On Tuesday morning Donald Trump Jr. shared a series of pre-emptive tweets revealing the contents of an email chain he sent in 2016 to a Kremlin-connected lawyer, Natalia Veselnitskaya, who claimed to have damaging information on Hillary Clinton.
It appeared that Trump Jr. sent the tweets in order to beat the New York Times to the punch in publishing them. Just moments after Trump shared the emails, the Times shared its in-depth story on the previously unreported meeting.
As the Times reported, Trump Jr. set up the private meeting with Veselnitskaya, which was also attended by then-Trump campaign chairman Paul Manafort and Jared Kushner, the president’s son-in-law and senior adviser, for June 9, 2016. The date was just a few weeks after Donald Trump won the GOP nomination.
The emails could prove damning for the Trump family, as investigators are actively probing potential collusion between the Trump campaign and Russia during the 2016 presidential election.
But before the investigation takes on the matter we can simply revel in the truly bizarre circumstances that brought this very random cast of characters together. Here are the seven key players you need to know about in the Trump Jr. email scandal.
Donald Trump Jr.
Trump Jr., the president’s son, told the Times in a statement, “It was a short introductory meeting. I asked Jared and Paul to stop by.” He added that while he was asked to attend the meeting he was not told the name of the person he’d be meeting with, which the emails proved otherwise.
In his statement to the Times, Trump Jr. said the meeting was to discuss a program about the adoption of Russian children, which again the newly revealed email transcripts prove otherwise.
Veselnitskaya is the lawyer who allegedly promised to have damaging information about Trump’s presidential opponent, Hillary Clinton.
Veselnitskaya’s legal clients reportedly include businesses owned by the Russian state, Mic previously reported. She also waged a prominent fight against a U.S. law known as the Magnitsky Act. The law, the San Diego Union-Tribune reported, called for sanctions against 18 individuals who were “suspected of having a role in the 2009 death of Sergei Magnitsky, the lawyer and auditor who uncovered large-scale tax fraud and theft in Russia.” It was signed in 2012 by then-President Barack Obama.
Of his meeting with Veselnitskaya, Trump Jr. told ABC in a statement, “Her statements were vague, ambiguous and made no sense… then [she] changed subjects and began discussing the adoption of Russian children and mentioned the Magnitsky Act.”
Described by the Hollywood Reporter as “a 37-year-old Michael Buble-style crooner,” Emin Agalarov is also the son of one of Russia’s richest men and is also the man who facilitated the meeting between Trump Jr. and Veselnitskaya via his professional colleague Rob Goldstone (more on him later).
His first connection to the Trump family came via the 2013 Miss Universe Pageant, which the Trump family owned. That year, the Hollywood Reporter noted, Agalarov’s Crocus Group complex in Moscow was chosen to host the event. Agalarov even produced a song and music video for the event, which also featured Trump.
According to Forbes, Agalarov maintained a friendship with the Trump family and even performed a concert at a Trump golf course. According to the Hollywood Reporter, for Agalarov’s 35th birthday, Trump sent the him a video where he called the singer a “winner” and “a champ.”
Goldstone is the president of a marketing company called Oui 2 Entertainment, the New York Times reported, and has worked with Agalarov in the past. According to the Times, Goldstone, who was involved with the 2013 Miss Universe pageant, said he was the one to help facilitate the meeting between Veselnitskaya and Trump Jr. According to Goldstone, he also attended the meeting.
In the emails to Trump Jr. Goldstone wrote, “This is obviously very high level and sensitive information but is part of Russia and its government’s support for Mr. Trump.” To which Trump Jr. replied, “If it’s what you say, I love it.”
Manafort, Trump’s former campaign chairman, was allegedly in attendance and in the know about the meeting with Veselnitskaya before it took place. In the emails posted by Trump Jr. both Manafort and Kushner are CC’d.
In March, the New York Times reported that the former campaign manager may have also attempted to cover up illicit payments from the former Russia-backed leader of Ukraine.
Manafort resigned from the Trump campaign in August. Of Manafort’s presence at the meeting, a former Jeb Bush adviser told HuffPost, “It would be very odd for the campaign manager to appear at a meeting with a more-or-less random foreigner claiming they’re peddling [opposition research.”
Kushner, Trump’s son-in-law and adviser, also attended Trump Jr.’s meeting with Veselnitskaya.
Kushner has been found to have had multiple contacts with Russians, Mic previously reported. For example, Kushner failed to disclose meetings he’d taken with Russian spy school graduate Sergey N. Gorkov, the head of state-owned Russian bank Vnesheconombank, and Sergey Kislyak, a Russian senior diplomat, as was previously reported.
In May, the FBI announced its investigation into potential ties between Russia and the Trump campaign had expanded to include Kushner.
President Donald Trump
In a statement read by White House deputy press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders, Trump said, “My son is a high-quality person and I applaud his transparency … Beyond that I’m going to have to refer everything beyond this matter to Don Jr.’s counsel and outside counsel.”
Trump Jr. claims his father had no knowledge of the meeting between himself, Manafort, Goldstone and Veselnitskaya.