Trump Jr. Met Russian Lawyer Who Claimed to Have Information on Hillary Clinton

President’s son provides further details about June 2016 meeting in New York

Donald Trump Jr. campaigning for his father in Gilbert, Ariz., in November 2016.

Donald Trump Jr. campaigning for his father in Gilbert, Ariz., in November 2016. PHOTO: MATT YORK/ASSOCIATED PRESS

WASHINGTON—President Donald Trump’s eldest son arranged a June 2016 meeting between top campaign aides and a Russian lawyer who has been linked to the Kremlin after being told she “might have information helpful to the campaign.”

In a statement Sunday, Donald Trump Jr. said he didn’t know the lawyer’s name before the meeting, and said they were set up by an “acquaintance” from the 2013 Miss Universe pageant. The meeting, in New York City, was also attended by Jared Kushner, the president’s son-in-law and senior adviser, and Paul Manafort, President Trump’s campaign chairman at the time. The younger Mr. Trump said he told Messrs. Kushner and Manafort “nothing of the substance” of the meeting beforehand.

Mr. Manafort resigned about two months later amid reports of his connection to pro-Russian political forces in Ukraine. Investigators are currently examining whether Mr. Manafort’s work for foreign interests violated the Foreign Agents Registration Act and related laws. Mr. Manafort’s spokesman has said he is taking the “appropriate steps” to respond to guidance from federal authorities about his FARA disclosures.

In the meeting, the lawyer, Natalia Veselnitskaya, “stated that she had information that individuals connected to Russia were funding the Democratic National Committee and supporting [Hillary] Clinton,” Mr. Trump Jr. said in his statement. “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.” When Ms. Veselnitskaya then raised the issue of the Magnitsky Act, which placed sanctions on Russian human-rights abusers, Mr. Trump Jr. said he cut off the meeting.

Ms. Veselnitskaya couldn’t be reached for comment.

Revelations of the 2016 meeting arrived over the weekend as President Trump was returning to Washington after a G-20 summit meeting in Hamburg, where he met one-on-one with Russian President Vladimir Putin. In Sunday morning tweets, the U.S. president said he “strongly pressed” the Russian leader twice about meddling in the U.S. election and that Mr. Putin “vehemently denied it.” But he also suggested the U.S. could “work with” Russia on cybersecurity issues.

Lawmakers on both sides of the aisle were critical of Mr. Trump’s handling of the meeting, saying he could have more strongly protested Russian meddling and that he appeared overly willing to look past Russia’s efforts to interfere in the U.S. election. They also questioned Mr. Trump’s suggestion that the U.S. could work with work with Russia on cybersecurity issues, saying it would only empower a regime that has hacked systems in the U.S.

U.S. intelligence agencies have concluded that Russian hackers, who analysts say work for that country’s military and intelligence apparatus, stole emails from the DNC, as well as another Democratic organization and the chairman of Mrs. Clinton’s presidential campaign, as part of their effort to harm her candidacy and boost Mr. Trump. That finding was first publicly addressed in the fall of 2016.

Investigators in Congress as well as the Federal Bureau of Investigation are examining whether Russian money could have made its way into the U.S. election process, according to multiple officials with knowledge of the investigation. But whether those money flows took the form of laundered campaign contributions—foreign parties cannot donate to U.S. politics campaigns—or whether Russian funds were used in support of candidates is unclear.

A person close to the Trump campaign recalled getting an email around the time of the meeting with the Russian attorney asking about the campaign’s stance on the Magnitsky Act. The person could not recall if they responded to the email, or whether it was before or after the meeting took place.

In a statement on Saturday about the meeting, Mr. Trump Jr. had made no mention of the promise of helpful information Ms. Veselnitskaya could provide, or of her statements about Russian campaign funds. Instead, he said the meeting “primarily discussed a program about the adoption of Russian children that was active and popular with American families years ago and was since ended by the Russian government.”

The Trump aides met with Ms. Veselnitskaya on June 9, about a month after Mr. Trump effectively clinched the Republican nomination. The New York Times first reported the meeting on Saturday.

The president didn’t become aware of the meeting with Ms. Veselnitskaya until recent weeks, according to a person familiar with the conversation.

The U.S. intelligence community has concluded that Mr. Putin ordered a campaign to influence the outcome of the 2016 U.S. presidential election in Mr. Trump’s favor, and a special counsel appointed by the Justice Department earlier this year is investigating whether Trump campaign aides colluded with Russia in that effort. Mr. Trump has denied that there was any collusion and has said he doubts the intelligence community’s assessment, saying earlier this week, “No one really knows for sure.”

Brian Fallon, who served as press secretary for the Clinton campaign, said the younger Mr. Trump’s decision to take a meeting with a Russian individual who promised helpful campaign information raised further questions about potential collusion.

Mr. Kushner disclosed the meeting with Ms. Veselnitskaya earlier this year in a required form to obtain a security clearance, according to a statement by his attorney, Jamie Gorelick.  Mr. Kushner initially filed a disclosure that didn’t list any contacts with foreign government officials, but the next day submitted a supplemental disclosure saying that he had engaged in “numerous contacts with foreign officials.”

Mr. Kushner has since submitted information about “over 100 calls or meetings with representatives of more than 20 countries, most of which were during transition,” Ms. Gorelick said.

“Mr. Kushner has submitted additional updates and included, out of an abundance of caution, this meeting with a Russian person, which he briefly attended at the request of his brother-in-law, Donald Trump Jr.,” Ms. Gorelick said. “As Mr. Kushner has consistently stated, he is eager to cooperate and share what he knows.”

Two previously disclosed meetings Mr. Kushner held with key Russians—the head of a state-run bank that has faced U.S. sanctions and Sergei Kislyak, the Russian ambassador to the U.S.—had already drawn the interest of agents conducting a counterintelligence investigation to determine the extent of those contacts. Mr. Kushner agreed earlier this year to speak to the Senate Intelligence Committee, becoming the first White House official to do so.

Ms. Veselnitskaya counts among her clients state-owned companies and family members of top government officials and her husband previously served as deputy transportation minister of the Moscow region.

As a lawyer, she has campaigned against the Magnitsky Act and the Russian accountant for whom the measure was named. Sergei Magnitsky was jailed and died in prison after he uncovered evidence of a large tax-refund fraud.

In a move seen as retaliation to that law, Mr. Putin in 2012 signed a law banning adoption of Russian children by American families .

In postings on her social media accounts, Ms. Veselnitskaya appeared critical of former President Barack Obama and the Democratic Party. Last July, she shared an article posted by another page and highlighted the quote, “Liberalism is a f—ing mental disorder.” She has also appeared to cheer some of Mr. Trump’s top achievements, such as the confirmation earlier this year of Neil Gorsuch, Mr. Trump’s nominee to the Supreme Court.

Write to Rebecca Ballhaus at Rebecca.Ballhaus@wsj.com

Appeared in the July 10, 2017, print edition as ‘Trump’s Son Met With Russian About Campaign.’

https://www.wsj.com/articles/trump-jr-met-russian-lawyer-who-claimed-to-have-helpful-campaign-information-1499646830?mod=e2fb

Related:

See also: Reuters —  Trump Jr., Kushner met with Russian lawyer: New York Times

http://www.reuters.com/article/us-usa-trump-russia-idUSKBN19U019

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