Trump's Son Met With Russian Offering Information on Clinton – Bloomberg

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President Donald Trump’s eldest son met last year with a Russian woman who offered to provide potentially damaging information on Hillary Clinton, his father’s Democratic opponent in the 2016 election.

The meeting took place in June 2016, after his father had secured the Republican presidential nomination, according to a statement Sunday from Donald Trump Jr. The younger Trump said in the statement that he was joined at the meeting by his brother-in-law, Jared Kushner, and the man managing his father’s campaign at the time, Paul Manafort.

The encounter was reported earlier by the New York Times, which said on Sunday that Donald Trump Jr. had been promised damaging information on Clinton before agreeing to the meeting. Representatives of the younger Trump and Kushner confirmed that the meeting with the woman, a Russian lawyer named Natalia Veselnitskaya, had taken place at Trump Tower as reported. A spokesman for Manafort didn’t respond to requests for comment.

In his statement, Donald Trump Jr. said that the woman had been referred to him by an acquaintance from the 2013 Miss Universe pageant and that he had been told she could provide information that could help his father’s campaign. He said that he wasn’t told her name before the meeting.

The younger Trump said the meeting lasted about 20 to 30 minutes. He said the woman told those present that she had information about funding and support for Clinton and the Democratic National Committee by people connected to Russia. Trump said “it quickly became clear that she had no meaningful information.”

“Her statements were vague, ambiguous and made no sense,” Trump said in the statement. “No details or supporting information was provided or even offered.”

Changed Subject

He said that the woman then changed the subject to the adoption of Russian children and the Magnitsky Act, a U.S. law that sanctions people for human-rights abuses as well as those deemed complicit in the 2009 death of Russian lawyer Sergei Magnitsky. Russian President Vladimir Putin halted U.S. adoptions of Russian children after that measure was passed.

Trump said that he then advised the woman that his father was still a private citizen, “and that her comments and concerns were better addressed if and when he held public office.” He said he took her initial offer of information on Clinton as merely a pretext to discuss the other issues.

Veselnitskaya told the New York Times that nothing about the 2016 campaign was discussed at the meeting and that she had never acted on behalf of the Russian government. Moreover, she told the newspaper, she never discussed the matter with anyone from the Russian government.

Revelations about the encounter at Trump Tower come as the FBI and congressional committees continue to investigate Russian interference in the 2016 presidential election and whether there was any collusion between members of the Trump campaign and Moscow. 

Congress Returns

As lawmakers returned to Washington after the July 4 recess Monday, some members of Trump’s political party criticized the concept of campaign officials meeting with representatives of foreign governments to obtain derogatory information about rival candidates.

“That doesn’t strike me as appropriate,” Senator Pat Toomey, a Republican from Pennsylvania, told MSNBC. “I think it encourages countries to come in and undermine our democratic process.”

The president on Monday morning was focused on former FBI Director James Comey, retweeting a “Fox & Friends” video that cited “a brand new bombshell report” in The Hill that cited anonymous sources as saying more than half of Comey’s memos about his conversations with Trump have been determined to contain classified information.

“James Comey leaked CLASSIFIED INFORMATION to the media. That is so illegal!” Trump wrote on Twitter.

The Hill reported that an FBI spokesman declined to comment.

Improved Ties

News of the meeting began emerging on Saturday, a day after the U.S. president met face to face for the first time with Putin at the Group of 20 summit in Hamburg — an encounter Trump said he hoped would help foster better relations with Moscow.

Yet hopes by the president for improved ties with Russia have been hampered by U.S. intelligence agencies’ public conclusion that Putin’s government helped direct a sophisticated effort to tilt the 2016 presidential election in Trump’s favor. Trump has been reluctant to accept those findings.

“It could very well have been Russia, but I think it could well have been other countries,” Trump said during a news conference in Warsaw last week before the G-20. “I think a lot of people interfere. I think it’s been happening for a long time.”

The New York Times reported Saturday afternoon that the meeting between Donald Trump Jr., Kushner, Manafort and the Russian lawyer had taken place. On Sunday afternoon, the newspaper reported in another article that she had offered damaging information on Clinton.

Cybersecurity Proposal

Hours after the first of the two articles was published, Trump tweeted that he had discussed with Putin the idea of working with Russia to create an “impenetrable” cybersecurity unit that would seek to prevent future tampering with elections.

The idea of collaborating on cybersecurity with a nation accused by U.S. intelligence agencies of interfering with the 2016 election drew howls of criticism from Republicans and Democrats alike.

“It’s not the dumbest idea I’ve ever heard, but it’s pretty close.” Republican Senator Lindsey Graham of South Carolina said in response on NBC’s “Meet the Press.”

Graham said Trump has a “blind spot” when it comes to Putin, and that Trump is only empowering the Russian president and hurting himself. “This whole idea about moving forward without punishing Russia is undercutting his entire presidency,” Graham said.

Trump later played down the idea, telling his 33.5 million Twitter followers on Sunday night: “The fact that President Putin and I discussed a Cyber Security unit doesn’t mean I think it can happen. It can’t-but a cease-fire can,& did!” He was referring to the cease-fire in parts of Syria that was announced after he met with Putin at the G-20.

‘Nothing Burger’

White House chief of staff Reince Priebus dismissed the meeting as “a nothing burger” that he said was about Russia’s policy on foreign adoptions. “It was a nothing meeting,” he said. Asked why such high-level Trump officials would have a meeting about Russian adoption policy, Priebus said, “you’re going to have to talk to them.”

Mark Corallo, a spokesman for Trump’s legal team, said in a statement Sunday that “the president was not aware of and did not attend the meeting.”