By Todd Beamon
Donald Trump Jr. arranged a meeting last year after his father won the Republican presidential nomination with a Russian lawyer with ties to the Kremlin, The New York Times reported Saturday.
The report on the meeting, held June 9 at Trump Tower in Manhattan, was based on “confidential government records described” to the Times.
The meeting also was attended by Paul Manafort, President Donald Trump’s campaign chairman at the time, and Jared Kushner, the president’s son-in-law.
The Times described the session as “the first confirmed private meeting between a Russian national and members of Mr. Trump’s inner circle during the campaign.
“It is also the first time that his son Donald J. Trump Jr. is known to have been involved in such a meeting,” the Times reported.
Representatives of both Trump Jr. and Kushner confirmed the meeting
Trump Jr. described the meeting to the Times as primarily about an adoption program.
Because he does not serve in his father’s White House and does not have a security clearance, Trump Jr. is not required to disclose his foreign contacts.
“It was a short introductory meeting,” he said in a statement to the newspaper. “I asked Jared and Paul to stop by.
“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, but it was not a campaign issue at the time and there was no follow-up.
“I was asked to attend the meeting by an acquaintance, but was not told the name of the person I would be meeting with beforehand,” he said.
The Russian lawyer was Natalia Veselnitskaya, who is “best known for mounting a multipronged attack against the Magnitsky Act, an American law that blacklists suspected Russian human-rights abusers,” the Times reported.
“The law so enraged [Russian President Vladimir] Putin that he retaliated by halting American adoptions of Russian children.”
According to the report, Veselnitskaya is married to a former deputy transportation minister of the Moscow region.
Her clients include several state-owned businesses and the son of a top Kremlin official, whose company was under investigation in the U.S. when the meeting occurred.
One senior law enforcement official told the Times that Veselnitskaya’s activities have “drawn the attention” of the FBI.
Kushner, a senior Trump administration adviser, recently disclosed the session on a revised application to obtain a security clearance, the Times reports.
Jamie Gorelick, Kushner’s lawyer, said in a statement Saturday that her client “has since submitted this information, including that during the campaign and transition, he had over 100 calls or meetings with representatives of more than 20 countries, most of which were during transition.
“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.
“As Mr. Kushner has consistently stated, he is eager to cooperate and share what he knows.”
Manafort also recently disclosed the meeting, and Trump Jr.’s role in it, to Congress in its probe on his Russian contacts, the Times reported.
A Manafort spokesman declined to comment, while Veselnitskaya did not respond to questions from the Times.
But Mark Corallo, a spokesman for President Trump’s legal team, said Saturday that they believe the meeting might have been part of an effort to create the appearance of improper connections between Trump family members and Russia.
These efforts included the unsubstantiated Russian dossier created by Christopher Steele, the former British intelligence agent who worked for the Fusion GPS political firm in the U.S., he said.
“We have learned from both our own investigation and public reports that the participants in the meeting misrepresented who they were and who they worked for,” Corallo told Circa.com.
“Specifically, we have learned that the person who sought the meeting is associated with Fusion GPS, a firm which according to public reports, was retained by Democratic operatives to develop opposition research on the president and which commissioned the phony Steele dossier.”