[Norm MacDonald voice:] You guessed it — Frank Stallone.
Actually, it was someone who worked for Emin Agalarov, the Russian developer who brokered the meeting between Don Jr and the Russian lawyer. And thus do the dreams of a million Democrats, who imagined that the president himself might have been the mysterious eighth person there, go up in smoke.
Ike Kaveladze’s presence was confirmed by Scott Balber, an attorney for Emin and Aras Agalarov, the Russian developers who hosted the Trump-owned Miss Universe pageant in 2013. Balber said Kaveladze works for the Agalarovs’ company and attended as their representative…
Balber said Kaveladze works as a vice president focusing on real estate and finance for the Agalarov’s company, the Crocus Group. Aras Agalarov requested that Kaveladze attend the meeting on his behalf, Balber said. Kaveladze is a U.S. citizen and has lived in this country for many years, according to Balber, who is said he is representing the man.
Balber said Kaveladze believed he would act as a translator, but arrived to discover that the lawyer, Natalia Veselnitskaya had brought her own translator, a former State Department employee named Anatoli Samochornov.
Well, that doesn’t sound too shady. The Agalarovs were interested in the outcome of the meeting, they sent a trusted real-estate employee to be their eyes and ears, no prob— wait, what the fark?
Prior to joining the Crocus Group, Kaveladze was part of a nine-month congressional inquiry into foreigners hiding their identities behind shell companies and laundering money. According to a report in The New York Times about the probe, Kaveladze was born in the former Soviet Republic of Georgia and immigrated to the U.S. in 1991. He started companies called International Business Creations and Euro-American Corporate Services Inc. and established more than 2,000 corporations in Delaware on behalf of Russian brokers and opened up bank accounts for them. Citibank eventually closed the accounts, but Kaveladze maintained that he had done no wrongdoing. “What I see here is another Russian witch hunt in the United States,” he told the Times in 2000.
Some talking points are ageless, my friends. His companies, IBC and Euro-American, reportedly moved as much as $1.4 billion from eastern Europe into the United States and back to Europe between 1991 and 2000. This is the guy who was chosen as a would-be “translator” for Natalia Veselnitskaya.
A tidbit buried in the WaPo story on this: Balber, the Agalarovs lawyer, was contacted this weekend to provide the name of the eighth person in the room by someone in Bob Mueller’s office. That’s not surprising, I guess, as Mueller would have to check out a point of possible collusion even if nothing came of it. But lest there was any doubt, now we know for sure that he’s sniffing around Don Jr’s meeting. Relatedly, the Times asks an interesting question: If it’s true, as is rumored, that the Hillary dirt that Veselnitskaya had came from a famous master of “kompromat” in Russia, why wasn’t that dirt more useful to Don Jr? He insists it was a nothingburger and that Kushner and Paul Manafort grew so bored with the Russian lawyer’s pitch that Kushner left the meeting early and Manafort ended up looking at his phone for most of it. Why would the Russians arrange a big meeting with top Trump people, supplied with what one would assume was something juicy by a well-sourced hatchet man, and then fail to deliver anything good? Maybe that’s further evidence that the ostensible purpose of this meeting, handing over dirt on Clinton, wasn’t the true purpose. The true purpose may have been to simply make an initial approach to the campaign, to gauge their interest in more serious collusion. Or it may have been blackmail, getting Don Jr to take the bait of a promise of significant Clinton dirt knowing that he could be pressured by Russia with threats that they would reveal his role in the meeting later on.
Anyway. Here’s Bond villain Vladimir Putin praising Trump for being a good listener.