Records provided to the Senate Intelligence Committee show the calls were between Trump Jr. and two of his business associates, the sources said, and appear to contradict Democrats’ long-held suspicions that the blocked number was from then-candidate Donald Trump.
The information came to light recently and could answer one of the key questions over the meeting Trump’s eldest son set up to get Russian dirt on the Clinton campaign. Trump Jr.’s phone calls involving blocked numbers — meaning the numbers are private and do not appear in the phone records — have been a lingering issue as investigators have probed the meeting and whether Trump himself had advance knowledge through any means that his son, son-in-law Jared Kushner and then-campaign chair Paul Manafort met with a Russian lawyer promising dirt on Hillary Clinton.
CNN has not confirmed the identity of the business associates who spoke with Trump Jr. nor what they discussed on the calls. The purpose of the calls and their relevance to the Trump Tower meeting and the Russia investigation is still unclear. Trump Jr. attorney Alan Futerfas declined to comment.
The Senate Intelligence Committee’s two-year investigation into 2016 Russian election interference is still ongoing and it’s unknown whether the committee is still investigating the Trump Tower matter. Senate Intelligence Chairman Richard Burr, a North Carolina Republican, and Virginia Sen. Mark Warner, the top Democrat on the panel, both declined to comment.
The documents showing the calls were not with then-candidate Trump could resolve a key line of inquiry that House Democrats have said they want to get to the bottom of this year now that they are the majority party and have control of investigations.
The June 2016 Trump Tower meeting was hatched when Agalarov asked British promoter Rob Goldstone to arrange a meeting between Veselnitskaya and campaign officials. In an email to Trump Jr., Goldstone said that Veselnitskaya would provide “dirt” on Clinton at the meeting. “If it’s what you say I love it,” Trump Jr. responded, though when the meeting occurred on June 9, 2016, Veselnitskaya focused her presentation on Russian sanctions, and not Clinton dirt.
All of the participants in the meeting have spoken with one or all of the three congressional committees that have probed the meeting.
House Intelligence Chairman Adam Schiff, a California Democrat, has slammed his House Republican counterparts for not following through to obtain phone records to determine to whom Trump Jr. had spoken, writing last year that “the committee has not pursued leads to determine who called Trump Jr. at this crucial time from a blocked number.” He’s pledged to make it one of his first priorities as chairman.
“We wanted to get the phone records to determine, was Donald Trump talking to his son about this meeting,” Schiff told CNN in November. “It’s an obvious investigative step, but one the Republicans were unwilling to take because they were afraid of where the evidence might lead.”
Schiff declined to comment through a spokesperson for this story.
Democrats had reason to suspect the private number was Trump, as Trump’s first campaign manager Corey Lewandowski told the committee that Trump’s “primary residence has a blocked (phone) line,” according to a report from Democrats on the House Intelligence panel.
“I said, ‘Listen, there’s some people that want to meet you.’ They obviously want something that could potentially help them resolve things that you could be interested in or maybe not. If you can spare a few minutes of your time, I’d be grateful. If not, no problem. Obviously Don Jr. obviously being Don Jr. said, ‘Of course. I’ll do it if you’re asking,'” Agalarov told Vice.
CNN’s Kara Scannell contributed to this report.