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Politics & Government

Eighth Person In Donald Trump Jr. Meeting Had Links To Money Laundering


We're learning more today about the Russians who met last year with Donald Trump Jr. and other Trump campaign aides to convey an offer of help from the Russian government. Now when news of this meeting first broke, the reports had focused on one Russian attorney who attended. Since then, we've learned that the guest list on the Russia side was in fact much larger.

Today NPR learned the identity of an eighth person at the meeting. NPR's Geoff Bennett has been following this story from the Capitol. He joins us now. And Geoff, tell us who it is.

GEOFF BENNETT, BYLINE: It's a man named Irakly, or Ike, Kaveladze. His Facebook page says he was born in the former Soviet republic of Georgia. We understand he immigrated to the U.S. in 1991, and he now lives in Los Angeles where he is vice president of a real estate development company which is controlled by the Agalarov family. And the Agalarov's you'll remember figure into this because they had previously done business with the Trumps. They partnered with the Trump Organization to bring the 2013 Miss Universe pageant to Russia. And Aras Agalarov, the patriarch of that family, is a Russian real estate mogul with ties to Russian President Vladimir Putin.

So what we now know, Audie, is that the sequence of events leading up to this Trump Tower meeting goes like this. Russia's top federal prosecutor asks for a meeting with Aras Agalarov. Aras then contacts his son, the Russian pop star, Emin Agalarov. Emin contacts his publicist Rob Goldstone. Goldstone then emails Donald Trump Jr. to set up this meeting in which Trump Jr. expected to get that damaging information on Hillary Clinton that was part of a Russian government effort to help his father's campaign. This was all laid out in that email exchange that Trump Jr. released. And so we understand that Kaveladze was there to be a representative for the Agalarov's. And he was 1 of 5 Russians or Russian advocates, including a translator, in the room with the three senior Trump campaign people.

CORNISH: OK. I know it's been a busy day on Capitol Hill not even on this story, right?

BENNETT: Yeah (laughter).

CORNISH: But what were lawmakers saying, if anything at all, about this revelation?

BENNETT: Well, I spoke with Senator Mark Warner about this. He's the top Democrat on the Senate intelligence committee, which is conducting an investigation into Russia's election interference and potential collusion between Trump campaign officials and the Russian government. Here's some of what he told me.

MARK WARNER: What is it about this group of individuals in the Trump administration that they can never come completely clean on any of their meetings with these Russians? It, again, robs them of any credibility in my mind in terms of when they try to describe the substance of these meetings if they're not willing to acknowledge who all participated in the meeting. My understanding is this last individual has somewhat of a colorful history.

BENNETT: In that colorful history which Warner learned about in press reports is that Ike Kaveladze was once the focus of a congressional investigation into Russian money laundering. Some 17 years ago, he established thousands of phony corporations and bank accounts for Russian executives who were believed to have been dodging taxes, although some of that money reportedly could have been linked to organized crime. At the time, Kaveladze said he had done nothing wrong.

CORNISH: Now, the Senate judiciary committee had scheduled a hearing for tomorrow about Russian advocates working in Washington. And there was actually talk that Trump Jr. - Donald Trump Jr. or Paul Manafort - right? - the former campaign staffer, might testify. Is that still going to happen?

BENNETT: Possibly but definitely not tomorrow. The Senate judiciary committee hearing which you're talking about - that's been pushed to next week because lawmakers say they need more time to coordinate the witnesses and all of the documents. But Senator Dianne Feinstein, the top Democrat on that committee, today told me it's her understanding that the special counsel, Robert Mueller, says it would be OK for Donald Trump Jr. and Paul Manafort to testify before that committee publicly. And that's noteworthy, Audie, because there was some question as to whether or not the congressional committees efforts would conflict with the special counsel probe. But as far as we understand, they've been given the green light.

CORNISH: All right, that's NPR's Geoff Bennett. Geoff, thank you.

BENNETT: You're welcome.

(SOUNDBITE OF SPOON SONG, "PAPER TIGER") Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.