Donald Trump Jr. was told that the Russian government was the source of information damaging to former Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton before meeting with a Russian lawyer about it, the New York Times reported on July 10.
Citing three anonymous sources, the Times said publicist Rob Goldstone, who helped broker the June 2016 meeting, sent an e-mail to President Donald Trump's eldest son indicating that the Kremlin was the source of the potentially damaging information and that it was being provided as "part of a Russian government effort to aid his father's candidacy."
In the e-mail Goldstone purportedly said the Russian lawyer, Natalya Veselnitskaya, claimed she had information about purported illegal campaign contributions to the Democratic National Committee that she thought Trump Jr. might find helpful. According to the Times's sources, the e-mail does not provide details about Moscow's alleged effort to help Trump.
Speaking to U.S. broadcaster NBC in Moscow on July 11, Veselnitskaya said that she "never had any damaging or sensitive information about Hillary Clinton" and had no ties to Russian President Vladimir Putin's government.
Veselnitskaya said that she had wanted to discuss the Magnitsky Act, a law signed by President Barack Obama that enables the United States to impose sanctions on Russians considered to have violated human rights.
In an earlier interview with the Times, Goldstone denied knowing the source of the information that was damaging to Clinton. He was not available to be questioned about the newly reported e-mail.
The meeting -- which also included Trump's son-in-law, Jared Kushner, and then-campaign head Paul Manafort -- was held three weeks after Trump secured enough delegates to win the Republican Party's nomination and about one month before the party's nominating convention. It also occurred less than one week before media widely reported that Russian hackers had infiltrated the servers of the Democratic National Committee and stolen thousands of e-mail messages.
Veslnitskaya told NBC that Kushner left the room after 7-10 minutes and did not return, and that Manafort did not appear to be paying attention.
It is expected the Goldstone e-mail, if it exists, will be sought by the Justice Department and congressional committees probing Russian involvement in the election and the possibility of collusion between the Trump campaign and agents acting for Moscow.
Trump Jr. has acknowledged agreeing to meet with Veselnitskaya to learn damaging information about Clinton. But this is the first indication he may have been told before the meeting that information came from the Kremlin as part of an effort to aid Donald Trump's candidacy.
He denied receiving any specific information about the Clinton campaign during the meeting.
Alan Futerfas, a lawyer for Trump Jr., told the Times his client did nothing wrong and has promised to cooperate with investigators.
Trump Jr. is expected to be called before Congress to testify on the meeting with Veselnitskaya.
"This is the first time that the public has seen clear evidence of senior-level members of the Trump campaign meeting with Russians" to obtain information damaging to Clinton, said Senator Mark Warner, the top Democrat on the Senate Intelligence Committee.
With reporting by The New York Times