Just two weeks after President Donald Trump clinched the Republican nomination his eldest son, Donald Trump Jr., agreed to meet with a Kremlin-connected lawyer who had promised him damaging information about Hillary Clinton, according to the New York Times.
The Trump campaign's manager at the time Paul Manafort, and the president's son-in-law Jared Kushner also attended the meeting. In what is now the first public account that individuals inside Trump's campaign were willing to accept forms of help from the Russians, the Times cited three advisers to the White House briefed on the meeting as well as two others with knowledge of it. The existence of the meeting was originally reported by the Times on Saturday, but further details from subsequent interviews have revealed motives.
The meeting was with Russian lawyer, Natalia Veselnitskaya, on June 9, 2016. The existence of the meeting became disclosed when Kushner recently "filed a revised version of a form required to obtain a security clearance," the Times reported. It's still not clear whether Veselnitskaya produced any damaging material regarding Clinton, however "the people interviewed by The Times about the meeting said the expectation was that she would do so," The Times reported.
The Times elaborated on Veselnitskaya:
Ms. Veselnitskaya is a formidable operator with a history of pushing the Kremlin’s agenda. Most notable is her campaign against the Magnitsky Act, which provoked a Cold War-style, tit-for-tat dispute with the Kremlin when President Barack Obama signed it into law in 2012.
Donald Trump Jr. defended his meeting with the Russian lawyer on Sunday in a statement which said, "the woman stated that she had information that individuals connected to Russia were funding the Democratic National Committee and supporting Ms. Clinton. 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," according to the Times.
The president's eldest son said the lawyer had then changed the conversation to discuss the Magnitsky Act, "an American law that blacklists suspected Russian human rights abusers," the Times reported.
"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," he said. Mark Corallo, a spokesman for Trump's lawyer stated that "the president was not aware of and did not attend the meeting," on Sunday, according to the Times.
Congressional committees have been investigating the Trump administration's alleged collusion with Russia for months and since firing FBI Director James Comey, special counsel Robert Mueller was hired to conduct an independent probe. Trump said in a series of tweets early Sunday morning that he "strongly pressed" Russian President Vladimir Putin on the election meddling issue over the weekend at the G-20 summit. However, Trump said it was now "time to move on." The president then suggested working together with Russia on an "impenetrable Cyber Security unit" that would seemingly bolster election security.
The leading Democrat on the House Intelligence Committee, which is one of the panels currently investigating Russian election interference, told the Times he wanted to question "everyone that was at that meeting."
"There’s no reason for this Russian government advocate to be meeting with Paul Manafort or with Mr. Kushner or the president’s son if it wasn’t about the campaign and Russia policy," California Rep. Adam Schiff said regarding the Times reporting of the meetings existence.