The son of US President Donald Trump was told ahead of time that “compromising” information being offered by a Russian lawyer last year was “part of a Russian government effort” to help the Trump 2016 election campaign, The New York Times reported.
The new development comes a day after Donald Trump Jr confirmed the he had met Russian Lawyer Natalia Veselnitskaya, who promised damaging information about Hillary Clinton, on June 9, 2016.
Trump’s son met Russian lawyer for Clinton information
The New York Times cited three unnamed individuals who had knowledge of an email sent from music publicist Rob Goldstone, who helped arrange the June 2016 meeting, that informed Trump Jr that the source of the information was the Russian government.
The email did not “elaborate on the wider effort by Moscow to help the Trump campaign”, The New York Times said.
Goldstone spoke to The Associated Press news agency on Monday and confirmed he had set up the meeting on behalf of his client, Russian pop star Emin Agalarov, but he did not disclose the contents of the email. Goldstone did not immediately respond to attempts to contact him Monday night.
In a statement, Trump Jr’s New York-based attorney Alan Futerfas called the Times report “much ado about nothing”.
He did acknowledge that his client had received an email from Goldstone to set up a meeting with the purpose of passing along damaging information on Clinton. His statement did not dispute the The New York Times description of the email.
Futerfas said Trump Jr was not told the specifics about the information and nothing came of the meeting. “The bottom line is that Don, Jr. did nothing wrong,” Futerfas said in the statement, noting that the younger Trump hasn’t been contacted by any congressional committees office.
On Monday, Trump Jr said that he, along with his father’s then campaign chairman, Paul Manafort, and his brother-in-law, Jared Kushner, also attended the meeting at Trump Tower.
“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.
Clinton was the 2016 Democratic presidential nominee.
“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,” the statement also said.
President Trump was “not aware of and did not attend” the meeting, Mark Corallo, a spokesman for Trump’s legal team, said in an emailed statement.
The Kremlin said on Monday that it was unaware that the meeting took place.
Senate intelligence committee investigation
Also on Monday, Senator Mark Warner, the ranking Democrat on the Senate Intelligence Committee, said he would “absolutely” want to hear testimony from Donald Trump Jr and believes the meeting he had with Veselnitskaya should be investigated.
The committee is expected to conducted its first interviews with Trump campaign officials later this week in its ongoing investigation of allegations Russia meddled with the 2016 US presidential election.
The committee has not said it will interview the Trump Jr, but the president’s son did say in a tweet he would be “happy to work” with the committee to “pass on” what he knew.
Allegations of the Trump campaign’s ties to Russia have cast a shadow over the president’s first five months in office.
This week’s revelations come after President Trump and Russian President Vladimir Putin discussed the allegations of election meddling during the summit of leaders from the Group of 20 major economies in Hamburg, Germany.
The Kremlin has denied US intelligence agencies’ conclusion that Moscow tried to tilt the election in Trump’s favour, using such means as hacking into the emails of senior Democrats.
Source: Al Jazeera and news agencies