U.S. media are reporting that U.S. President Donald Trump's son and others met with a Kremlin-connected lawyer during the 2016 campaign after being promised damaging information about Democratic rival Hillary Clinton.
The New York Times and The Washington Post on July 9 reported that Trump's son-in-law, Jared Kushner, and then-campaign chairman Paul Manafort also attended the meeting on June 9, 2016, at Trump Tower in New York. Manafort later left the campaign, while Kushner is now a top adviser to the president.
Donald Trump Jr. issued a statement in which he acknowledged meeting with Russian lawyer Natalya Veselnitskaya, whom he did not refer to by name, the Times reported.
"After pleasantries were exchanged, the woman stated that she had information that individuals connected to Russia were funding the Democratic National Committee and supporting Ms. Clinton," the Times quoted Trump Jr. as saying.
"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."
Trump Jr. said she then brought up the issue of the adoption of Russian children and the Magnitsky Act, a 2012 U.S. law that put sanctions on Russian suspected of human rights abuse. Angered by the law, Russian President Vladimir Putin then halted U.S. 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,” Trump Jr. said.
Veselnitskaya has among her clients Russian state-owned companies and family members of top government officials, and her husband previously served as deputy transportation minister of the Moscow region. She campaigned as a lawyer against the Magnitsky Act.
Mark Corallo, a spokesman for the president’s legal team, issued a statement saying that now-President Trump was "not aware of and did not attend" the 2016 meeting between his son and the lawyer.
U.S. intelligence agencies have concluded that Russia meddled in the U.S. presidential election, and at least two congressional committees and the FBI are investigating the charges, including reports of contacts between members of the Trump team and Russian officials.
President Trump has denied all allegations of collusion, and the Kremlin has denied meddling in the election.
With reporting by The New York Times, The Washington Post, AP, dpa, Reuters, and The Wall Street Journal