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tv   The Last Word With Lawrence O Donnell  MSNBC  December 22, 2018 7:00pm-8:00pm PST

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at least it used to be. >> now, that's the story, dick, and it's a sordid story. it's a very complicated story, and why am i in the middle of it? >> the infamous trump tower meeting, it's consumed washington for more than a year. now, the man who holds the key to how it all happened shares new details. >> it was a dirty offer that they accepted. >> yes, that is true. >> is the meeting the special counsel's best evidence of possible collusion between the campaign and russia? we go inside the room with the firsthand account. >> suddenly, what should have been two people and don jr. was
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now don, manafort, jarrett. >> who would have their campaign manager, their seon, their son-in-law, all attend a meeting to talk about eye dopgss. it didn't make sense. >> it could have been used as a green light back at the kremlin. >> most campaigns would never have take than meeting this. campaign was happy to take it. >> he has talked to congress, the mueller team and the grand jury and now to us. rob goldstone with the inside story of the trump tower meeting. >> tell us what happened. was the dirt on hillary clinton forthcoming? it was the e-mail that set off a chain of events leading to the meeting. just a few sentences long, but every word subject to intense scrutiny, and speculation. >> would you read it to us?
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>> sure. good morning. ammon just called and asked me to contact you with something very interesting. the crown prosecutor of russia met with his father this morning. and in that meeting offered to provide the trump campaign with some official documents and information that would incriminate hillary and her dealings with russia and would be very useful to your father. >> the father, of course, then candidate donald trump. and the e-mail's author, an unlikely man to be in the center of what would become a political firestorm. rob goldstone sat down with nbc news sin that mcfadden, to tell his story. >> you have been called a wide variety of names over the past year. useful idiot. dunce. clown. bonkers. puppet of the kremlin. sinister. any of that fit? >> i've been called much more than that as well. and you know, ultimately, i was
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a publicist who wrote an e-mail on behalf of my client. >> but it's not just goldstone's words that have the attention of special counsel robert mueller. it's the response from the president's son. >> donald trump jr. said if it is what you say, i love it. >> his reaction to that was not to say, is this all right? should i call the fbi? >> it is potentially criminal. it is embarrassing. it's a scandal. >> this meeting in some ways goes to sort of the heart of what robert mueller has been looking at. he was appointed to look at any connections that existed between the trump campaign and russia. >> there wasn't anybody higher in the trump campaign except donald trump himself at this meeting. >> so how did a celebrity publicist wind up as a central player in that trump tower conference room? and later as a witness in mueller's grand jury room? his background is far removed from politics. >> he was at one point in time a
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reporter. he got his first job for his local newspaper at the age of 16. he then became a radio reporter, focusing on the entertainment industry. but some point he realized that he kind of had a knack for promotion. >> rob goldstone grew up in manchester england in public housing. but he wound up rubbing elbows with the stars including one the world's most famous recording artists, michael jackson and when he moved to new york in the 1990s, goldstone's larger than life personality didn't go unnoticed. >> he's a whacky guy. he was really fond of social media. and would post all kinds of funny things. taking selfies, wearing funny hats. >> he invited me to the club and it turns out they don't want press here and you will have to leave and i was very hurt and let me make it up to you, i handle the russian tea room, which i now find amusing, and
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let me hook you up with a dinner there. >> goldstone worked in trump's hometown. but their first connection ran through moscow. with a family that's been described as the trumps of russia. eras agalarov and his son emmen. >> explain who emmen is. his father one of the most powerful men in russia. >> a billionaire possibp singer happens to be a hugely successful man in his own right. >> music doesn't have a language. i can do russian and english in russian. >> and he runs shopping malls and restaurants and including co-owning one with robert de niro. he is a pretty interesting character to begin with. >> and how emmen led to trump takes a ze tour through the world of beauty pageants. miss universe. >> emmen and i went to meet with the miss universe organization
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in manhattan about getting a co-star for a video. >> and they asked for the most beautiful woman in the world. they also had a conversation about where the next miss universe contest would be. >> and emmen says why not moscow? my father and i own this big concert hall in moscow. why don't we do that instead? >> and he went, let's do it. you will have your contest. rob will organize it. and that's it. >> the idea went all the way to the top of the miss iuniverse organization to donald trump. >> donald trump loved the idea, said make it work. >> the agalarovs traveled to the states in june 2013, goldstone was on hand for the introductions. >> i remember i was in the lobby of the trump hotel in vegas waiting for them to arrive. they walked through the door. donald trump was at the other end of the lobby and screamed,
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bellowed, the richest man in russia has come to see me. i thought that was hilarious. at the time, i think he was the 54th richest man in russia. >> he sounds kind of giddy about the whole thing. >> he was a bit excited. i suppose in a way at the time, i thought he was making a fuss of him. he was trying to make them feel welcome. which he did. >> goldstone says that while celebrating the pageant deal during dinner, the conversation took an off-color turn. >> he said, something along the lines of, i'll take a million off the cost of this pageant right now if you tell me if you have a slight with any of the contestants and he said this smiling. and emmen went interesting. and then he smiled and he said mr. trump, i'll increase the phoebe $5 million if you tell me if you ever slept with any contestant. and everybody laughed. i thought, hmm, this is kind of
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like a match made in frat boy heaven on some level. >> that was the start of a friendship that spanned years. and continents. and would ultimately land goldstone at that trump tower meeting. coming up -- >> happy birthday. >> donald trump in moscow with the pop star and the publicist. . and if you get lost, just hit me on the old horn. man: tom's my best friend, but ever since he bought a new house... tom: it's a $10 cover? oh, okay. didn't see that on the website. he's been acting more and more like his dad. come on, guys! jump in! the water's fine! tom pritchard. how we doin'? hi, there. tom pritchard. can we get a round of jalapeño poppers for me and the boys, please? i've been saving a lot of money with progressive lately, so... progressive can't protect you from becoming your parents. but we can protect your home and auto when you bundle with us.
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the man who arranged the trump tower meeting is telling his version of events in a new book and to nbc news, the senior legal investigative correspondent, sin that
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mcfadden. >> i wanted to tell my story and by that i mean my story. i thought without context this story would never make sense. >> he says an important part of the story took part three years before the meeting in moscow. there he saw a growing relationship between donald trump and the family of a russian oligarch. >> one reason that donald trump was so keen to hold this contest in moscow was because he would be doing it with agalarov, a billionaire developer. >> journalist david korn has reported extensively on trump's relationship to russia. >> in perhaps his presidency. he said that he believed that the russians had a strong leader in president putin. unlike america, whose leader was weak. and he was referring to president obama. and i think this came about at a time when nobody had anything good to say about either vladimir putin or russia. >> one guest then asked trump about the greek financial crisis. >> mr. trump stood up and said before i answer that, have any of you heard of "the apprentice"? it's a show that i created. and he talked for about five, six, seven minutes, about "the apprentice," how amazing it was, how amazing he was, thanked them for coming, and got a standing ovation. >> was mr. trump as excited to be with these russians as they seemed to be, to be with him? >> he seemed to be, yes.
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he seemed to like the fact that he was adored there. and these are people who are some of the sternest people i've ever seen in my life. loved him. >> the remainder of trump's day was filled with pageant prep. that night -- >> happy birthday. fantastic guy. >> he went to a birthday party for ross agalarov. he left at 1:00 a.m. and what happened over the next several hours in moscow has been the subject of intrigue and innuendo. he had a suite at the ritz carlton moscow. >> it is a notorious wire tap where russian officials have it wired, and there is allegations that he cavorted with prostitutes and it is yet to be proven. >> the allegation is in the dossier, opposition web site initially paid for by a conservative web site and then funded by democrats. >> the most salacious item in
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the dossier focused on this trip that trump took for the contest. and that was that he hired prostitutes and had them urinate in the hotel room that he was staying, because obama had stayed there, and they were defiling where obama had slept, walked, gone to the bathroom, whatever. >> the report claims that night, the russian government gathered kompromat, material to blackmail trump. >> former fbi director james comey has said that donald trump told him he did not stay overnight at the ritz carlton in moscow. >> that is not correct. >> he did spend the night? >> he did spend the night. >> that's where he was dropped off by the security detail that we provided. and that's where he was at 7:00 a.m. the next morning. >> trump's body guard, keith shiller, told congress he was approached by someone who offered to arrange prostitutes. shiller says he declined. >> according to his own
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testimony, he told trump about the offer, they laughed about it, and trump went into his hotel room, alone. >> so to the best of your knowledge, the allegations in the steele dossier -- >> well to the best of my knowledge, i don't have knowledge, but to the best of my knowledge, we had him all day, we had him all night, so there is about four or five hours that are unaccounted for. in my mind, he must have slept at some point. because he didn't look like someone who hadn't slept when i saw him the next day. but i have no idea, you know, maybe it could have happened, but again, i never heard any word of it. >> there is no proof of a compromising video. but one video that does exist was shot the very next morning. donald trump made a cameo in emin's music video in another life. >> emin, wake up. come on. what's wrong with you? what's wrong with you, emin? >> after that shoot, trump did a series of interviews and talked about putin.
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>> let's not kid ourselves. he's done an amazing job. he has put himself at the forefront of the world as a leader. >> his chief concern when he was in moscow was whether he would meet vladimir putin. as soon as he landed, are we going to see putin, is putin coming to the event. >> but that meeting never happened. >> i was in the room for that call with mr. trump and with emin, and razz, and it was president putin's spokesman, and emin translated and said unfortunately, although mr. putin would love to meet with donald trump today, the meeting can no longer go ahead, because the king of holland has been delayed in traffic. >> what was donald trump's reaction when it turned out he wasn't going to be meeting president putin? >> it was okay actually because i think his reaction would have been really upset if there was no response. but the fact that this man who is a very senior official was conveying a message, i would love to meet you, on the next
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possible occasion, and why don't you come -- >> the miss universe pageant co-owned by nbc back then did go on. >> congratulations to you. >> good night everybody, from moscow. >> and then it ends with, he and the agalarovs announcing that they're going to join together to try to build a trump tower in moscow. >> despite his deleted tweet about the project, trump tower moscow never happened. but goldstone says the friendships from moscow continued. >> he got to know don jr. and three times visited the elder trump at trump tower. on one visit, not long before donald trump declared his candidacy, goldstone says trump was there listening to a rap song. >> he said look, 90 million views. a rapper called matt miller, who recently passed away. has recorded this song. it has 90 million views. and it is about me ♪ take over the world. >> and i said to him, do you think you maybe should listen to
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the words and what they're saying about you perhaps, just an idea. ♪ look at all this money. >> and he went, it doesn't matter. 90 million views. and then the third time we went, we said to emin, maybe next time i see you, i will be hosting you at the white house. >> but before there was trump in the white house, there was trump the candidate. and the next time goldstone set foot in trump tower would be when he arrived for the meeting. coming up -- >> i get a phone call and he said to me initially i would like you to set up a meeting with the trumps. ke you to set ug with the trumps. the clock is ticking on irreversible joint damage. ongoing pain and stiffness are signs of joint erosion. humira can help stop the clock. prescribed for 15 years, humira targets and blocks a source of inflammation that contributes to joint pain and irreversible damage. humira can lower your ability to fight infections. serious and sometimes fatal infections
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build that wall. you're right. >> we're going to build the wall, folks. don't even think about it. >> presidential candidate donald trump was swinging through california in the weeks leading up to the 2016 republican national convention. on the other side of the country, in hoboken, new jersey, music manager and publicist rob goldstone received a phone call. it was his client, russian pop singer emin agalarov. >> i get a phone call, from
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emin, which isn't unusual, we had about 20 a day, and what was usual was what he wanted. and he said to me initially, i would like to you set up a meeting with the trumps. >> given this relationship between the agalarov family and donald trump, why did they need you to act as an intermediary? >> because when you deal with people at the levels of the agalarovs, remember we're talking about billionaires, they don't pick up their phone to donald trump and go, hey, will you do this, or will you do that? and one of the reasons people like me are employed is to be that buffer. >> it seems to me pretty obvious why the meeting developed this way. who was trump's closest pals and business associates in russia? the guys he did miss universe with. aris agalarov and his son emin.
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so if you wanted to get a message to the trump campaign, from the russia side, those are the people you would go to. >> according to goldstone, during their call, emin said that a well-connected attorney from russia had damaging information about the democrats. >> i knew in my mind, when someone is saying well-connected, and you wanted a campaign meeting with trump, who else are they connected to? it is obviously the government, in my mind. so i was taken aback, first because emin and i, we worked together maybe three-plus years, had never even had a conversation about politics. we had conversation about donald trump but not about politics. >> and in donald trump, goldstone admits, he saw opportunities that had little to do with government. >> selfishly, i thought if donald trump is elected president, that's amazing. there's lots of favors we could
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ask, i would like emin to play at the inauguration, i would like to do a photo shoot with emin in the white house, those are the favor, not some random attorney that you have this bizarre information. but i managed it. >> instead of approaching the candidate directly, he decided to approach the candidate's son, donald trump jr. that's when he typed out those 138 words that would later be scrupulously examined. >> good morning. emin just called and asked me to contact you with something very interesting. the crown prosecutor of russia met with his father eras this morning and in that meeting offered to provide the trump campaign with some official documents and information. this is obviously very high level and sensitive information. but it is part of russia and its government support for mr. trump. >> goldstone now admits some of the details were not true. >> the first sentence, emin just called and asked me to contact you. that's true. >> that is true. >> the crown prosecutor of
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russia, not true. >> it's not true. what it is, is my interpretation. what i was talking about was this attorney from russia. >> so you then say that there' offering to provide the trump campaign with some quote official documents and information that would incriminate hillary and her dealings with russia and would be very useful to your father. what parts of that are true? >> so what is true is the call. so what emin had said was, potentially damaging to the democrats, so the democrats only had one candidate, which was hilla hillary clinton. i also was writing this to the son of somebody who was a reality tv star, who was running for president, and who most people, most polls, believed had as much chance of becoming president as myself. >> so very little. >> very little. thank you for that. very little. so this wasn't an e-mail to the
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son of the president of the united states. if it had been, i might have spent a little bit more time on it. this was written in about three minutes on my cell phone. interpreting what i believe my client was trying to get across. and puffing it. that's what i do. i'm a publicist. >> the strategy worked. 17 minutes after goldstone's e-mail, the future president's son responded with these words. >> if it's what you say, i love it. >> campaigns accept opposition research all the time but most campaigns, professionals, will tell you, they wouldn't accept it from a foreign government or a foreign intelligence service. that's just something that is considered out of bounds of american politics. >> how you are? thanks for coming by. >> if the e-mail lacks specific, trump jr. had at least three opportunities to clarify the details. >> there is a clear trail within the phone records that shows that donald trump jr. and emin agalarov connected by phone, but donald trump jr. testified under oath to congress that he doesn't
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remember those calls. he has no recollection. >> according to phone records obtained by the senate judiciary committee, while he was communicating with emin, trump jr. also had a phone call with a blocked number. >> we know that donald trump uses a blocked number, so the big question is, did he speak to his father. all we know is what the records show. don jr. connected with agalarov, and in between those calls, he spoke to a blocked number. >> after that, the meeting was set. june 9. trump tower. goldstone would bring the russian lawyer. >> trump jr. said he would bring the candidate's son-in-law, jared kushner and campaign chair, paul manafort. before joining the trump campaign, manafort worked as a political consultant for oligarchs and pro-russia clients. >> first it was of interest to me, frankly is mr. manafort. he has been in russia. he has been in ukraine. if donald trump jr., and jared kushner, took this meeting innocently, and ignorantly, and
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sort of stepped into it, you know, it is possible, but mr. manafort, we have clearly known what the russians were up to. >> two nights before the meeting, on june 7, trump greeted supporters with what now sounds like a curious promise. >> we are going to be discussing all of the things that have taken place with the clintons. i think you're going to find it very informative and very, very interesting. >> we just don't know if the speech that donald trump made is a coincidence or not. and so the timing seems awfully strange. >> for all of the attention the trump tower meeting would later get, goldstone says at the time, he hardly gave it a second thought. >> i didn't care about the meeting. it sounds bad. but it's true. i didn't care. i wanted my client to be happy. that's always my ultimate goal. >> coming up, so tell us what happened, was the dirt on the democratic party and hillary clinton forthcoming? e democratic party and hillary clinton forthcoming?
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they will reconvene on thursday, december 27. in washington, the top u.s. envoy in the fight against isis, brett mcgurk resigned after president trump's decision to pull out of syria. his decision comes after jim mattis resigned in similar fashion on thursday. now, back to the meeting. fashion on thursday. now, back to the meeting it is a very complicated story, and why am i am the middle of it? >> it is the story of the meeting as told by rob goldstone, the man who arranged it. he took us inside the room at trump tower and an in depth interview with cynthia mcfadden of nbc news.
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>> the meeting is set. done jr. has replied to you, if it is what you say it is, i love it. >> and i would like to say, i have a different interpretation to what the media said over the last year, i was like thank god, he knows that i don't really know all of what i'm saying here, and i obviously don't have all the facts, so if it is what i'm saying, he loves it. >> but it is like you've turned off your thinking brain, rob. if it is what you say it is, if the russian government is going to turn over information, dirt against hillary clinton -- >> he loves it. yeah. i was focused on me. i was focused on saving face. not embarrassing myself. not embarrassing my client. >> and not whether this was an unpatriotic or maybe even treasonist offer. >> correct. >> goldstone arrived at trump tower on june 9, 2016. when he got there, he checked in on facebook.
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>> on the few occasions i've been to trump tower, sure, i checked in. including the day of that meeting. most of my friends are die-hard liberals, and the venom that would come from them on my social media amused me. i loved it. i thought it was funny. >> i suppose in your defense, if you had thought you were up to no good, at the trump tower meeting, in june of 2016, you wouldn't have put it on social media. >> right. i think i have enough intelligence to have known that. >> accompanying goldstone was a woman he said could provide the incriminating information. russian attorney natalia -- >> very, very close to the state prosecutor in russia who himself is very lose to putin. she had mounted a very aggressive campaign against a law that had been capped by congress and signed by obama and absolutely hated by putin.
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it was called the magiski action. >> it allow the u.s. government to sanction russian officials to believed to be offenders. >> it goes after wealthy friends and freezes their bank accounts and makes it hard for them to travel and do business in dollar denominations. >> to retaliate, the russian government stopped americans from adopting russian children. at trump tower, natalia was there with three associates. >> the other people on the russian side, one was a russian-american lobbyist, he is a former soviet military officer, who has been in the united states for many years. and he had been working with natalia to lobby against the act. >> also there, a translator and a business representative for the agalarov family. at about 4:00 p.m., goldstone and his companions boarded the trump tower elevator to the 25th floor conference room. in the meeting, where donald trump jr., his brother-in-law
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jared kushner, and trump campaign chair paul manafort. >> don came out and saw these people, they went in, and i said thank you very much, i'm leaving, and he said where are you going? i said i'm leaving. he goes why don't you just sit in. so you can get these people out at the end. i now find myself in the meeting itself. >> tell us what happened. was the dirt on the democratic party, and hillary clinton forthcoming? >> not as far as i was aware. i decided i would view the opportunity to check my e-mails to sit there, but to keep half an ear open. my eyes were definitely open. because although i thought, well, i don't really know about this subject, i'm smart enough to, i will be able to spot if there is a change in body language. >> goldstone said he noticed the mood deflate as the attorney talked about sanctions and the magnitski act. it didn't sound like dirt on hillary clinton. >> jared kushner next to me
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looked like he was becoming more and more agitated as the attorney continued and at what point jared said i have no idea what you're talking about, could you possibly refocus. >> and the attorney started again. >> then she started talking about how unfair it was for the adoption of russian children by americans. then my ears picked up. because i was like, what is she talking about? why is, what's adoption got to do with any of this? >> don jr. got up and said i don't really know why you would address this to us. my father's a private citizen. i suggest you address it to the obama administration. they're in power. they can perhaps do something. >> goldstone says he ushered the russians out of the room. the meeting lasted about 20 minutes. >> i jumped, i was like thank you very much, thank you, good-bye, we have to leave. and i was horrified. >> the three russians who were at the meeting have testified that don jr. asked specifically
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about where the dirt was on hillary. do you recall that? >> no, not at all. >> did anyone in the meeting say, where's the dirt about hillary? >> no. >> so the russians are not telling the truth? >> if that's what they say. >> that's what they testified to. >> natalia spoke to nbc news last year about the meeting. >> translator: i would say in one word, it was a disappointment of sorts. >> nbc news obtained her talking points for the meeting. most of the document is criticism of the madnitski act. only one mention of hillary clinton, in passing, in regard to donations with the dnc. >> translator: it was maybe for me, a completely insignificant part. at no point was there ever compromising material about hillary clinton. not from my mouth. not from my documents.
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>> an attorney for the agalarovs tells nbc news that no one in the russian government asked them to arrange the meeting. jared kushner's attorney says his client went into the meeting not knowing what it was about, didn't participate, and left before it was over. >> jared was told about a meeting with his brother-in-law. no topic was mentioned. when jared got into the room, the conversation was about russian adoption, he was probably in the room for ten or 12 minutes. what happened before he came in and what happened afterward, he wasn't there to see. >> when the meeting ended, goldstone says he was worried he had annoyed don jr. >> i said it was the most embarrassing thing. and he said to me, i do lots of meetings, that's fine, it was kind of like there, there, it's okay, but then he said to me, i just have no idea what that was about. >> coming up, the story breaks. >> come on. you didn't remember you had offered dirt on hillary clinton from the russian government? fer from the russian government? nt, we've shown just how far love can go. (grandma vo) over one hundred national parks protected.
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it began with an offer for dirt, and by many accounts, ended up as a frustrating 20-minute conversation about sanctions and adoptions. so what were the russians up to? the man who set it up has a theory. >> so do you agree with national security officials both prior and current who believe that this meeting was a probe set up by the russian government, of the trump campaign? >> i have always looked at it as a bait and switch. >> goldstone says he thinks the offer of incriminating information was made just to get in the room. >> but it was a dirty offer. >> yes. >> it was a dirty offer that they accepted. >> yes. that is true. that didn't materialize. but yes. it's the willingness to accept it. >> that willingness, intelligence experts says, may have been the whole point. >> a lot of my sources, currents
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and former intelligence official, believe that this meeting was essentially a test, by the russian intelligence services, to see how the trump team would respond. >> when you tell someone, we have dirt, you're testing the waters, to see what their response is. and once you get a yes, a positive response to that, you have hooked your fish. >> if it was a sophisticated intelligence operation, does that mean the russian lawyer, natali veselnitskaya was a russian operative? she was asked in the spring of 2018 about her government ties. >> you said your relationship with the prosecutor job is what? >> reporter: i am a lawyer. and i -- >> translator: i am a lawyer and i am an informant. >> she referred to herself as a government informer and i think what she meant by that, like a lot of people in russia, she does not work for the government but when asked to provide information about things she has learned in the course of her
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work, she provides it. >> what some of my sources have said, they wouldn't send the a-team if they were testing, because they don't know whether the trump team will call the fbi and everyone is going to be arrested. >> it is possible the russian lawyer may not have known the real reason she was in the meeting. >> if this worked, an intelligence operation, you might pick someone just like this russian attorney. her inability to make people happy at the meeting might actually be consistent with her being kind of an unwitting dupe. the untrained eye could see the trump tower meeting and see a bunch of amateurs trying to get their own business done, but the counter-intelligence lens tells us this is exactly how putin would do it today. >> what's more, the goldstone says the trump tower meeting wasn't the end of it and asked to arrange meetings again after the election and around the inauguration. >> so after this, as you painted, really kind of a disastrous meeting, you get two more calls?
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>> two more e-mail, yes. >> asking to set up more meetings with the trumps? >> for the same person. for this attorney. >> goldstone says he didn't actively pursue it. and the story of the trump tower meeting might have stayed hidden. if not for the work of some investigative reporters. jill becker was part of a team at "the new york times" who noticed something interesting in jared kushner's updated security clearance forms. >> on this learned list of contacts, and now, he gave the fbi, he wrote that natalia veselnitskaya, that was it and paul manafort the campaign chairman had separately had to disclose that he had met with some russian official i think he had put it at the request of don jr. so we were able to kind of piece this together and at least paul manafort and the president's son had met with this person in the midst of a campaign, to discuss what?
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>> the times reporters reached out for comment. what would donald trump jr. say about the meeting? >> we were told, in a statement that don jr. gave us, that this was simply a meeting to talk about russian adoptions. and we thought that's pretty high level staffing for a meeting about russian adoptions. it just didn't make sense. >> it was a "washington post" reporter who tracked down goldstone on vacation in athens. >> i was the first reporter to call him, and ask him what his role was. >> it was a reporter from the "washington post," and she said to me, did you set up a meeting between some russians and donald trump jr. at trump tower? and i said yes. and her next question, she said to me, did you see "the new york times" yesterday? >> he was quite open. he sounded a little nervous. but he quite candidly said yes, yes i set up the meeting, and i
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described the meeting. the one thing he did not want to say in that first phone call is, he said he had done it on behalf of a russian client but he did not want to name the client. >> when i first was asked again about this meeting, the only thing i could remember was adoptions. >> oh, come on. you didn't remember you had offered dirt on hillary clinton from the russian government? >> well, i didn't remember that, that's not the meeting, that's the e-mail. but what the meeting actually transpired. the only thing that sat with me was it was that ridiculous meeting about adoption. >> goldstone says he continued on with his vacation. >> so i went shopping. and tried on crowns. and took selfies and it was more hats. >> and you posted them. >> and i posted them. >> you were not getting it? >> i was not getting it, no. >> it wasn't long before someone slipped goldstone's e-mail exchange with don jr. to the times reporters. >> i mean my jaw dropped. there it was, in black and white. >> once again, they reached out for comment.
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what would donald trump jr. say now? >> we called them in the morning, we said we had obtained the e-mails, we were prepared to publish them, and don jr. started tweeting out these hastily photographed images of these e-mails, it was clearly ae hastily photographed images of the e-mails in an effort to be transparent. of course if they wanted to be transparent they could have told the truth on day one or day two or day three. but they didn't. >> in a startling admission, donald trump jr. releasing e-mails today. >> each day, bits of information damaging to the white house and damaging to don junior started trickling out. >> that first statement saying that meeting was just about adoption, it came from his father. >> he's flying home on air force one as they're scrambling and trying to figure out what to say about this. and apparently he actually essentially dictated the wording of this statement and decided what his son should say. >> the president denied it at
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first but later changed his story in a memo his lawyers sent to robert mueller. >> and that seems to be an important focus of robert mueller's investigation. why did president trump dictate this misleading statement delivered on his son's behalf about this meeting that trump says he knew nothing about at the time? >> what did the president know about the meeting and when did he know it? that's a question the special counsel's team surely wants to answer. coming up. >> i told myself that if bob mueller appeared, i would literally just throw my hands forward and say, just arrest me. . i sure am, linda. they've been saving folks money for years. and now they're re-airing some of their all-time greatest hits. with classics like... hump day. caveman airport. and even... celebrating squirrels. this crudité is great, but those geico ads are even better. but that's not all. vote today and you can enter for a chance to appear in an upcoming geico commercial. just visit oh, geico.
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the trump tower meeting is considered one of the most suspicious events in the russia scandal. now, more than two years after the fact, two questions stand out. was the sit-down evidence of criminal wrongdoing? and amid the shifting stories, did the president play a role in the coverup?
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>> it's one of the most enduring mysteries of this episode, is did donald trump know about it. he has said over and over again that he did not know that this took place. and donald trump jr. has said the same, including essentially under oath to congress. >> an e-mail exchange in which donald trump jr. infamously responded, "if it's what you say, i love it." the question has always been, did candidate donald trump know about that meeting before it happened? >> it's hard for me to believe that donald trump jr., in that seven o'clock, would not communicate with his father and say, dad, look what i got. >> so the mueller team appears to be looking at this in terms of attempted collusion. why did they agree to accept the meeting, what was the state of mind of the trump team, and they're also looking at it through the lens of obstructed justice. >> if the president had a hand, and it appears he did n, in drafting a false statement as to
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the true meaning of the trump tower meeting, then the special counsel asking, is this obstruction of justice? >> not long after the trump power sit-down, music publicist rob goldstone ended his working relationship with russian pop singer emin agalarov. the questions about his role in the meeting catapulted goldstone into the middle of the russia probe. >> it was goldstone who wrote the e-mail on behalf of the russians who wanted to meet with donnie junior to share dirt on hillary clinton. >> goldstone first testified on capitol hill. then the special counsel came calling, asking him to respond to questions as a voluntary witness. >> tell us what it was like inside that room when you went in to face the mueller lawyers. >> the publicist part of me thought it would be this glamorous thing, it would be at the j. edgar hoover building and it would be some incredible --
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almost like some perry mason experience. anyway, it was in some unmarked building in a bland conference room. >> was mr. mueller himself there? >> no. and i told myself in advance that if bob mueller appeared, i would literally just throw my hands forward and say, just arrest me, because i had heard that he hadn't shown up at anyone else's. >> goldstone says mueller's lawyers peppered him with questions, many dealing with the relationships that appeared to tie trump to russia. >> my connection to the trumps, trump's connection to the agalarovs, the agalarovs' connection to the kremlin, it all made perfect sense what they would want to talk about. and i was able to fill in as much as i knew. >> next, goldstone agreed to again be a voluntary witness, this time in front of robert mueller's grand jury. >> i was picked up by two fbi agents and driven to an
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underground entrance, to yet another unremarkable building. the room is like a schoolroom. it has three tiers. it was like a lecture room in a college. there were about 22 or 23 people there across the three tiers. >> what do you think they wanted you to tell that grand jury? i mean, the truth, of course. but what was the case? what's the case? >> i think that one of the things that they definitely needed me to enlighten the grand jury about was the thing i get asked about all the time but haven't really spoken about until now, which is, what was the reasoning for writing the e-mail the way i did? and why did i use certain phrases that i did? >> new revelations may also be coming from a source once in trump's inner circle. >> paul manafort pleading guilty today to two charges as part of
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a plea deal. >> paul manafort is now cooperating with robert mueller's investigation. his presence at the meeting looms large. >> paul manafort is a man with a lot of russian connections. he knew exactly how the russians operated. he should have known what was happening there and why that meeting was perilous. >> the question of knowingly cooperating with a foreign power to influence the election, to assist and support the campaign. that's the big question that mueller is going to try to answer through manafort. >> whatever happened before, during, and after the meeting, robert mueller now has multiple witnesses spilling secrets. rob goldstone insists he never meant to be part of a russian plot. but what he offered may provide evidence of whether any trump campaign officials wanted to join one. whatever came of the meeting, goldstone says he's living with the consequences of one very bad idea. >> are you guilty of anything? >> i'm guilty really of not
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standing my ground and knowing that this was a bad idea. that's what i'm guilty of. of not really putting my sensible hat on and going, you know this is a bad idea, don't do it. >> announcer: this is an msnbc special series. hate is on the rise in matter. it's emboldened. the war on whites is real. normalized. >> the government is nothing compared to the jewish menace. >> and destroying lives. >> there are people who will say once a nazi, always a nazi, and that you can't change who you are. >> but i know change is possible. from the age of 14