Speed Reads


Senate transcripts show Trump was closer with Russian oligarch Aras Agalarov than previously known

On Wednesday, the Senate Judiciary Committee released 2,500 pages of interview transcripts and documents about the June 9, 2016, Trump Tower meeting between top Trump campaign officials and Russians promising "dirt" on Hillary Clinton. Not all of the witnesses were super helpful — Donald Trump Jr. said "I don't know" at least 72 times, "I don't recall" or "can't recall" 67 times, and "I don't/can't remember" 25 times. But Rob Goldstone, the British producer who helped set up the meeting, was quite loquacious.

Goldstone acted as an intermediary between the Trumps, his client Russian pop star Emin Agalarov, and Agalarov's father, billionaire developer Aras Agalarov, who worked with Trump to stage the Miss Universe pageant in Moscow in 2013. Goldstone's testimony, say Michael Isikoff and Dylan Stableford at Yahoo News, shows "that the relationship between Trump and Agalarov was far cozier than previously known, helping to explain why top Trump campaign aides jumped at the chance to meet — at Agalarov's request — with the visiting Russians" on June 9.

By all accounts, that meeting was a bust. But the day after the meeting, Goldstone emailed Trump's secretary, Rhona Graff, with a "delivery question": "Emin and Aras have a fairly sizable birthday gift for Mr. Trump and I would like to know exactly how and where we should deliver it on Tuesday." The gift, Goldstone later explained, was a large painting.

But Aras Agalarov was unable to give Trump what he really craved: a meeting with Russia President Vladimir Putin, Goldstone said. Paula Shugart, president of Miss Universe, saw the problem as soon as Agalarov and Trump settled on Moscow for the 2013 pageant. "Oh God, he's going to want to meet Putin," Goldstone recalls Shugart saying. Trump was so insistent on meeting Putin that it became what Goldstone called "the gorilla in the room" during the Moscow trip. You can read more about that missed connection, and Trump's consolation prize, at The Washington Post or in Goldstone's transcript.