Donald Trump Jr. was informed in an email last June, prior to a meeting with Russian lawyer Natalia Veselnitskaya, that she would be providing him with compromising information against Hillary Clinton as part of Russian government efforts to help his father's candidacy, according to three sources with knowledge of the correspondence.
Former British tabloid reporter Rob Goldstone helped broker the meeting between Trump Jr. and Veselnitskaya in June 2016, the New York Times reported.
Trump released a statement on Sunday, acknowledging that he wanted to get damaging information on Clinton, but never signaled whether he thought the lawyer could have been a Kremlin proxy, according to the Times.
Mr. Goldstone's message, as described to the New York Times by the three people, indicates that the Russian government was the source of the potentially damaging information. It does not elaborate on the wider effort by Moscow to help the Trump campaign. There is no evidence to suggest that the promised damaging information was related to Russian government computer hacking that led to the release of thousands of Democratic National Committee emails.
But the email is likely to be of keen interest to the Justice Department and congressional investigators, who are examining whether any of President Trump's associates colluded with the Russian government to disrupt last year's election. American intelligence agencies have determined that the Russian government tried to sway the election in favor of Mr. Trump.
The Times disclosed the meeting publicly on Saturday for the first time and then revealed more context over the last couple days, prompting the younger Trump to hire Alan Futerfas as his lawyer.
"In my view, this is much ado about nothing. During this busy period, Robert Goldstone contacted Don Jr. in an email and suggested that people had information concerning alleged wrongdoing by Democratic Party front-runner, Hillary Clinton, in her dealings with Russia," Futerfas told the Times in an email on Monday. "Don Jr.'s takeaway from this communication was that someone had information potentially helpful to the campaign and it was coming from someone he knew. Don Jr. had no knowledge as to what specific information, if any, would be discussed."
President Donald Trump's son-in-law, Jared Kushner, and Paul J. Manafort, the campaign chairman at the time, were also in attendance at the June 2016 meeting at Trump Tower in New York, the Times reported.
Representatives for Mr. Kushner referred requests for comments back to an earlier statement, which said he had voluntarily disclosed the meeting to the federal government. He has deferred questions on the content of the meeting to Donald Trump Jr.
A spokesman for Mr. Manafort declined to comment.
But at the White House, the deputy press secretary, Sarah Huckabee Sanders, was adamant from the briefing room lectern that "the president’s campaign did not collude in any way. Don Jr. did not collude with anybody to influence the election. No one within the Trump campaign colluded in order to influence the election."
The president, a prolific Twitter user, did not address his son's controversy on Monday, and instead sought to highlight other issues throughout the morning.
The younger Trump tweeted on Monday that he would be "happy" to work with the Senate Intelligence Committee regarding his meeting with the Russian lawyer.
Happy to work with the committee to pass on what I know. https://t.co/tL47NOoteM
— Donald Trump Jr. (@DonaldJTrumpJr) July 10, 2017
President Trump was not happy about the news of the meeting because it swamped the news cycle and took away from his G-20 summit visit over the weekend, according to a White House official who spoke to the Times.
The president learned from his aides about the 2016 meeting at the end of the trip, according to a White House official. But some people in the White House had known for several days that it had occurred, because Mr. Kushner had revised his foreign contact disclosure document to include it.
The president was frustrated by the news of the meeting, according to a person close to him—less over the fact that it had happened, and more because it was yet another story about Russia that had swamped the news cycle.