Trump Jr., Kushner met with Kremlin-linked lawyer during US election campaign
Jewel SAMAD (AFP/Archives)
US President Donald Trump's eldest son, Donald Trump Jr., his son-in-law and senior adviser Jared Kushner, and former campaign chairman Paul Manafort met a Russian lawyer with ties to the Kremlin just two weeks after Trump secured the Republican presidential nomination, The New York Times reported Saturday.
Citing confidential government records described to the paper, the Times revealed a previously undisclosed meeting arranged by Trump Jr. with Russian lawyer Natalia Veselnitskaya at Trump Tower in Manhattan on June 9, 2016.
It is the earliest known confirmed private meeting between a Russian national and members of Trump’s inner circle during the campaign, and the first time Trump's son has been implicated in such a meeting, according to the New York Times.
Kushner and Manafort, whose contacts with Russian officials are already under scrutiny by US intelligence agencies amid allegations of Russian interference in the 2016 vote, both attended the meeting.
The meeting was confirmed by representatives of both Trump Jr. and Kushner.
Donald Trump Jr. said in a statement to the Times that the meeting was "a short introductory meeting" during which "we 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."
"I asked Jared and Paul to stop by," he said. "It was not a campaign issue at the time and there was no follow up."
Trump Jr. added that he was "asked to attend the meeting by an acquaintance, but was not told the name of the person I would be meeting with beforehand."
Controversies surrounding ongoing investigations into contacts between members of Trump's campaign team and Russian officials have plagued Trump's presidency.
Kushner has been implicated as a "person of interest" in one such probe, and is under investigation for the "extent and nature" of his interaction with Russian officials.
He is the only current White House official known to be considered a key figure in the probe, which is targeting other members of Trump's campaign team including Manafort and former national security adviser Michael Flynn.
Kushner's attorney Jamie Gorelick said that the meeting with Veselnitskaya had been disclosed to the FBI "out of an abundance of caution" when Kushner submitted revised filing forms listing contacts with all foreign agents.
"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.," she said.
Kushner is known to have held meetings with the Russian ambassador to the United States and banker Sergei Gorkov, chairman of VneshEconomBank -- a state bank under US sanctions since July 2014.
Kushner initially failed to declare those meetings on forms to obtain a security clearance to serve in the White House, and later submitted amended forms.
"As Mr. Kushner has consistently stated, he is eager to cooperate and share what he knows," Gorelick said.
According to the New York Times, the lawyer with whom Trump Jr., Kushner, and Manafort met, Natalia Veselnitskaya, is best known for her campaigning against an American law that blacklists suspected Russian human rights abusers.
The legislation reportedly angered Putin and led him to cancel American adoptions of Russian children.
Veselnitskaya's other clients include state-owned businesses and the son of a senior Kremlin official whose company was under investigation in the US at the time of the meeting, the Times reported.
Trump has repeatedly denied any collusion between his campaign and the Kremlin, amid accusations from US intelligence that Russian President Vladimir Putin orchestrated a sweeping campaign to tilt the vote in the Republican's favor.
During Putin's first face-to-face meeting with Trump at the G20 summit in Germany on Friday, the Russian President said that Trump seemed "satisfied" with his assurances that Russia did not meddle in the election.
(Staff with agencies)
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