Here’s what we know this morning: Donald Trump had a second undisclosed meeting with Vladimir Putin at the G20 summit. It lasted for an hour. No one else was present except Putin’s translator. That may be all we ever know about the meeting, although as Joe Scarborough notes, we can “assume the worst” given all the other evidence suggesting collusion. Even putting that aside, there’s a chance that Putin was able to gain even more kompromat from the meeting; he and his translator can spin that meeting any way they’d like, and Trump can’t say shit because no one else witnessed it. Basically, Trump got played again.
POTUS compromised. Kremlin has the only record of the exchange, free to doctor it or use it to nefarious purpose. https://t.co/rFqRaBZhrT— Strobe Talbott (@strobetalbott) July 19, 2017
Trump team went to great pains to try to set up a secret backchannel for private conversation. Of course they would do something like this. https://t.co/OrJ8A1EkKx— Sarah Kendzior (@sarahkendzior) July 19, 2017
Wonder if we'll eventually get a Russian recording of the Trump Putin G20 conversations — like we got the Russians' Oval Office pics.— Rachel Maddow MSNBC (@maddow) July 19, 2017
We also know this: There was an eighth person in that June 19th meeting last year. He’s a Russian, Irakly Kaveladze. He immigrated into the United States in 1991, and according to federal authorities, he immediately began laundering money for the Russians, allegedly moving $1.4 billion in a 10 year period.
We are also learning that Yuri Chaika, the master of Russian kompramat, may have been behind the meeting.
Here’s where it gets much, much more interesting. Today, the Daily Beast is reporting that some of the same people who were involved in that June 9th meeting with Don Jr. were also involved in an effort to “stage a show trial of anti-Putin campaigner Bill Browder on Capitol Hill” using California Republican Representative Dana Rohrabacher as an asset.
Rohrabacher was going to show a pro-Kremlin film that attacked Browder during a House subcommittee hearing. The film was obtained by a corrupt associate of Putin’s. Rorhabacher had obtained briefings about the film from Natalie Veselnitskaya — the Russian lawyer at Don Jr.’s meeting, who also handled distribution of the film. Rinat Akhmetshin — the former Soviet spy at the June 9th meeting — helped to put together the subcommittee event. Some other Republican representatives intervened and stopped the subcommittee hearing.
However, a full committee hearing was set up — with one of Rorhabacher’s Russian-friendly witnesses — to talk about relations with Russia. That meeting was arranged as a sort of compromise to keep Rorhabacher from showing the film and embarrassing Republicans. Subsequently, Akhmetshin and Veselnitskaya had dinner with Rorhabacher at a private members’ club for Republicans.
This all happened, by the way, in mid June 2016, right after the meeting with Don Jr. Here’s the kicker. The day after Rorhabacher had the dinner with Akhmetshin and Veselnitskaya, Republican Representative Kevin McCarthy told his GOP colleagues, “There’s two people I think Putin pays: Rohrabacher and Trump.” After his colleagues laughed, McCarthy said, “Swear to God.” Paul Ryan then said that that information had to stay between them.
Of course, when news of that came out earlier this year, McCarthy and Ryan dismissed it as a joke, but given what we know now — that Rorhabacher met with Akhmetshin and Veselnitskaya, who also met with Don Jr. to dish dirt on Hillary, dirt that may have been obtained by Yuri Chaika — it’s much harder to dismiss it as such.
Rohrabacher, by the way, had been warned a few years prior that Russian operatives were trying to recruit him as an asset. It sounds like it might have worked.
Absolutely shocking report of successful FSB operation in DC, where Russia infiltrated congress through Rohrabacher https://t.co/p3IzMAAA08— Bill Browder (@Billbrowder) July 19, 2017