Two weeks after Donald Trump clinched the Republican presidential nomination last year, his eldest son arranged a meeting with a Russian lawyer who has connections to the Kremlin, according to confidential government records. The previously unreported meeting was also attended by the President’s campaign chairman at the time, Paul J. Manafort, as well as his son-in-law, Jared Kushner, the New York Times quoted the records as saying.
While President Trump has been dogged by revelations of undisclosed meetings between his associates and Russians, this episode at Trump Tower on June 9, 2016, is the first confirmed private meeting between a Russian national and members of his inner circle during the campaign.
It is also the first time that his son Donald Trump Jr. is known to have been involved in such a meeting. In March, he had denied participating in any campaign-related meetings with Russian nationals.
Representatives of Donald Trump Jr. and Kushner confirmed the meeting to the New York Times.
In a statement, Donald Jr. described the meeting as primarily about an adoption programme.
“It was a short introductory meeting. 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,” the statement said.
Donald Jr. added: “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.”
However, the statement did not address whether the presidential campaign was discussed.
The Russian lawyer invited to the Trump Tower meeting, Natalia Veselnitskaya, is best known for mounting a multipronged attack against the Magnitsky Act, an American law that blacklists suspected Russian human rights abusers, reports the New York Times.
The law so enraged Putin that he retaliated by halting American adoptions of Russian children.
American intelligence agencies have concluded that Russian hackers and propagandists worked to tip the election toward Trump, and a special prosecutor and congressional committees are now investigating whether his campaign associates colluded with Russians.
Trump has equivocated on whether the Russians were solely responsible for the hacking.
But in Germany on Friday, meeting President Vladimir Putin on the sidelines of the G20 summit, Trump asked him about the hacking. The Russian leader denied meddling in the election.