Donald Trump Jr., along with President Donald Trump’s son-in-law Jared Kushner and former Trump campaign chairman Paul Manafort met with a Russian lawyer who offered them information that would be damaging to Hillary Clinton during the 2016 election. Here’s what you need to know about this fast-moving story.
The meeting took place at Trump Tower in June 2016
The younger Trump, Kushner and Manafort met with Russian lawyer Natalia Veselnitskaya last June, according to the New York Times. The Times said Trump Jr. believed the lawyer “would offer him compromising information about Hillary Clinton.”
Trump initially said in a statement to TIME that an acquaintance asked him to attend the meeting, but did not tell him who he would be meeting with. He added that the meeting was primarily about the Russian adoption program in the United States.
Trump publicly released the email exchange that led to the meeting
On Tuesday, Donald Trump Jr. publicly released copies of the sequence of emails that led to the meeting, showing that he was promised “some official documents and information that would incriminate Hillary and her dealings with Russia and would be very useful to your father.” The information was described as “very high level and sensitive… but… part of Russia and its government’s support for Mr. Trump.” The release came after the Times was given copies of the emails and contracted Trump for comment.
The President’s son also released a statement, in which he wrote that he thought the meeting was “political opposition research” for Clinton. “The entire meeting was ‘the most inane nonsense I have ever heard,'” Trump added
The email exchanges between Trump, Kushner, Manafort and Goldstone show that Trump Jr. was open to the meeting. “If it’s what you say I love it especially later in the summer,” he wrote at the offer of assistance.
The meeting was set up by publicist Rob Goldstone
The Washington Post identified publicist Rob Goldstone as the acquaintance who set up the meeting between Trump and Veselnitskaya. Goldstone said in a statement that the request for the meeting came from his client, Emin Agalarov. “Nothing came of that meeting and there was no follow up between the parties,” Goldstone said.
White House counselor Kellyanne Conway echoed these sentiments on Good Morning America on Monday. “No information was received that was meaningful or helpful and no action was taken [as a result of the meeting],” she said. When asked why the meeting was not initially disclosed, Conway said disclosure statements had been amended to reflect the meeting.
Trump said the meeting went nowhere
“Obviously I’m the first person on a campaign to ever take a meeting to hear info about an opponent… went nowhere but had to listen,” Trump wrote on Twitter on Monday.
He later tweeted: “Media & Dems are extremely invested in the Russia story. If this nonsense meeting is all they have after a yr, I understand the desperation!”
Veselnitskaya said she never had damaging information on Clinton
Russian lawyer Veselnitskaya said she never worked for and has no connections with the Russian government, and that she “never had damaging or sensitive information about Hillary Clinton. It was never my intention to have that.”
Speaking in an exclusive interview with NBC News, Veselnitskaya said she was told to come to Trump Tower to meet with members of the Trump presidential campaign, including Donald Trump Jr., last year. When asked why Trump’s team had the impression that they were going to be told some compromising information on then-Democratic candidate Hillary Clinton, the Russian lawyer simply said: “It’s quite possible that maybe they were looking for such information. They wanted it so badly.”
Veselnitskaya insists she met with Trump to press her client’s interest in the Magnitsky Act. She is a leading opponent of the act, which the U.S. Congress passed in 2012.
Trump and his associates keep changing their stories
Trump has previously denied participating in any meetings with Russian nationals related to his father’s presidential campaign. “Did I meet with people that were Russian? I’m sure, I’m sure I did,” he told the Times in March. “But none that were set up. None that I can think of at the moment. And certainly none that I was representing the campaign in any way, shape or form.”
He has now said that he invited both Manafort and Kushner to sit in on the meeting with Veselnitskaya, knowing they would discuss information about the Clinton campaign.
His confirmation of the meeting also contradicts claims made by several senior Trump aides, including Trump spokeswoman Hope Hicks who said shortly after the election last year: “There was no communication between the campaign and any foreign entity during the campaign.”
Donald Trump Jr. has hired a lawyer
Trump hired New York lawyer Alan Futerfas, who specializes in criminal defense, to represent him in Russia-related investigations, his office and the lawyer said on Monday. Futerfas would not say when he was retained or whether he played any part in the statements Trump made over the weekend about a meeting with a Russian lawyer.
Futerfas told Reuters: “I look forward to assisting Donald Jr. and, quite frankly, there is nothing to all of the media buzz about the June 9th, 2016 meeting. That will be proven to be the case.”
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