Israeli social media specialist Joel Zamel.
The Times further reported that Zamel talked about how his company could help a political campaign gain an advantage. According to the Times, the company had by then put together “a multimillion-dollar proposal for a social media manipulation effort to help elect Mr. Trump.”
Donald Trump Jr. has said that he did not react to those offers of help from the Middle East. However, according to the Times report, “Donald Trump Jr. responded approvingly … and … Nader was quickly embraced as a close ally by Trump campaign advisers—meeting frequently with … [the elder Trump’s son-in-law] Jared Kushner … and Michael T. Flynn, who became the president’s first national security adviser.”
The August meeting followed a June 2016 confab with a group of Russians that Trump Jr. at first had characterized as a discussion about adoption—but that has been shown by emails, leaks, and media reports to be an attempt by the presidential campaign staff to get dirt on the Hillary Clinton campaign.
When news of the secret meeting with the Russians emerged a year afterward, a majority of U.S. voters polled by Politico/Morning Consult said that it was inappropriate for Donald Trump Jr. to accept an offer to meet with an attorney linked to the Russian government.”
Specifically, more than half (52%) said the meeting with a Russian government attorney was inappropriate. Only 23% of respondents characterized the meeting with a Russian government attorney as appropriate. The remaining 25% had no opinion.
“I think from a practical standpoint, most people would have taken that meeting. It’s called opposition research, or even research into your opponent,” President Trump responded at that time—adding that it is “very standard in politics. Politics is not the nicest business in the world, but it’s very standard where they have information and you take the information.”
As information continues to come out about meetings with foreign intermediaries, Senator Warner said on Sunday, “”If the Times story is true, we now have at least a second and maybe a third nation that was trying to lean into this campaign,”
Warner said on CNN’s State of the Union. “I don’t understand what the president doesn’t get about the law that says if you have a foreign nation interfere in an American election, that’s illegal.”
Research contact: @maeganvaz