Earlier this month, the Senate Judiciary Committee released a set of transcripts of interviews and exhibits related to its "Inquiry into Circumstances Surrounding Trump Tower Meeting."
I am looking at the interviews from the "Russian" side of the table, the people who sat across from Don Trump Jr. as he waited expectantly to hear an incriminating story about Hillary Clinton that never came: Irakly “Ike” Kaveladze, Anatoli Samochornov, Rinat Akhmetshin, the Britisher Robert Goldstone. There is also the written testimony of Natalia Veselnitskaya.
Whether there is anyone who still believes this meeting was anything but a set-up from the get-go, it's notable that these interviews show us there was not one Trump supporter among the Russians there to "help" Trump. You might even call this weird posse, "Russians for Hillary."
Take Irakly "Ike" Kaveladze. He moved to the US in 1991 and became a US citizen in 2001, still retaining his Russian Federation passport. He is so pro-Hillary that until he learned that the meeting with Don Jr. would not feature information incriminating to Hillary, he didn't even want to go.
Kaveladze: Look, I didn't want to be a part of a meeting where some negative information on a Presidential candidate would be discussed. So, honestly, I was considering if I realized during the lunch that the meeting would be about negative information on Ms. Clinton, I ' m not going to go to that meeting .
Q. Why not?
Kaveladze: Because I don't want to be a part of a -- first of all, I voted for Hillary and my family voted for Hillary, and so I didn't want a part of this.
Then there's translator Anatoli Samochornov, who also moved to the US in 1991 and became a citizen in 2002. He retains his Russian Federation passport, too. Huffington Post writes:
A registered Democrat, Samochornov works with clients on all sides of American and international politics.
In his Senate interview, when asked to list the VIPs he has translated for, Somochornov listed only big Democrats: Hillary Clinton, Barack Obama, John Kerry, Joe Biden.
But his own views appear to be progressive. On Facebook, he has shared clips from MSNBC host Rachel Maddow’s show, labeled former Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney and Bush-era adviser Karl Rove as losers, and posted in favor of expanded health care coverage and more restricted access to guns.
Sounds like another Hillary voter at the Trump Tower table.
Next is Rinat Akhmetshin, who came to the USA in 1994. He became an American citizen in 2009, also retaining his Russian Federation passport.
(Note to President Trump: Enough with the "dual" citizenship program.)
As Chuck Ross reported, Akhmetshin has met Hillary Clinton and knows people who worked on her campaign. More than that, he is very closely connected to the Clinton machine through his longtime business partner, mentor, advisor, Washington lawyer Edward Lieberman, whose late wife Evelyn served as deputy chief of staff to President Clinton and also as a top adviser to Hillary Clinton in 2008. (Evelyn Lieberman died in 2015.) As a lawyer, Edward Lieberman has had extensive business dealings in Russia and Democrat ties of his own, having worked, for example, as counsel for The Albright Group, founded in 2003 by former Secretary of State Madeleine Albright.
Here's Akhmetshin's take on the Trumps.
Q. Was it a significant event to you to meet Donald Trump, Jr.?
Akhmetshin: No, I was amused, and I'm not a fan of the whole family, so -- I was kind of curious and amused mostly.
On the day of the meeting, it seems that Akhmetshin and Lieberman rode up together from Washington to New York on the morning Acela. They were going to attend a play that evening, Akhmetshin explained, in which a Russian relative of Akhmetshin's was appearing.
But first, the day.
When asked if he knew of Veselnitskaya's trip to New York before she arrived, Akhmetshin gets noticeably dodgy:
I do not remember specifically whether I was specifically aware of her presence in New York at that day, but now in retrospect, I think I had some general kind of understanding she might be in New York ...
Akhmetshin, however, was just minding his own business, shopping, "holding a shirt, so I had to manage the phone and the shirt," when Veselnitskaya called him up and invited him to lunch. (Lieberman was off attending to some personal business in blissful ignorance.) At lunch, Veselnitskay invited Akhmetshin along to Trump Tower to the meeting with "Trump's son." All very spontaneous.
That evening, Lieberman, Akhmetshin, also Veselnitskaya and Somochornov, go to the "beautiful" play, starring Akhmetshin's relative.
How much more film-noirish can this get?
Q. You mentioned that you had dinner beforehand with Mr . Lieberman. Did the subject of the meeting ever come up?
A. I didn't mention to him.
Which is not answering the question.
At another point in the interview.
Q. I'm sorry. I'm not sure if I understood you . Did you say that Ed Lieberman was a close confidant of Hillary Clinton?
Translation -- my head is exploding, what did you just say????
A. His wife was close confidante of Hillary Clinton .
Q. And do you know if Ed Lieberman had a relationship with Hillary Clinton or just his wife?
A. Oh, he knew her well, I'm sure .
Q. And did you know that before June 9th that he was a confidant of Hillary Clinton, or his wife?
A. Yeah, I knew all the time. I mean, from the first time I met him (1998).
Q. And so knowing that, it never occurred to you to say, "Hey, I just had a meeting where Hillary Clinton's name came up "?
A. Again, I try to be discreet .
Not to be cute, but this still isn't answering whether Akhmetshin and Lieberman discussed the meeting, regardless of how the subject came up.
Q. You also said that you met somebody for drinks beforehand. Who was that?
A. I don't even remember now .
Q. Was it a friend of yours?
A. A friend of mine, yeah .
Q. So you have no idea who it was?
A. I don 't remember. I don 't even remember whether -- honestly, it' s been such a long time ago. It's not uncommon for me to meet people or ...
As for La Veselnitskaya, this seems to be the closest we get to politics in her written statement.
Q: Did anyone discuss "hacked" emails belonging to the Democratic National Committee, Hillary Clinton, John Podesta or the Clinton campaign? If so, please explain.
A: No, no one did. I was not even aware of this then, since I was at that time not very interested in politics and what was happening with the pre-election campaigns in the United States. I didn't care who would win.
The day after Inauguration Day 2017, Veselnitskaya seemed to care very much. Here is the poisonously anti-Trump "Putin's puppet" meme that she posted on her Facebook page, since removed.
To be cont'd.