There is no smoking gun for special counsel Robert Mueller in the Senate Judiciary Committee records released on Wednesday. Those records relate to the now-famous June 2016 Trump Tower meeting between senior Trump campaign officials and a Russian-intelligence linked lawyer, Natalia Veselnitskaya.
Veselnitskaya attended that meeting as a senior cutout or intermediary for the Russian intelligence services (the Russians love to use cutouts), offering compromising material on Hillary Clinton that she failed to deliver, to the irritation of Trump’s aides. Veselnitskaya’s attendance was arranged by a U.S.-U.K. citizen, Rob Goldstone at the behest of Aras Agalarov, a close friend of and intermediary for Vladimir Putin.
There is no doubt that this was a directed Russian intelligence operation (and that Jared Kushner and Donald Trump Jr. were stupid to attend it). But the committee’s evidence doesn’t give Mueller any smoking guns regarding any sort of illegal collusion. They speak to a seemingly pointless meeting in which Trump Jr. sought material but did not receive it (something that surely leads the Trump administration to breathe a major sigh of relief) and most of his other aides became irritated that their time was being wasted.
The absence of smoke might not matter to the special counsel; whose focus has been on financial activities and other as yet undisclosed interactions between the Trump campaign officials and Russian cutouts. Still, it is a small boost to Trump and his inner circle.
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