President Donald Trump’s eldest son acknowledged Sunday he met during the 2016 campaign with a Russian attorney who said she had information potentially detrimental to Hillary Clinton’s White House bid.
The New York Times reported Sunday that Donald Trump Jr. was lured to the June 2016 meeting with the Kremlin-linked lawyer at Trump Tower because of the Clinton information.
Then-Trump campaign chairman Paul Manafort and Trump’s son-in-law Jared Kushner also attended the meeting, according to the Times.
In response to a Saturday Times story about the meeting but not the substance, Trump Jr. said the exchange dealt with the ban on Americans adopting Russian children. The ban was retaliation for the U.S. government’s previous enforcement of the Magnitsky Act, which seeks to hold Russian officials accountable for human rights abuses.
After the Times’ Sunday story, Trump Jr. said the lawyer mentioned the potentially damaging information about Clinton. He said the lawyer did not ultimately deliver and had an ulterior motive.
“After pleasantries were exchanged, the woman stated that she had information that individuals connected to Russia were funding the Democratic National Committee and supporting Ms. Clinton,” Trump Jr. said in a statement Sunday about the meeting. “Her statements were vague, ambiguous and made no sense . . . It quickly became clear that she had no meaningful information.”
The meeting is the first public indication that some in Trump’s inner circle were ready to accept help from the Kremlin, The New York Times story Sunday said.
Trump and his representatives have vehemently denied any collusion with the Kremlin, which the U.S. intelligence community has said sought to meddle in the election process.
Trump himself was not privy to the meeting, both his son and an outside spokesman said.
“The president was not aware of and did not attend the meeting,” Mark Corallo, a spokesman for Trump’s private attorney, Marc Kasowitz, told Newsday.
Trump Jr. said in his statement that the talk with the Russian lawyer lasted between 20 and 30 minutes, there was no follow-up conversations afterward, and Manafort and Kushner were not told about the substance of the meeting until it began.
He said he met with the Russian attorney — named by the Times as Natalia Veselnitskaya — because he was asked to do so by an acquaintance from the 2013 Miss Universe pageant held in Moscow.