Notes from former Trump campaign chairman Paul Manafort on a meeting he attended in June 2016 with a Russian lobbyist and Donald Trump Jr. are “not seen as damaging to the Trump family or campaign officials,” government officials and others who saw them told Politico.
Many Trump critics believed the meeting, requested by a Russian lobbyist named Natalia Veselnitskaya, was the smoking gun they needed to show collusion between the Trump campaign and Russia, since a publicist who arranged the meeting with Trump Jr. said she would have incriminating information on Hillary Clinton.
However, Politico reports:
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.
According to these people, the notes have been with Senate officials for weeks and have been reviewed by a number of people on Capitol Hill. Also in attendance at the June 2016 meeting in New York were a Russian lawyer, a Russian businessman and other Trump campaign officials, including Jared Kushner, the president’s son-in-law.
The article says the notes are “difficult to follow” and “are not an exhaustive account of the meeting, and other things could have been discussed that are not included in the notes.” But the lack of mention of any incriminating info on Clinton comports with Trump Jr.’s claims that he never received anything damaging, even though it was promised.
Politico reports the notes from Manafort are about financier Bill Browder, a key champion of the Magnitsky Act, which sanctioned Russian officials for human rights abuses and which Russia wants repealed. Russia has banned U.S. citizens from adopting Russian children in retaliation.
The notes do include a “spirited case” on why Trump officials should overturn the act, and “why Republicans could support it.” The notes indicate “that the Russian officials made critical comments about Browder, but that Trump officials seemed to know little about the legislation or how it came about.” That also comports with what Veselnitskaya has said publicly, that she arranged the meeting to lobby Trump Jr. on the Magnitsky Act. Later that week, she traveled to Washington and met with lawmakers.
According to the report, the notes do not contain the word “donor,” as NBC News previously reported, in a story titled, “Manafort Notes From Russian Meet Refer to Political Contributions,” suggesting that Russians donated to the Republican National Committee.
Rather, the notes appear to discuss the background of a key player in the Magnitsky Act and that person’s previous donations to the Republican National Committee, according to the report.