President Donald Trumps eldest son was promised damaging information about former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton before agreeing to meet a Russian lawyer during the 2016 campaign, according to a report by The New York Times.
The meeting between Donald Trump Jr. and Russian lawyer, Natalia Veselnitskaya was also attended by the President’s campaign chairman at the time, Paul J. Manafort, and his son-in-law, Jared Kushner, three advisers to the White House briefed on the meeting and two others with knowledge of it told The New York Times on Sunday.
The Times reported the existence of the meeting on Saturday. But in subsequent interviews, the advisers and others revealed the motivation behind it.
The meeting took place at the Trump Tower in Manhattan on June 9, 2016, two weeks after Donald Trump clinched the Republican nomination for presidency.
However, it remains unclear whether Veselnitskaya, actually produced the promised compromising information about Clinton.
When he was first asked about the meeting on Saturday, Donald Trump Jr. said that it was primarily about adoptions and mentioned nothing about Clinton.
But on Sunday, he offered a new account, reports The New York Times.
In a statement, he said he had met with Veselnitskaya at the request of an acquaintance from the 2013 Miss Universe pageant, which his father took to Moscow.
“After pleasantries were exchanged,” he said, “the woman stated that she had information that individuals connected to Russia were funding the Democratic National Committee and supporting 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.”
He said she then turned the conversation to adoption of Russian children and the Magnitsky Act, an American law that blacklists suspected Russian human rights abusers. The 2012 law so enraged President Vladimir Putin that he halted American adoptions of Russian children.
“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,” The New York Times quoted Donald Trump Jr. as saying in the statement.
In response, Veselnitskaya said in a statement that “nothing at all about the presidential campaign” was discussed at the meeting and she “never acted on behalf of the Russian government” and “never discussed any of these matters with any representative of the Russian government”.
Mark Corallo, a spokesman for the President’s lawyer, said on Sunday that “the President was not aware of and did not attend the meeting”.
American intelligence agencies have concluded that Russian hackers and propagandists worked to tip the election toward Donald Trump, in part by stealing and then providing to WikiLeaks internal Democratic Party and Clinton campaign emails that were embarrassing to the former First lady.
WikiLeaks began releasing the material on July 22, 2016.