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Former Russian military intelligence officer attended Trump Tower meeting

 (Associated Press)
(Associated Press)

Donald Trump Jr.'s meeting with a Russian lawyer aimed at obtaining derogatory information about Hillary Clinton in June 2016 had another, previously undisclosed participant: a former Soviet military counterintelligence officer.

Rinat Akhmetshin, who received U.S. citizenship and became a Washington lobbyist after emigrating from Russia more than a decade ago, confirmed in an email message Friday that he had joined the meeting with the lawyer, Natalia Veselnitskaya.

Veselnitskaya brought a memo to the meeting to present to Trump Jr., Akhmetshin said, adding that he was not aware of the contents.

Neither the White House nor Trump Jr. previously had revealed Akhmetshin's presence at the meeting, despite repeated public statements about it.

The belated disclosure almost surely will increase the controversy that already surrounds the session.

A friend of Trump Jr.'s who helped set up the meeting had described Veselnitskaya to him in emails as a Russian government lawyer. The friend said she could offer information about Clinton as “part of Russia and its government’s support for Mr. Trump,” according to emails released Tuesday by Trump Jr.

Akhmetshin also spoke with the Associated Press and said that at the June 9, 2016, meeting, also attended by Trump son-in-law Jared Kushner and campaign chairman Paul Manafort, Trump Jr. asked Veselnitskaya for evidence of illicit money flowing to the Democratic National Committee.

When Veselnitskaya said she didn’t have that information, Trump Jr. lost interest, Akhmetshin told the AP.  “They couldn’t wait for the meeting to end,” he said.

Akhmetshin, who describes himself as a friend of Veselnitskaya’s, denies any current links to Russian intelligence. He lobbies the U.S. Congress, often on behalf of wealthy businessmen or politicians from former Soviet republics, records show.

His role at the meeting is unclear. He is fluent in Russian and English, however. Veselnitskaya has said that she cannot read or write English, but may speak some. NBC reported Friday that a translator also participated in the meeting, in addition to Akhmetshin and Veselnitskaya.

Trump Jr. said in statements this week that Veselnitskaya had no information about Clinton and shifted the conversation to the Magnitsky Act, the U.S. law that imposes sanctions on Russian businessmen. 

Akhmetshin said the meeting was “not substantive” and he “actually expected more serious” discussion.

“I never thought this would be such a big deal, to be honest,” he told AP.

This post was updated with Akhmetshin's statement that Veselnitskaya had a written memo with her at the meeting.

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