Recreating June 9: A very consequential day in the 2016 campaign

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Trump Jr. tweets email chain on Russia meeting
03:10 - Source: CNN

Story highlights

June marked the unofficial start of the general election

The meeting was scheduled for 4:00 p.m. in Donald Trump Jr.'s office

Washington CNN  — 

It wasn’t Donald Trump’s day.

June 9, 2016 – the day that Donald Trump Jr., Jared Kushner and then-campaign chairman Paul Manafort met with a Russian lawyer to get opposition research on Hillary Clinton – was a 24-hour period that the businessman-turned-presidential candidate likely hated: The spotlight wasn’t on him.

But more than a year after that unseasonably cool Thursday in New York, what happened on June 9 has intensified the spotlight on Trump – now president – and his family. News of the meeting between Natalia Veselnitskaya, billed in an email as a “Russian government attorney” and three of Trump’s top campaign aides has rocked the Trump White House and led Clinton’s vice presidential candidate, Sen. Tim Kaine, to speculate whether Trump Jr.’s behavior amounts to treason.

After months of grueling primaries, June marked the unofficial start of the general election and both Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump were starting to turn their focus on each other as the calendar turned to June 9.

General election begins

The day was a significant moment for Clinton: In a tweet to her followers at 1:50 p.m. ET, the former secretary of state announced that President Barack Obama endorsed her candidacy to succeed him in the White House.

Obama’s backing of Clinton was always assumed, but Trump quickly responded.

“Obama just endorsed Crooked Hillary,” he wrote on Twitter at 2:22p ET. “He wants four more years of Obama—but nobody else does!”

Clinton, in her most retweeted tweet of the entire campaign, responded to Trump: “Delete your account,” she wrote.

Trump’s retort took two hours: “How long did it take your staff of 823 people to think that up–and where are your 33,000 emails that you deleted?”

The back-and-forth was a preview of the biting, negative campaign that two New Yorkers would wage in the coming months. But little did anyone know that Trump’s tweet about Clinton’s deleted emails came 40 minutes after his son’s meeting with Veselnitskaya was scheduled.

Trump’s attorneys and White House officials have said the President found out about his son’s meeting only days ago.

But on June 7, Trump teased on Twitter that he would deliver a “major speech” to discuss “all the things that have taken place with the Clintons.”

“I am going to give a major speech on probably Monday of next week, and we’re going to be discussing all of the things that have taken place with the Clintons,” Trump said during a speech after winning the California, Montana, New Mexico, South Dakota and New Jersey primaries. “I think you’re going to find it very informative and very, very interesting. I wonder if the press will want to attend. Who knows?”

The speech was later moved to June 22 – due to the deadly terrorist attack at the Pulse Nightclub in Orlando – but Trump called on Clinton’s deleted emails “to be found.”

“Should be able to be found because the government – I will say, I’ve always heard you can never really delete an email,” he said. “So it should be able to be found if they really want to find them, but I don’t think they want to find them.”

Trump campaign timeline

  • 1:02 p.m.: Donald Trump leaves the Four Seasons, where he attended a Trump Victory Fund fundraising lunch. Trump returns to Trump Tower, where he remained for the rest of the afternoon.
  • 2:18 p.m.: Paul Manafort leaves Four Seasons.
  • 4 p.m.: Donald Trump, Jr., Jared Kushner, Manafort meet with Russian lawyer at Trump Tower
  • 4:40 p.m.: Trump responds to a Hillary Clinton tweet with a dig about her emails.

According to emails released by Trump’s eldest son on Tuesday, the meeting was scheduled for 4:00 p.m. ET in Donald Trump Jr.’s office at 725 Fifth Avenue – Trump Tower. The meeting, according Trump Jr.’s lawyer, lasted 20 to 30 minutes.

The emails, which Donald Trump Jr. released Tuesday ahead of a story by The New York Times set to detail the exchanges, show him willing to take information from someone described to him as a “Russian government attorney” whose information was “part of Russia and its government’s support for Mr. Trump.”

LAS VEGAS, NV - FEBRUARY 23:  Donald Trump Jr. (L) looks on as his father, Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump, speaks at a caucus night watch party at the Treasure Island Hotel & Casino on February 23, 2016 in Las Vegas, Nevada. The New York businessman won his third state victory in a row in the "first in the West" caucuses.  (Photo by Ethan Miller/Getty Images)
Trump on his son: 'I applaud his transparency'
00:40 - Source: CNN

The interlocutor who connected Trump Jr. with Veselnitskaya also publicized the fact he was at Trump Tower on June 9. Rob Goldstone, a publicist who represents the son of an Azerbaijani-Russian businessman close to the Russian government, posted on Facebook that he was “preparing for meeting” at Trump Tower on June 9.

Goldstone, in the emails released Tuesday, said he would not attend the meeting but would escort the lawyer to Trump Tower.

Trump Jr. told Goldstone that if his emails are “what you say I love it especially later in the summer,” according to the email chain Trump Jr. released.

Trump’s only semi-public event of the day was his first fundraiser with the Trump Victory Fund, his campaign’s joint fundraising effort with the Republican National Committee and a smattering of state Republican parties. At New York’s tony Four Seasons Hotel, Trump met for lunch with dozens of top Republican donors to chart his fundraising plan for the general election.

Reince Priebus, the Republican National Committee chair who now serves as Trump’s chief of staff, attended the fundraiser and was seen walking into Trump Tower around 10:53 a.m. ET before the event.

Trump left the donor meeting around 1:02 p.m. ET and returned to Trump Tower, the eponymous building where he both lives and works. The trip from the Four Seasons was less than two blocks.

Trump remained at Trump Tower for the rest of the afternoon.

Tim Kaine 7/11/17
Kaine: Trump Jr. may have committed treason
01:37 - Source: CNN

Meanwhile, back in Chappaqua …

Clinton, after a surprisingly grueling primary against liberal Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders, unofficially cinched the Democratic nomination three days earlier, according to an Associated Press delegate count – on June 6 – before an event in Long Beach, California. After coyly mentioning the news that had already reverberated around the Long Beach City College gym, Clinton’s focus now turned to unifying the Democratic Party and squaring up against Trump, who was already the presumed Republican nominee.

Clinton crossed the country on June 7 and headlined arguably the most significant political event of her life as she became the first female presidential nominee from a major US political party, the crowning achievement on her storied career.

“We believe that we are stronger together and the stakes in this election are high and the choice is clear,” Clinton, who was introduced by a 3-minute video that acknowledged the history of the moment, told a cheering crowd at the Brooklyn Navy Yard. “Donald Trump is temperamentally unfit to be the President of the United States.”

Clinton, according to campaign records, was home on June 9 as Trump’s son met with the Russian lawyer.

After a largely media free primary campaign, Clinton marked the turn to the general election with a series of interviews meant to celebrate Obama’s endorsement and her turn to the general.

Clinton – starting in the afternoon – did phone interviews with Bloomberg, Reuters, Politico and NPR from her leafy home in Chappaqua, New York, an estate that is a mere 35 miles from Trump Tower.

It’s unclear whether Clinton was speaking with reporters when the meeting at Trump Tower took place, but Clinton was reflecting more on her win against Sanders in the interviews than her future contest with Trump.

Clinton told NPR she was “thrilled” by Obama’s endorsement and was said she looked “forward to working with (Bernie Sanders) during the campaign and then on after the inauguration.”

“I think his campaign was good for the Democratic Party, good for our country,” she said. “And I know how passionate he is about the issues he cares about. So we’ll have a long list of matters to discuss when we sit down.”

Clinton would continue to make calls later in the afternoon and spent a largely uneventful night, according to an aide, at her New York home on June 9 before waking up and flying to Washington on June 10 for a speech to Planned Parenthood and a visit to a local muffin shop.

“In the afterglow of clinching the nomination, she was celebrating our win,” Nick Merrill, Clinton’s spokesman said Tuesday, “while the Trumps were colluding with Kremlin.”

CNN’s Jeff Zeleny, Jeremy Diamond, Ashley Killough and Bonney Kapp contributed to this report.