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The eldest son of U.S. President Donald Trump said Sunday that he met with a Kremlin-linked lawyer shortly after his father clinched the Republican nomination, hoping to get information helpful to the campaign.
Donald Trump Jr. confirmed in a statement that he met with a Russian lawyer who had ties to the Kremlin, and that he agreed to the meeting in June 2016 after being told she had information that could damage Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton.
During the meeting with the Russian attorney, Natalia Veselnitskaya, “no details or supporting information was provided or even offered,” Trump Jr. said. “It quickly became clear that she had no meaningful information.”
Trump’s son said his father was unaware of the meeting.
The White House sought to downplay the contact between Donald Trump Jr. and the lawyer, Natalia Veselnitskaya, following a report by The New York Times Saturday that first disclosed the meeting. Also present on that occasion in Trump Tower, the president’s headquarters in New York City, were Jared Kushner, Trump’s son-in-law and future senior White House adviser, and Paul Manafort, then the chairman of the Trump political campaign.
When the president’s son was first asked about his talks with Veselnitskaya, The Times said, he did not mention anything about political information that reputedly could damage Hillary Clinton. On Sunday, however, he revised his statement to confirm it was expected that the Russian attorney would provide damaging information.
“While President Trump has been dogged by revelations of undisclosed meetings between his associates and the Russians, the episode at Trump Tower is the first such confirmed private meeting involving his inner circle during the campaign,” The New York Times said, “as well as the first one known to have included his eldest son.”
The newspaper said its information came from “three advisers to the White House briefed on the meeting and two others with knowledge of it.
Veselnitskaya is known for her attempts to undercut the sanctions against Russian human-rights abusers, U.S. media reports said. Her clients reportedly include state-owned businesses and the son of a senior government official whose company was under investigation in the United States at the time of the meeting.
A special prosecutor, appointed by the Department for Justice, and several congressional committees are currently conducting separate investigations into whether there was any collusion between the Trump campaign and the Kremlin over alleged Russian hacking attempting to influence the result of the 2016 U.S. presidential election.
Trump has repeatedly denied having links to Russia, while Moscow says it was not behind any hacks.