Donald Trump Jr. met with a Russian lawyer with ties to the Kremlin during the 2016 presidential campaign, after being promised damaging information about Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton, The New York Times reported on Sunday.
President Trump’s son attended the meeting with the expectation that he would receive compromising information about his father’s opponent, three advisers to the White House briefed on the meeting and two other sources with knowledge of the matter told the Times.
Then-Trump campaign chairman Paul Manafort and President Trump’s son-in-law Jared Kushner also attended the meeting with Russian lawyer Natalia Veselnitskaya, which was recently disclosed after confidential government documents were described to the New York Times.
It is unclear whether Veselnitskaya provided the promised information about Clinton, the Times noted, but wrote that accounts of this meeting “represent[s] the first public indication that at least some in the campaign were willing to accept Russian help.”
Trump Jr. said in a statement to the paper on Sunday that he had met with Veselnitskaya at the request of an acquaintance and denied that he received any information on Clinton.
A spokesman for the president’s lawyer told the Times that “the president was not aware of and did not attend the meeting.”
Veselnitskaya told the Times in a Saturday statement that “nothing at all about the presidential campaign” was discussed. She “never acted on behalf of the Russian government,” she said, and “never discussed any of these matters with any representative of the Russian government.”
“After pleasantries were exchanged, the woman stated that she had information that individuals connected to Russia were funding the Democratic National Committee and supporting Ms. Clinton,” 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.”
He said they then talked about American adoptions of Russian children.
“It became clear to me that this was the true agenda all along and that the claims of potentially helpful information were a pretext for the meeting.” Trump Jr. told the paper.
He also said in his statement to the Times that Kushner and Manafort attended the meeting at his request, and were not aware of the purpose of the meeting.
The spokespeople and lawyers for Kushner and Manafort did not immediately respond to the newspaper’s requests for comment.
Trump’s eldest son — who was working as a surrogate for the campaign at the time — met with the lawyer at Trump Tower in early June, two weeks after his father had clinched the Republican nomination.
The U.S. intelligence community has determined that Russian hackers worked to sway the election in favor of Trump. Several congressional committees and the Department of Justice are probing Russia’s interference in the 2016 contest and possible ties between the Trump campaign and Moscow.