Donald Trump Jr. asked Russian lawyer for info on Clinton Foundation

Donald Trump Jr. asked a Russian lawyer at the June 2016 Trump Tower meeting whether she had evidence of illegal donations to the Clinton Foundation, the lawyer told the Senate Judiciary Committee in answers to written questions obtained exclusively by NBC News.

The lawyer, Natalia Veselnitskaya, told the committee that she didn’t have any such evidence, and that she believes Trump misunderstood the nature of the meeting after receiving emails from a music promoter promising incriminating information on Hillary Clinton, Donald Trump’s Democratic opponent.

Once it became apparent that she did not have meaningful information about Clinton, Trump seemed to lose interest, Veselnitskaya said, and the meeting petered out.

“Today, I understand why it took place to begin with and why it ended so quickly with a feeling of mutual disappointment and time wasted,” Veselnitskaya wrote. “The answer lies in the roguish letters of Mr. Goldstone.”

She was referring to Rob Goldstone, a music promoter who worked for the Agalarov family. They are Russian oligarchs with Kremlin connections who had business and social ties to the Trump family. Goldstone’s emails to Trump Jr. arranging the meeting on behalf of the Agalarovs called Veselnitskaya a “Russian government lawyer” who had dirt on Clinton as part of a Russian government effort to help Trump. Goldstone has since said he exaggerated.

In her 51-page statement to the Senate Judiciary Committee, Veselnitskaya said she did not work for the Russian government and was not carrying any messages from government officials. She said her motive was to get the Trump team to examine what she argues is a fraud that led the U.S. to impose sanctions on Russia known as the Magnitsky Act.

Her ultimate goal was a congressional investigation into that matter, she said. She has long argued that U.S.-born hedge fund investor Bill Browder lied about the circumstances of the death of his accountant, Sergei Magnitsky, who died in a Russian jail, and that the U.S. government imposed Magnitsky Act sanctions on Russia, which are named after the accountant, based on a fraud. Browder and American officials dismiss that allegation, calling it part of a Russian disinformation campaign.

Veselnitskaya said there was no discussion at the Trump Tower meeting of hacked or leaked emails, social media campaigns or any of the other main aspects of Russian interference in the U.S. election. Previously, she told NBC News she had raised the issue of potential questionable contributions to Clinton’s campaign by Americans accused in Russia of tax evasion.

Though some may see her answers as self-serving, Veselnitskaya’s written answers reinforced what has long been understood about the Trump Tower meeting: that Donald Trump Jr. accepted it on the promise of incriminating information about Clinton that he had been told was coming from the Russian government. And he asked Veselnitskaya directly whether she had it, according to her written answers. Jared Kushner and Paul Manafort were also in attendance, as were a Russian lobbyist, a Russian businessman and a translator.

Special counsel Robert Mueller and the House and Senate investigating committees continue to look into the Trump Tower meeting, according to multiple officials familiar with the probes.

Veselnitskaya insists they will find nothing that isn’t already known. She says she wishes the meeting had never happened.

“Now that I know the kind of apocalyptic Hollywood scenario that a private conversation between a lawyer and a businessman can be turned into, I very much regret that the desire to bring the truth to the [Congress] has thrown the U.S. president’s family, as well as Mrs. Clinton, into the whirlwind of mutual political accusations and fueled the fire of the morbid, completely groundless hatred for Russia,” Veselnitskaya wrote.

In another noteworthy aspect of her answers, Veselnitskaya acknowledged that she worked with Glenn Simpson, a former Wall Street Journal reporter, in an investigation of Browder, whose campaign led Congress to pass the Magnitsky Act.

At the time he was working on that case, Simpson and his firm, Fusion GPS, were also working with former British intelligence operative Christopher Steele on the infamous Trump dossier.

But Veselnitskaya says she had no idea about that, confirming testimony Simpson has provided to House and Senate investigators.

Some Republicans have suggested that Simpson’s work on behalf of a Russian client investigating the premise of the Magnitsky Act means the dossier could be tainted by Russian disinformation, but no evidence has surfaced to buttress that allegation.

Veselnitskaya called those allegations “unsubstantiated and outrageous insinuations.”

A lawyer for Trump Jr. declined to comment, but referred NBC News to the statement his client released in September, which said Trump Jr. wanted to “hear (the Russians) out” if they had information concerning Clinton’s “fitness, character or qualifications.”

[NBC News]

Trump Dictated Son’s Misleading Statement on Meeting with Russian Lawyer

President Trump reportedly dictated a misleading statement about his son’s meeting with a Russian lawyer that was ultimately issued to the New York Times by Donald Trump Jr., The Washington Post reported Monday evening.

Trump dictated the statement on July 8, while he was en route back to the United States from the G-20 summit in Germany, to director of strategic communications Hope Hicks, the Post said.

The statement about a meeting Trump Jr. had with a Russian lawyer during the 2016 campaign emphasized that it was “not a campaign issue at the time.” Instead, it said the topic had been primarily Russian adoption policy.

But a few days later, news broke that Trump Jr. arranged the meeting believing he would obtain harmful information about Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton. The New York Times first disclosed details of the meeting that took place in July 2016, and also included Jared Kushner, and then-Trump campaign chairman Paul Manafort.

According to the report, Ivanka Trump and Kushner, her husband, worked with advisors during breaks at the G-20 summit to craft a response to questions from the Times. Hicks and another aide pushed transparency, The Post said.

But the president reportedly overruled the consensus his advisors had reached on how to respond to inquires about the meeting.

Trump Jr. did not respond to the Post’s requests for comment Monday, while his attorney said he and his client “were fully prepared and absolutely prepared to make a fulsome statement” about the details surrounding the meeting.

His lawyer also said he has “no evidence to support” the “theory” that Trump was involved in writing the statement.

The president’s attorney, Jay Sekulow, refused to speak about details regarding Trump’s involvement with the statement.

“Apart from being of no consequence, the characterizations are misinformed, inaccurate, and not pertinent,” Sekulow said in his statement to The Post.

[The Hill]

Spicer Contradicts Emails, President on Trump Jr Meeting

White House press secretary Sean Spicer contradicted President Donald Trump Monday when he insisted that a meeting Donald Trump Jr. had with a Russian lawyer in the months leading up to the election was about adoption policy.

“The President has made it clear through this tweet. And there was nothing, as far as we know, that would lead anyone to believe that there was anything except for a discussion about adoption and the Magnitsky Act,” Spicer said at an off-camera briefing with reporters. “But I would refer you back to counsel on that one.”

In his first appearance at the White House briefing since June 26, Spicer repeated the same defense that Trump Jr. originally offered on July 8 when he was asked about the meeting — that it was a nothing but “short introductory meeting … about the adoption of Russian children that was active and popular with American families years ago.”

However, Trump Jr. later admitted he took the meeting because he was promised compromising information about Hillary Clinton when he publicly released his email exchange with Rob Goldstone, a publicist who helped set up the meeting.

The subject line of the back-and-forth between the two was “Russia – Clinton – private and confidential,” and Trump Jr. was promised incriminating information on Hillary Clinton from a “Russian government attorney” that was “part of Russia and its government’s support for Mr. Trump,” according to the emails.

“If it is what you say I love it,” Trump Jr. wrote.

Though Spicer maintained that the meeting was only about “adoption and the Magnitsky Act,” Trump Jr. told Sean Hannity last Tuesday he had “never even heard of” the Magnitsky Act “before, you know, that day.”

Spicer’s statement also contradicts the President, who has acknowledged his son took the meeting in order to get damaging information on his opponent and defended him for doing so, saying “that’s politics.”

“Most politicians would have gone to a meeting like the one Don jr attended in order to get info on an opponent. That’s politics!” Trump tweeted earlier Monday.

Trump said the same during a gaggle with reporters on Air Force One as he flew to Paris last week.

“Honestly, in a world of politics, most people are going to take that meeting,” Trump said. “If somebody called and said, ‘hey’ — and you’re a Democrat — and by the way, they have taken them — ‘hey, I have really some information on Donald Trump. You’re running against Donald Trump. Can I see you?’ I mean, how many people are not going to take the meeting?”

The White House did not immediately respond to a CNN request for clarification about Spicer’s remark.

[CNN]

Trump Defends Trump Jr.: ‘I Applaud His Transparency’

President Trump on Tuesday praised his son, Donald Trump Jr., who is under fire for meeting with a Russian lawyer who claimed to have compromising information about Trump’s Democratic rival in the presidential race, Hillary Clinton.

“My son is a high-quality person and I applaud his transparency,” Trump said in a brief statement, which White House spokeswoman Sarah Huckabee Sanders read to reporters during an off-camera briefing.

Trump had previously remained silent on the growing controversy surrounding the meeting at the height of the campaign, which became public Saturday.

The revelation has shaken the White House, which for months has struggled to contain the fallout from a wide-ranging investigation into Russia’s election-meddling effort in 2016.

Sanders acknowledged that, “the president is, I would say, frustrated with the process of the fact that this continues to be an issue.”

“He would love for us to be focused on things like … the economy, on healthcare, on tax reform, on infrastructure and that’s the place that his mind is and that’s what he’d like to be discussing,” she said.

Sanders, however, did not dispute stunning new emails disclosed by Trump Jr. Tuesday detailing efforts to set up the meeting.

She was peppered with questions about the stunning disclosure during the 21-minute briefing, repeatedly referring reporters to attorneys representing the president and his eldest son.

The lawyers did not immediately respond to requests for comment.

Sanders did engage some questions about the meeting, saying it’s “ridiculous” to use the words “treason” or “perjury” to describe Trump Jr.’s behavior, as some critics have alleged.

The spokesman stood by her Monday claim that Trump Jr. did not collude with Russia’s efforts to interfere in the 2016 presidential election.

She said she was not able to say the last time the president spoke with his son and refused to say whether Trump now believes Russia interfered with last year’s election.

Sanders also denied that Vice President Pence was trying to distance himself from the Trump Jr. controversy by putting out a statement saying he is “not focused on stories about the campaign… especially those about the time he joined the ticket.”

“There is absolutely no distance between the president and the vice president,” she said.

Michael Flynn was fired in February as national security adviser in large part because he misrepresented his conversation with Russia’s U.S. ambassador to Pence. The vice president went on television and denied Flynn discussed sanctions with the Russian envoy, even though he did.

[The Hill]

Reality

Donald Trump Jr. didn’t release the emails out of some altruistic sense of transparency, the New York Times obtained the emails and asked him for a comment from him before releasing them to the public.

Trump Jr. never responded to the request, and instead released the emails, most likely in a self-server move to get out in front of the story.

If it really was about transparency, Trump Jr. would have released the emails months before the New York Times broke this story.

Trump Son Met With Russian Lawyer Who Promised Info Helpful to Campaign

Donald Trump Jr., the eldest son of the president, acknowledged Sunday that he met with a woman who turned out to be a Kremlin-connected lawyer during the 2016 presidential election — after being told she allegedly had information that could help his father’s presidential campaign.

The New York Times first reported on Saturday that Donald Trump Jr. met with the lawyer, Natalia Veselnitskaya, prompting him to respond with a short statement confirming that the meeting occurred.

He said he attended “a short introductory meeting” with Veselnitskaya, where the topic of conversation was primarily about adoption. He added that the topic was not a campaign issue at the time and there was no follow-up conversation.

“I was asked to attend the meeting by an acquaintance, but was not told the name of the person I would be meeting beforehand,” he added in Saturday’s statement. According to Donald Trump Jr., the meeting occurred in June 2016 and Jared Kushner, the president’s son-in-law, and Trump campaign chairman Paul Manafort also attended.

Then on Sunday, The Times reported that Donald Trump Jr. attended the meeting after being told that the person there had information that would be damaging to Hillary Clinton’s campaign. The Times article, which was based conversations with three anonymous White House advisers, said news of the meeting represented the first public indication that members of the 2016 Trump campaign were willing to accept Russian help.

Donald Trump Jr. then released a more detailed statement after the Sunday report.

“I was asked to have a meeting by an acquaintance I knew from the 2013 Miss Universe pageant with an individual who I was told might have information helpful to the campaign,” Trump Jr. said in Sunday’s statement. “I was not told her name prior to the meeting.”

He added that he asked Kushner and Manafort to attend but that they knew “nothing of the substance.”

“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,” he said. “Her statements were vague, ambiguous and made no sense.”

Donald Trump Jr. said that Veselnitskaya did not provide any details or information that related to Hillary Clinton and that the topic of conversation turned to American adoption of Russian children.

He claimed that the conversation continued to revolve around adoption and the Magnitsky Act, a 2012 law that barred Russian human rights abusers from entering the country. In response, the Russian government stopped American families from adopting 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,” Donald Trump Jr. said in Sunday’s statement. “I interrupted and advised her that my father was not an elected official, but rather a private citizen, and that her comments and concerns were better addressed if and when he held public office.”

The meeting took about 20 to 30 minutes, he added.

The Times had previously identified the lawyer as Veselnitskaya, a Russian national known to push the Kremlin’s agenda and its continued battle against the Magnitsky Act.

Donald Trump Jr. said his father did not know about the meeting.

“The President was not aware of and did not attend the meeting,” President Trump’s legal team said in a statement.

Manafort and Kushner did not respond to NBC News’ requests for comment, though Kushner’s attorney confirmed on Saturday that the meeting did occur.

Kushner did not initially include the meeting on his national security questionnaire that his lawyer, Jamie Gorelick, said was filed prematurely.

“Mr. Kushner has submitted additional updates and included, out of an abundance of caution, this meeting with a Russian person, which he briefly attended at the request of his brother-in-law, Donald Trump Jr.,” Gorelick said. “As Mr. Kushner has consistently stated, he is eager to cooperate and share what he knows.”

The United States intelligence community has concluded that Russia was the mastermind behind a series of hacks and propaganda campaigns in an effort to interfere with the 2016 election. NBC News has reported that senior intelligence officials believe — with a “high degree of confidence — that Russian President Vladimir Putin was personally involved.

On “Fox News Sunday,” White House Chief of Staff Rience Priebus called the meeting a “big nothing-burger.”

Special Counsel Robert Mueller is leading a team of investigators that is looking into whether the Trump campaign coordinated with the Russian government’s campaign. The House and Senate intelligence committees are also looking into Russian interference in the 2016 election.

Trump and his campaign have maintained that there was no collusion.

President Trump and Secretary of State Rex Tillerson met with Russian President Vladimir Putin and Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov at the 2017 G-20 Hamburg Summit on Friday where they discussed the 2016 election and Russian-linked cyber-attacks.

Lavrov told reporters after the bilateral meeting that Trump had accepted Russia’s denial of interfering in the 2016 election, which would differ from the consensus reached in the U.S. intelligence community.

[NBC News]

Donald Trump Jr. Shares Fake Clip of President Shooting “CNN” Out of the Sky

President Trump’s oldest son, 39-year-old Donald Trump Jr., posted a doctored clip from the 1986 movie “Top Gun” to his social media accounts Saturday, in which his father is portrayed as a fighter pilot shooting down a jet emblazoned with the CNN logo.

“One of the best I’ve seen,” the Trump son said, reposting the video to Twitter and Instagram from a user called @OldRowOfficial.

In the fake video, Mr. Trump is seen positioning his aircraft to aim at a fighter jet labeled “CNN.” Mr. Trump pulls the trigger, and the target explodes mid-air.

This latest post from the Trump son comes as his father continues waging a war against “fake news,” particularly CNN. Last week, the president shared an altered video of himself beating down a WWE wrestler with the “CNN” icon on his face.

Donald Trump Jr. has taken the role of defending his father and sister Ivanka Trump amid intense White House scrutiny.

The Trump son chimed in Saturday after Ivanka Trump sat in for her father at a G-20 meeting in Hamburg, Germany, sparking criticism that such a move could be inappropriate.

The eldest Trump son and his brother, Eric Trump, are running their father’s vast business empire while Mr. Trump is in office.

Concerns over the Trump family’s involvement in his presidency continue to lurk. Initially, Ivanka Trump said she would keep a private role apart from the White House, but she has since taken an official — albeit unpaid — position on staff, and continues to have an active role in White House policy discussions, such as at the G-20 meeting Saturday.

On Saturday, Mr. Trump said Ivanka’s life would be easier if she wasn’t his daughter.

[CBS News]

Donald Trump Jr. Joins Father in Bashing London Mayor After Terror Attack

London Mayor Sadiq Khan’s time would be better spent addressing the terrorism in his own city instead of attacking U.S. President Donald Trump, the president’s son said in an interview that aired Tuesday morning.

“Rather than the mayor of London attacking maybe he should do something about it,” Donald Trump Jr. said in an interview with ABC’s “Good Morning America.” “Maybe he should do something to fix the problem rather than just sit there and pretend there isn’t one. I think that’s an important message.”

The president first criticized Khan, via a post to Twitter, in the hours after the London terrorist attack, quoting the mayor out of context to suggest that he was downplaying the severity of the incident. A spokesman for Khan responded that the mayor “has more important things to do than respond to Donald Trump’s ill-informed tweet that deliberately takes out of context his remarks.”

The president lobbed another insult across the ocean Monday morning, again via Twitter, criticizing what he called a “pathetic excuse by London Mayor Sadiq Khan who had to think fast on his ‘no reason to be alarmed’ statement. MSM is working hard to sell it!”

Nonetheless, Donald Trump Jr. suggested that his father will ultimately be vindicated and that a more proactive approach would ultimately be to London’s benefit.

“Every time he puts something out there he gets criticized by the media all day every day by everyone else and guess what? Two weeks later he’s proven to be right,” the president’s son said. “It happened again and we keep appeasing it and keep saying, ‘okay, it’s going to be great. We’re going to hold fast and we’re going to keep calm and carry on.’ Maybe we have to keep calm and actually do something. And I think that’s what he’s trying to say because he’s been proven right every time.”

[Politico]

Media

BBC News

Trump sons met with GOP officials over political strategy

Family members of President Trump, including his two sons, met for hours Thursday with Republican Party officials to discuss political strategy, ABC News has learned from sources with direct knowledge of the meeting.

The president’s sons, Donald Trump Jr. and Eric, in addition to Eric’s wife, Lara, attended the meeting at Republican National Committee headquarters in Washington, D.C., sources told ABC News.

The meeting was first reported by the Washington Post, who said the Trump family members were invited by the RNC and that their appearance there bothered at least two prominent Republicans over questions of whether the president’s sons should be involved in high-level party discussions considering they run the Trump real estate business

The Post reported that some other people familiar with the meeting thought it was fine for Trump family members who helped with the president’s election campaign to offer their views ahead of the 2018 midterm elections and the 2020 presidential race.

[ABC News]

Donald Trump Jr. Criticizes London Mayor Just Hours After Parliament Attack

Before basic information about a terrorist attack in London was known, Donald Trump Jr. took to social media to blast the city’s mayor.

Roughly two hours after at least four people were killed near the UK Parliament, the President’s son reposted an article from last year where Sadiq Khan spoke about the dangers of living in world capitals.

“You have to be kidding me?! Terror attacks are part of living in the big city, says London Mayor Sadiq Khan,” Trump Jr. said alongside a piece from The Independent.

Khan’s statements last September came after the Chelsea bombing wounded 29 people with homemade explosives.

“Part and parcel of living in a great global city is you’ve got to be prepared for these things, you’ve got to be vigilant, you’ve got to support the police doing an incredibly hard job,” Khan said at the time.

It was not immediately clear what Trump Jr. found so offensive about Khan’s comments that he posted it six months later after an attack in the mayor’s city.

The leader of the Trump Organization was criticized online for his comments in the middle of an incident that resulted in the loss of several lives.

“Is this helpful @DonaldJTrumpJr? Did you even read the article before goading London’s Mayor during a live incident?” British journalist Ciaran Jenkins said.

“Khan is right. These things happen. We fight against them. But we don’t wildly over-react or let them change our way of life,” Londoner Tom Coates said, adding that he had lived through IRA bombings and the 7/7 attacks on the London Underground.

Later Wednesday, Trump Jr. retweeted an account identifying the attacker as Abu Izzadeen, a spokesperson for a terrorist-affiliated group in Britain.

But several news outlets that reported the same name eventually issued retractions and apologies after it was reveiled that Izzadeen has been in prison since 2008. As of early Thursday, Trump Jr. had not retracted his retweet or issued an apology.

London authorities reported that at least four people, including police officer Keith Palmer, were killed and 40 more were wounded when a car hit pedestrians on Westminster Bridge before crashing into a railing at Parliament.

The assailant allegedly got out of the car and fatally stabbed the officer before being shot by police.

Khan said in a statement on Twitter that his “thoughts are with those affected and their families” and expressed thanks to the police and emergency workers who responded.

(h/t New York Daily News)

Trump Jr. Likely Paid $50K for Event Hosted by Russian Allies

President Trump’s eldest son may have profited off an appearance at an event last fall hosted by a couple aligned with the Russian government on Syria, according to new reporting.

Trump’s private talks with the pro-Russia figures on Oct. 11 in Paris were reported in November, though new details about the meeting have since emerged.

Donald Trump Jr. was likely paid $50,000 for addressing the dinner at the Ritz Hotel in Paris, The Wall Street Journal reported Thursday.

Trump was a guest of the Center of Political and Foreign Affairs, whose president Fabien Baussart and Syrian-born wife Randa Kassis have cooperated with Russia on ending the Syrian civil war, U.S., Arab and European officials told the newspaper.

Trump, 39, serves as executive vice president of the Trump Organization and was a top official in his father’s 2016 presidential campaign before the October event.

All American Speakers, a talent booking agency that represents Trump, lists his booking fee range as “$50,000 and above” on its website. The Journal noted it confirmed with people who had participated in past Center events that it often pays speakers 20-30 percent above their going rate.

The Trump Organization did not dispute Thursday whether Trump received at least $50,000 for his remarks in France.

“Donald Trump Jr. has been participating in business-related speaking engagements for over a decade — discussing a range of topics including sharing his entrepreneurial experiences and offering career specific advice,” said Amanda Miller, the company’s vice president for marketing, according to the Journal.

Kassis heads a political party, the Movement for a Pluralistic Society, which is part of a faction endorsed by Russia in global negotiations aimed at ending the Syrian conflict.

She regularly visits Moscow to coordinate policy with Russia’s Foreign Ministry, Arab and European officials told the Journal, and she is often featured at Russian state media.

Baussart told the newspaper he and his wife are focused on finding a solution to Syria’s six-year civil war involving cooperation between Russia and the U.S. Kassis said she explained the need for harmony between the two nations to Donald Trump Jr. in October, adding she had passed on his views on the conflict to Russian diplomats in Moscow.

Baussart formally nominated Russian President Vladimir Putin for the Nobel Peace Prize in December for his role in ending the Syrian civil war.

“I believe that President Putin deserved it,” he told Ria Novosti then while discussing the award. “He is the only one who is truly fighting terrorism.”

The Trump campaign’s contacts with Russian officials and allies have come under increasing scrutiny following reports last month that top campaign aides and allies were in regular contact with Russian intelligence officials last year.

U.S. intelligence officials have concluded Russia launched an extensive hacking and influence campaign during the 2016 race.

(h/t The Hill)

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