If you read only the New York Times or Wall Street Journal stories on the latest Jared Kushner correspondence—email subject line: “Russian backdoor overture and dinner invite”—you’d be missing an important piece of the puzzle. Other outlets, like NBC News which broke the story, did not miss the piece. They emphasized it.
The key question here is whether any senior-level Trump campaign aide met with Aleksander Torshin, deputy head of Russia’s central bank and close ally of Russian President Vladimir Putin, especially following the emails under scrutiny.
This question is even more important since it implicates the defense that Kushner’s lawyers have staked out for his failure to turn over the emails to Congress. “Kushner’s lawyers said the committee never asked their client for records of proposed meetings that never happened – but the episode gave the impression Kushner had something to hide,” according to the Washington Post.
According to all accounts, Torshin asked to meet a high-level Trump campaign official during the National Rifle Association annual convention in Louisville, Kentucky in May 2016. His purpose was apparently to pass on some information from Putin to Donald Trump and to see if the presidential candidate would meet with Putin at a later date. Kushner waived off top campaign aides like Rick Dearborn, saying “Pass on this,” and Kushner added, “Most likely these people then go back home and claim they have special access to gain importance for themselves.”
According to the New York Times, however, “Mr. Torshin’s outreach fizzled”—though it is ambiguous whether the Times is referring to a meeting with Putin or simply Torshin’s attempt to meet with a top campaign official during the NRA convention. (I read it to mean the latter.) Here’s how the paper described the result of Torshin’s efforts:
“Neither Mr. Trump nor his campaign officials attended the veterans’ dinner, Mr. Clay said. Donald Trump Jr. attended a separate dinner that night, hosted by the National Rifle Association, that Mr. Torshin also attended. Both dinners were in Louisville.”
Similarly, the Wall Street Journal wrote:
“NBC News reported Friday that the Russia-linked individual in the email was Aleksander Torshin, an ally of Russian President Vladimir Putin, who wanted to meet with a top Trump campaign official during a National Rifle Association convention and suggested he had a message for Mr. Trump from Mr. Putin. Mr. Torshin didn’t meet with Mr. Trump at the NRA convention but went to a dinner there that was also attended by Donald Trump Jr., Bloomberg has reported.”
But NBC News and Bloomberg had reported one further step: Torshin said he met and had dinner with Don, Jr. that evening at an NRA side event.
NBC News reported:
“However, Torshin was seated with the candidate’s son, Donald Trump Jr., during a private dinner on the sidelines of a May 2016 NRA event during the convention in Louisville, according to an account Torshin gave to Bloomberg. Congressional investigators have no clear explanation for how that came to be, according to sources familiar with the matter. “
Torshin discussed the NRA dinner in an interview with Bloomberg in April 2017. Bloomberg wrote, “Torshin said in the interview he stayed clear of then-candidate Trump at last year’s N.R.A. event to avoid controversy, dining with Donald Trump Jr. instead.”
Admittedly, Torshin’s statement is uncorroborated, and some may think that’s a reason for the New York Times or the Wall Street Journal not to print it. But really? Don’t reporters routinely print the statement of one side of an interaction if the person is willing to go on record, especially if the individual is a principal participant and thus it’s not second-hand information? What’s uncorroborated is whether the two were seated together at dinner. A “fact” in the record is that Torshin said they were. Readers would want to know Torshin said this, and they deserved to know it.
The Bloomberg story in April also included a denial of Torshin’s statement, and that should be noted too. But even that denial acknowledged that the two men—Torshin and Don Jr.—did, in fact, meet at the NRA dinner, and not just by happenstance. They were introduced by a mutual contact. According to Bloomberg’s April story: Continue Reading »