WASHINGTON — President Trump’s eldest son, Donald Trump Jr., arranged a previously undisclosed meeting at Trump Tower last year during the presidential campaign between members of his father’s inner circle and a Russian lawyer with Kremlin ties, The New York Times reported Saturday.
The June 9, 2016, meeting, two weeks after Trump clinched the Republican nomination, is the first confirmed private meeting between a Russian national and Trump’s closest campaign advisers and the first time his son is known to have been involved, the newspaper reported.
Also attending the meeting was Trump’s campaign chairman at the time, Paul J. Manafort, and Trump’s son-in-law, Jared Kushner, The Times reported, citing interviews and confidential government records described to Times reporters.
The Times reported that Donald Trump Jr. and Kushner confirmed the meeting. Trump Jr., in a statement, said the “short introductory” meeting was primarily about an adoption program that the Russian government ended, and that he had asked Kushner and Manafort to “stop by.” He did not address in the statement whether the presidential campaign was discussed.
“I was asked to attend the meeting by an acquaintance, but was not told the name of the person I would be meeting with beforehand,” he said in the statement to The Times.
Trump Jr., a close adviser to his father during the campaign, had told The Times in March that he had never discussed government polices related to Russia with Russian nationals, responding “A hundred percent no” to the question. Trump Jr. now helps oversee his father’s real estate business.
The Russian lawyer, Natalia Veselnitskaya, is known for fighting an American law that blacklists suspected human rights abusers and that prompted Russian President Vladimir Putin to retaliate by halting American adoptions of Russian children, according to The Times. She is married to a former deputy transportation minister and counts state-owned businesses as clients.
Kushner, now a senior White House aide, disclosed the meeting to government officials recently in a revised version of a form required for a security clearance. His lawyer, Jamie Gorelick, told The Times that he included this meeting on the form “out of an abundance of caution.” Manafort also recently disclosed the meeting.
The news comes amid multiple investigations into possible collusion between the Trump campaign and Russian officials during the 2016 election. On Thursday, before his first meeting with Putin, Trump cast doubt on intelligence community assessments that Russia interfered with the election, saying “nobody knows for sure” what happened.
Putin on Saturday said Trump appeared satisfied during their meeting when told that Russia didn’t interfere in last year’s election.