Report: Trump Jr. Met with Russian Lawyer Who Promised Damaging Info on Clinton


Donald Trump Jr. / Getty Images
• July 10, 2017 8:59 am


Donald Trump Jr., the eldest son of President Donald Trump, met with a Russian lawyer during the 2016 campaign after being promised damaging information about presidential opponent Hillary Clinton.

Then-campaign chairman Paul Manafort and Trump's son-in-law and adviser, Jared Kushner, were also present at the meeting, the New York Times reported, citing three anonymous White House advisers and two others with knowledge of the meeting.

Trump Jr. did not tell Kushner or Manafort about the purpose of the meeting at the time.

The meeting took place at Trump Tower on June 9, 2016. It is the first meeting confirmed to involve both members of the Trump campaign's inner circle and anyone affiliated with Russia.

Both Kushner and Manafort recently disclosed the existence of the meeting, though not its purpose, in government documents. When asked about the meeting on Saturday, Trump Jr. initially said it was about Russian adoption, a claim repeated by White House chief of staff Reince Priebus among others.

The Russian lawyer, Natalia Veselnitskaya, was likely in the United States defending a Russian corporate client in a case brought by U.S. prosecutors. It is not clear whether she actually provided any compromising information about Clinton to the Trump team.

Trump Jr. said that he met with Veselnitskaya at the request of an acquaintance he knew through the 2013 Miss Universe pageant. Two Times sources identified the acquaintance as Rob Goldstone, a former tabloid journalist. Trump Jr. described the meeting as fruitless.

"After pleasantries were exchanged, the woman stated that she had information that individuals connected to Russia were funding the Democratic National Committee and supporting Mrs. Clinton. Her statements were vague, ambiguous, and made no sense. No details or supporting information was provided or even offered. It quickly became clear that she had no meaningful information," Trump Jr. told the Times.

Veselnitskaya then turned the conversation to adoption and the 2012 Magnitsky Act, a U.S. law that blacklisted suspected Russian human rights abusers. In response to the law, Russian President Vladimir Putin blocked Americans from adopting Russian children.

"It became clear to me that this was the true agenda all along and that the claims of potentially helpful information were a pretext for the meeting," Trump Jr. said.

The Times described Veselnitskaya as "best known for mounting a multipronged attack against the Magnitsky Act."

In a statement to the Times, Veselnitskaya denied that the meeting had anything to do with the presidential campaign. She also insisted that she "never acted on behalf of the Russian government" and "never discussed any of these matters with any representative of the Russian government."

A spokesman for the president told the Times that Trump "was not aware of and did not attend the meeting."

UPDATED 10:02 A.M.: This story was updated to clarify that the Magnitsky Act was focused on human rights abusers and not adoption; it caused Vladimir Putin to block American adoptions of Russians. An earlier version of this post did not make that distinction sufficiently clear.