A Russian lawyer whose meeting with President Donald Trump's eldest son has added to questions about Russia's role in the 2016 U.S. election claims she is prepared to testify to Congress to dispel what she called "mass hysteria" over the encounter.
Natalya Veselnitskaya met at Trump Tower in New York with Donald Trump Jr., who had been told that she was a Russian government lawyer who might have damaging information about Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton.
Revelations about the June 9, 2016 meeting, which was also attended by several other Russians and associates of Trump, has increased scrutiny on the ties between the U.S. president's campaign and Russia.
“I'm ready to clarify the situation behind this mass hysteria -- but only through lawyers or testifying in the Senate," Veselnitskaya said in an interview with state-funded Russian channel RT released on July 18.
Veselnitskaya has said she is a private lawyer with no ties to President Vladimir Putin's Kremlin, and that she never obtained damaging information about Clinton. She has said the meeting focused on a U.S. sanctions law and U.S.-Russian adoption policies.
The new interview comes amid reports that an executive working for a Russian billionaire and one-time partner of Trump was the eighth person at the meeting at Trump Tower. Previously, seven participants had been identified.
Ike Kaveladze, who works for Azerbaijani-Russian developer Aras Agalarov, attended the meeting, The Washington Post, Reuters, AP, and CNN reported, citing an attorney for Agalarov, Scott Balber.
Balber told media outlets that Kaveladze was there to represent Agalarov and his son Emin, who partnered with Trump to bring the Miss Universe pageant to Moscow in 2013 and were named in e-mails to Trump Jr. ahead of the meeting.
In an online profile, Kaveladze lists himself as a vice president of the Moscow-based Crocus Group, Aras Agalarov's firm, and says in a separate LinkedIn profile that he handled tax preparation for the company.
U.S. media cited Balber as saying that officials from Justice Department Special Counsel Robert Mueller's office had contacted him about Kaveladze and that he and Kaveladze, who also goes by the first name Irakly, were cooperating with the investigation.
His comments were the first public indication that Mueller, who was appointed in May 2017 to investigate possible ties between the Trump campaign and Russia, is looking into Donald Trump Jr.'s meeting with Veselnitskaya.
The U.S. intelligence community issued an assessment in January that Putin ordered an "influence campaign" targeting the U.S. election, with goals that included denigrating Clinton and helping Trump.
Trump’s administration is currently under investigation by both Congress and the FBI over any possible collusion to affect the presidential race.
Putin has denied the allegations of interference, and Trump denies there was any collusion between his campaign and Russia.
The top Democrat on the Senate Intelligence Committee, which also is investigating the Russian matter, said it is disturbing how long it took for news that Kaveladze attended the Trump Tower meeting to come out.
"The Trump family is not coming clean with information" about the meeting, Senator Mark Warner said on July 18. He noted that Kaveladze has been accused of involvement in money laundering.
"I doubt if this individual...was really there to talk about Russian adoptions," Warner said.
With reporting by AP, AFP, Reuters, Washington Post, and CNN