- Stephen Crowley/The New York Times
- President Donald Trump and first lady Melania Trump on July 5 at Joint Base Andrews in Maryland.
By JO BECKER, MATT
© 2017 New York Times News Service
Two weeks after Donald Trump clinched the Republican presidential nomination last year, his eldest son arranged a meeting at Trump Tower in Manhattan with a Russian lawyer who has connections to the Kremlin, according to confidential government records described to The New York TimesThe previously undisclosed meeting was also attended by Trump’s campaign chairman at the time, Paul Manafort, as well as the president’s son-in-law, Jared Kushner, according to interviews and the documents, which were outlined by people familiar with them.
While 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 Trump’s 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.
Representatives of Trump Jr. and Kushner confirmed the meeting after The Times approached them with information about it. In a statement, Trump Jr. described the meeting as primarily about an adoption program.
The Russian lawyer invited to the Trump Tower meeting, Natalia
The adoption impasse is a frequently used talking point for opponents of the Magnitsky Act. Veselnitskaya’s campaign against the law has also included attempts to discredit its namesake, Sergei L. Magnitsky, a lawyer and auditor who died under mysterious circumstances in a Russian prison in 2009 after exposing one of the biggest corruption scandals during Putin’s rule.
Veselnitskaya was formerly married to a former deputy transportation minister of the Moscow region, and her clients include state-owned businesses and a senior government official’s son, whose company was under investigation in the United States at the time of the meeting. Her activities and associations had previously drawn the attention of the FBI, according to a former senior law enforcement official.
In his statement, Trump Jr. said: “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
Late Saturday, Mark Corallo, a spokesman for the president’s lawyer, issued a statement implying that the meeting was a setup. Veselnitskaya and the translator who accompanied her to the meeting “misrepresented who they were,” it said.
Veselnitskaya said the meeting lasted about 30 minutes and focused on the Magnitsky Act and the adoption issue. “Nothing at all was discussed about the presidential campaign,” she said.
The Trump Tower meeting was not disclosed to government officials until recently, when Kushner, who is also a senior White House aide, filed a revised version of a form required to obtain a security clearance.
Manafort, the former campaign chairman, also recently disclosed the meeting to congressional investigators who had questions about his foreign contacts, according to people familiar with the events.