In the Trump administration procuring a back channel to the Kremlin was pursued like it was the Holy Grail. Jared Kushner sought it through Russian ambassador Sergey Kislyak, Erik Prince went to the Seychelles Islands to meet with a Putin emissary to get it, but surprisingly Donald Trump Jr. wins the prize. He established a direct line of communication with Kremlin-connected Aras Agalarov and his family during the transition and that led to the now infamous Trump Tower meeting. BuzzFeed:
The Agalarovs and Trumps have a relationship dating back to 2013, when Trump and the Agalarovs — father Aras (who has ties to Putin and whom Putin presented with the Order of Honor in 2013) and son Emin — hosted the Miss Universe pageant in Moscow. […]
Democrats on the House Intelligence Committee revealed one of the text messages, from Dec. 13, 2016, in their “minority views” report on Friday — one of several new pieces of information that suggest that the Trumps’ relationship with the Agalarovs was much closer than the president and his family have said. […]
When news of the June 9, 2016, Trump Tower meeting broke in the summer of 2017, Donald Trump Jr. initially said that he “was asked to attend the meeting by an acquaintance” — later clarifying that it was “an acquaintance [he] knew from the 2013 Miss Universe pageant.”
The Trumps have sought to downplay the relationship, but even House Republicans concede in the House Intelligence Committee report released Friday, “the Agalarovs were the driving force to arrange” the Trump Tower meeting. Also released Friday were details of two calls from a number that Trump Jr. told the committee was Emin’s.
“The first call occurred at 4:04 pm on June 6, 2916 [sic] – just 21 minutes after Goldstone emailed Trump Jr. to say that Emin Agalarov was ‘on stage in Moscow but should be off within 20 minutes so I am sure can call,’” the report states. The blocked call came at 4:27 pm.
By 4:38 p.m., Trump Jr. sent Goldstone a follow-up email: “Rob thanks for the help. D”
Three days later, Trump Jr. — along with Paul Manafort and Jared Kushner — would host the Trump Tower meeting.
Trump Jr. has steadfastly maintained that “my father knew nothing of the meeting,” but Friday’s report included a note from Rona Graff, Trump Jr.’s long time assistant.
Graff forwarded [pageant official Rob]Goldstone’s Nov. 28, 2016, email to Steve Bannon, then one of Trump’s closest advisers, that same day.
She added a short note to the top: “The PE [President Elect] knows Aras well. Rob [Goldstone] is his rep in the US and sent this on. Not sure how to proceed, if at all. R.”
Goldstone set up the Trump Tower meeting and Goldstone is the U.S. rep for Aras, whom Trump knows well. Cozy as a basket of kittens.