President Trump’s eldest son said Sunday that he met with a Kremlin-linked lawyer shortly after his father clinched the Republican nomination, hoping to get information helpful to the campaign.
A New York Times report citing advisors to the White House briefed on the encounter said Donald Trump Jr. agreed to the meeting after being promised information damaging to Hillary Clinton.
The June meeting at Trump Tower with attorney Natalia Veselnitskaya involved the younger Trump, his brother-in-law Jared Kushner, and Paul Manafort, who was then the campaign chairman.
The existence of the meeting was disclosed only recently to government officials and confirmed Saturday by representatives of Trump and Kushner following a separate Times report.
In a statement Sunday, Trump did not confirm that the information he was promised would be damaging to Clinton.
But he said he was asked by an acquaintance he knew from the 2013 Miss Universe pageant to have a meeting with someone who he was told might have information that would be helpful to the campaign.
Trump said that during the meeting, the attorney claimed to have information that “individuals connected to Russia were funding the Democratic National Committee” and supporting Clinton.
“No details or supporting information was provided or even offered,” Trump said. “It quickly became clear that she had no meaningful information.”
He said no details or supporting information was ever offered and that his father was unaware of the meeting.
On Saturday, the younger Trump described the same gathering as a “short introductory meeting” during which a disbanded program that had allowed U.S. citizens to adopt Russian children was discussed. Russia ended the adoptions in response to American sanctions brought against the nation following the 2009 death of an imprisoned lawyer who spoke about a corruption scandal.
Trump said Sunday that the attorney turned the conversation to the adoption of Russian children, and that he believed that this was the “true agenda” of the meeting and that claims about damaging information had been a pretext for the encounter.
“I interrupted and advised her that my father was not an elected official, but rather a private citizen, and that her comments and concerns were better addressed if and when he held public office,” Trump said in the statement.
Mark Corallo, a spokesman for the president’s legal team, said only, “The president was not aware of and did not attend the meeting.”
Unlike Kushner, the younger Trump does not serve in the administration and is not required to disclose his foreign contacts. The newspaper said the meeting was disclosed in recent days to government investigators.
Manafort also recently disclosed the meeting to congressional investigators, the newspaper said.
The newspaper said Veselnitskaya is known for her attempts to undercut the sanctions against Russian human rights abusers. The Times also said her clients include state-owned businesses and the son of a senior Russian government official whose company was under investigation in the United States at the time of the meeting.