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Donald Trump Jr said he went to the meeting in New York in June last year — when his father was a presidential candidate — thinking that Natalia Veselnitskaya “might have information helpful to the campaign”.
The encounter at Trump Tower is thought to be the first confirmed private meeting between a Russian national and a member of the US president’s inner circle. It was also attended by President Trump’s son-in-law and aide, Jared Kushner, and then campaign manager Paul Manafort.
It emerged today that a British music publicist who manages a Russian pop star helped to arrange the meeting.
Rob Goldstone, who knew Mr Trump Jr from working on the 2013 Miss Universe pageant in Moscow, was said to have introduced him to Ms Veselnitskaya, who is reported to have connections to the Kremlin.
In a statement last night, Mr Trump Jr said an acquaintance he had known from the 2013 Miss Universe pageant had asked him to meet “an individual who I was told might have information helpful to the campaign”.
“I was not told her name prior to the meeting. I asked Jared [Kushner] and Paul [Manafort] to attend, but told them nothing of the substance.
“After pleasantries were exchanged, the woman stated that she had information that individuals connected to Russia were funding the Democratic National Committee and supporting Mrs Clinton. Her statements were vague, ambiguous and made no sense… It quickly became clear that she had no meaningful information.” Mr Trump Jr said Ms Veselnitskaya then moved the conversation to a suspended programme for Americans to adopt 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.”
Mark Corallo, a spokesman for Mr Trump’s legal team, said the president was not aware of the encounter.
Mr Goldstone told the Washington Post that he arranged the meeting, but said Ms Veselnitskaya really wanted to talk about changing rules on Americans adopting Russian children. He added: “Once she presented what she had to say, it was like, ‘Can you keep an eye on it? Should (Trump) be in power, maybe that’s a conversation that he may have in the future?’” He refused to clarify his comments.
The meeting took place two weeks after Mr Trump secured the Republican nomination. He defeated Mrs Clinton in November.
The Trump campaign’s alleged ties to Russia are being investigated by an independent prosecutor in the US. The president denies that any collusion took place but American intelligence agencies believe the Russians carried out hacking attacks to help him win.
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