Publicist who set up Trump Jr., Russian lawyer meeting says he's ready to talk to Mueller
Posted November 19, 2017 9:42 a.m. EST
WASHINGTON (CNN) — The British publicist who set up a 2016 meeting at Trump Tower between a Russian lawyer and several members of then-presidential candidate Donald Trump's campaign team says he's open to speaking with special counsel Robert Mueller and denies he was part of Moscow's meddling in last year's election.
Rob Goldstone said in an interview with The Sunday Times that he's ready to talk to Mueller and the Senate committees looking into the meeting.
"I'm keen to talk to them and put my recollection of events in the public record," Goldstone told the British newspaper, adding that "after the story initially broke, it seemed to quieten down for a while. But now it's back in the news with such force, I feel it's time for me to explain what happened."
Mueller has been in talks with Goldstone's attorney to have the publicist come to the United States for a voluntary interview, without the use of a subpoena, although no date has been set for a meeting, a source familiar with the matter told CNN last week.
In an early June 2016 email exchange, Goldstone offered Trump Jr. a meeting with a "Russian government attorney" who had offered to provide the Trump campaign with "some official documents and information that would incriminate Hillary (Clinton) and her dealings with Russia."
Goldstone's email also said the information being offered was "part of Russia and its government's support for Mr. Trump." Four months later, the US intelligence community first publicly declared that Russia was meddling in the election. It wasn't until January 2017 that the intelligence community said the Russians specifically tried to help Trump.
In his interview, the British publicist downplayed his role in facilitating the New York meeting, which he attended along with Trump's eldest son, Donald Trump Jr., son-in-law Jared Kusher, campaign chairman Paul Manafort and Russian lawyer Natalia Veselnitskaya; Goldstone set up the meeting on behalf of his client, Russian pop star Emin Agalarov, who's father, Aras, is a Russian real-estate mogul with ties to Russian President Vladimir Putin.
Goldstone says he advised Emin against the meeting, but Emin was insistent on setting it up.
"I remember specifically saying to Emin, 'You know, we probably shouldn't get involved in this,'" Goldstone said. "'It's politics, it's Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump. Neither of us have any experience in this world. It's not our forte. I deal with music. You're a singer and a businessman.'"
But Goldstone said Emin insisted he reach out to the Trumps: "All I had to do was facilitate a meeting, he said, after which I walk away from it, and whatever comes of it, thank you very much."
Goldstone told the Sunday Times he "puffed up" language to try to solidify the meeting, saying "my email to Don Trump Jr. took three minutes. I never thought it would be read by the world."
The publicist also tried to clarify what he meant when he emailed Trump Jr. about the Russian "crown prosecutor" who had met with Aras Agalarov and discussed providing the Trump campaign information that would incriminate Clinton.
Goldstone said the "crown prosecutor" he was referring to was Veselnitskaya -- not Vladimir Putin's prosecutor general, Yuri Chaika, as some had assumed. He said called Veselnitskaya Russia's "crown prosecutor" because he was trying to describe her as a "well-connected prosecutor." Previous reporting by The Wall Street Journal suggests, however, that Veselnitskaya and Chaika had been connecting and, according to The New York Times, had discussed talking points later brought up at Trump Tower.
Goldstone denied he was part of an effort by Russia to influence the 2016 presidential election.
"If I'm guilty of anything, and I hate the word guilty, it's hyping the message and going the extra mile for my clients," he said. "Using hot-button language to puff up the information I had been given. I didn't make up the details, I just made them sound more interesting."
Goldstone added that he didn't anticipate the fallout over the email exchange.
"I didn't understand anything about that, nothing at all," he said. "This meeting happened months before Russia became the hot topic. If this had happened later, sure, I would've been aware because it's all people were talking about --- Russia, and Russian interference. Hindsight is great, but it just wasn't being talked about at the time."
Goldstone also addressed some of the salacious allegations in the dossier authored by former British intelligence agent Christopher Steele, which detailed alleged ties between Trump and his associates with Russians.
Earlier this month, Keith Schiller, Trump's longtime director of security, told Congress that he refused a Russian offer to send five women to Trump's hotel room during the 2013 Miss Universe pageant in Moscow, testifying that he took the offer as a joke. Goldstone told The Sunday Times that he was with Trump "for many of his working hours there," adding that Trump stuck to a strict schedule.
"I can't comment about the contents of the Steele dossier, but I can tell you that there were only a few hours during a very busy schedule when Trump was back in his room at the Ritz-Carlton," Goldstone said.
He added that a meeting between Putin and Trump was scheduled to happen in 2013 during the pageant, but plans fell through when Putin's guest, the king of the Netherlands, was stuck in traffic.