Two top Trump officials were registered lobbyists for Russian-born businessman linked to Putin

A new investigation from Vice News reveals that two senior Trump administration officials were once registered lobbyists for a Russian-born businessman who has deep ties to Putin-connected Russian oligarchs.

According to Vice, Makan Delrahim — the Assistant Attorney General for the Antitrust Division in the Department of Justice — and David Bernhardt — who is currently the No. 2 official at the Department of the Interior — were registered lobbyists for Access Industries, a holding company under the control of Soviet-born billionaire Leonard Blavatnik.

Blavatnik, who is a naturalized dual U.S.-U.K. citizen, is connected to Russian oligarchs via Access Industries’ large stake in Russian aluminum company UC Rusal. Two other men who have large stakes in UC Rusal are Oleg Deripaska and Viktor Vekselberg — Russian businessmen who were recently hit with sanctions by the United States Treasury Department.

What is particularly notable about Blavatnik, notes Vice, is that he once spread out campaign donations fairly evenly between Republicans and Democrats — before shifting heavily in favor of the GOP during the 2016 election cycle, when President Donald Trump was the party’s nominee.

What’s more, he’s continued to give to Republicans since Trump’s election.

“Although he didn’t donate directly to Trump’s campaign, after Trump won, Access Industries gave a further $1 million to the Presidential Inaugural Committee,” Vice News reports. “And according to The Wall Street Journal, Blavatnik gave $12,700 in April 2017 to a Republican National Committee fund that was used to help pay for the team of private attorneys representing Trump in the probe of Russian interference in the 2016 election.”

Read the whole report here.

[Raw Story]

Trump Aide Rick Gates Communicated With Former Russian Spy During the Campaign

A campaign aide to Donald Trump directly communicated a month before the 2016 presidential election with a man he knew was a onetime Russian spy, according to a court filing by Special Counsel Robert Mueller.

Rick Gates, the former aide, told an attorney for a U.S. law firm that a Russian they worked with in Ukraine was a former military intelligence officer, according to the filing late Tuesday in Washington.

Both Gates and the lawyer, Alexander van der Zwaan, have pleaded guilty and are cooperating with Mueller in his investigation of Russian meddling in the election. Gates worked for Paul Manafort, the indicted former Trump campaign chairman, as a political consultant in Ukraine for a decade.

The filing identifies the ex-spy only as Person A. The description of him by prosecutors, a person living in Moscow and Kiev who worked with Manafort and Gates in Ukraine, matches that of Konstantin Kilimnik. After van der Zwaan pleaded guilty to false statements on Feb. 20, Kilimnik declined to comment on whether he was Person A.

Van der Zwaan is scheduled to be sentenced on April 3 and faces as many as six months in prison under a plea agreement with Mueller’s office. In a sentencing memorandum, prosecutors urged the judge to consider a jail term for him. Lawyers for van der Zwaan said he should not be sentenced to jail.

The case is U.S. v. van der Zwaan, 18-cr-00031, U.S. District Court, District of Columbia (Washington).

[Bloomberg]

Top Trump campaign officials urged Papadopoulos to communicate with Russians

Former Donald Trump campaign adviser George Papadopoulos was encouraged by campaign officials to communicate with foreign contacts, according to the Washington Post.

As the Post reports, Papadopoulos was urged by deputy communications director Bryan Lanza to participate in an interview with a Russian news agency.

“You should do it,” Lanza told Papadopoulos, adding the connection could benefit a “partnership with Russia.”

According to the Post, emails turned over to special counsel Robert Mueller show “more extensive contact” between Papadopoulos and top campaign and transition officials “than has been publicly acknowledged.”

Papadopoulos also communicated with former White House strategist Steve Bannon and onetime national security adviser Michael Flynn, “who corresponded with [Papadopoulos] about his efforts to broker ties between Trump and top foreign officials.”

Read the full report at the Washington Post.

[Raw Story]

Manafort Offered ‘Private Briefings’ With Putin-Linked Russian Billionaire During Trump’s Presidential Campaign

In the middle of Donald Trump’s presidential run, then-campaign Chairman Paul Manafort said he was willing to provide “private briefings” about the campaign to a Russian billionaire the U.S. government considers close to Russian President Vladimir Putin.

Manafort’s offer was memorialized in an email exchange with a former employee of his political consulting firm in July 2016. It was first reported by the Washington Post, which said portions of Manafort’s emails were read to reporters.

Manafort spokesman Jason Maloni confirmed to the Associated Press that the email exchanges were legitimate but said no briefings ever occurred. The email involved an offer for Oleg Deripaska, a wealthy Russian who made his money in the aluminum business.

The July 7, 2016, email came a little over a week before the Republican National Convention, while Manafort was leading the Trump campaign’s day-to-day operations. It also occurred about a month after Manafort attended a meeting with a Russian lawyer at Trump Tower in New York. That meeting was brokered by Donald Trump Jr., who was told in emails that the meeting was part of a Russian government effort to help his father’s campaign.

The Manafort email exchange regarding Deripaska is one of thousands of pages of material turned over to congressional committees by the Trump campaign. It is also in the possession of special counsel Robert S. Mueller III, who is investigating whether there was any coordination between Trump associates and Russians looking to interfere in the presidential campaign. Mueller is also examining Manafort’s taxes and his foreign banking as part of an investigation related to his consulting work in Ukraine.

Manafort has denied any wrongdoing, saying his work in Ukraine was open and appropriate. He has also denied involvement in any efforts to undermine the U.S. election on behalf of Russia. Deripaska has denied any involvement with the Trump campaign and said he is willing to testify before congressional committees investigating Russian election interference to defend his reputation and his name.

According to the Post, Manafort wrote the email to a former employee, Konstantin Kilimnik, who had worked for years with him on political consulting in Ukraine. Manafort asked Kilimnik to pass the offer to Deripaska.

“If he needs private briefings we can accommodate,” Manafort wrote — referring to Deripaska — in the email, according to the Post.

In a statement, Maloni dismissed the correspondence as “innocuous.” He said the exchange was part of an effort on Manafort’s part to collect money from clients who owed him money. The Post reported that several email exchanges between Manafort and Kilimnik discussed money that Manafort said he was owed by former clients in Eastern Europe.

“It is no secret Mr. Manafort was owed money by past clients after his work ended in 2014,” Maloni said in the statement.

The email is the first to indicate that Manafort was attempting to reach Deripaska while he was working on the Trump campaign, but it’s unclear whether the offer ever reached Deripaska or his representatives. The Post reported that, according to documents detailed to its reporters, there was no evidence Deripaska received the offer.

Attorneys for Deripaska in New York and Washington did not respond to phone messages or emails Wednesday evening. Kilimnik did not immediately respond to an email Wednesday evening. A phone number previously used by him was not accepting calls.

The Post quoted Vera Kurochkina, a spokeswoman for one of Deripaska’s companies, who said inquiries about the emails “veer into manufactured questions so grossly false and insinuating that I am concerned even responding to these fake connotations provides them the patina of reality.” She also dismissed the email exchanges, the Post said, as scheming by “consultants in the notorious ‘Beltway bandit’ industry.”

The Associated Press reported in March that before signing with Trump’s campaign, Manafort secretly worked for Deripaska and proposed plans for political consulting work in Eastern Europe that he said could “greatly benefit the Putin Government.”

In a 2005 memo to Deripaska, Manafort laid out the details of the proposal that were subsequently spelled out the following year as part of a $10-million contract, according to interviews with people familiar with payments to Manafort and business records obtained by the AP. It’s unclear how much of the work was carried out. The AP previously reported that Manafort and Deripaska maintained a business relationship until at least 2009. The two later had a falling-out, laid bare in 2014 in a Cayman Islands court.

The AP cited U.S. diplomatic cables from 2006 describing Deripaska as “among the 2-3 oligarchs Putin turns to on a regular basis” and “a more-or-less permanent fixture on Putin’s trips abroad.” Deripaska has also sworn in a New York state court document that he has been granted “a diplomatic passport from Russia, and on occasion I have represented the government in countries outside Russia.”

Deripaska sued the AP for defamation over the story in May in U.S. District Court in Washington, alleging the story was inaccurate and hurt his career by falsely accusing him of criminal activity. Deripaska’s lawyers complained to the AP at the time that the article “suggests that Mr. Deripaska has been involved with Mr. Manafort more recently,” and the lawsuit said, “Mr. Deripaska severed relations with Mr. Manafort many years ago.” The AP has said it stands by the accuracy of its story, and has asked a federal judge to dismiss the lawsuit.

Manafort has previously said he worked for Deripaska to advance his business interests but denied his work was meant to advance Russia’s interests.

The Post reported that Kilimnik and Manafort at times referred to Deripaska as “OVD” in the emails. That shorthand is consistent with how Manafort and other employees at his former consulting business referred to the billionaire in other documents obtained by the AP, including the 2005 proposal that referred to a plan to “greatly benefit the Putin Government.”

According to other emails obtained by the AP that are in the hands of Mueller and congressional committees, Manafort had previously shut down efforts to have Trump meet with Russians during the campaign.

In mid-May 2016, a Trump campaign aide wrote to Manafort that “Russia has been eager to meet Mr. Trump for quite some time,” noting that representatives from the country had been reaching out to him.

Manafort responded to his deputy, Rick Gates, that the meetings were a nonstarter. “We need someone to communicate that DT is not doing these trips,” he wrote, referring to Trump. The two decided that the communication should come from a person in the campaign who responds to “all mail of non-importance” so as not to send a message.

[Los Angeles Times]

Trump Signed ‘Letter of Intent’ for Russian Tower During Campaign

Four months into his campaign for president of the United States, Donald Trump signed a “letter of intent” to pursue a Trump Tower-style building development in Moscow, according to a statement from the then-Trump Organization Chief Counsel Michael Cohen.

The involvement of then-candidate Trump in a proposed Russian development deal contradicts repeated statements Trump made during the campaign, including telling ABC News Chief Anchor George Stephanopoulos in July 2016 that his business had “no relationship to Russia whatsoever.”

The disclosure from Cohen, who has described himself as Trump’s personal lawyer, came as Cohen’s attorney gave congressional investigators scores of documents and emails from the campaign, including several pertaining to the Moscow development idea.

“Certain documents in the production reference a proposal for ‘Trump Tower Moscow,’ which contemplated a private real estate development in Russia,” Cohen’s statement says. “The decision to pursue the proposal initially, and later to abandon it, was unrelated to the Donald J. Trump for President Campaign.”

In a separate statement texted to ABC News, Cohen added that “the Trump Moscow proposal was simply one of many development opportunities that the Trump Organization considered and ultimately rejected.”

Cohen specifically says in his statement that Trump was told three times about the Moscow proposal.

“To the best of my knowledge, Mr. Trump was never in contact with anyone about this proposal other than me on three occasions, including signing a non-binding letter of intent in 2015,” his statement says.

Cohen also makes clear that he himself engaged in communication directly with the Kremlin about the proposal during the ongoing 2016 presidential campaign. His statement says he wrote to the press secretary for Russian President Vladimir Putin at the request of Felix Sater, a frequent Trump Organization associate who had proposed the Trump Moscow development.

“In mid-January 2016, Mr. Sater suggested that I send an email to Mr. Dmitry Peskov, the Press Secretary for the President of Russia, since the proposal would require approvals within the Russian government that had not been issued,” Cohen’s statement says. “Those permissions were never provided. I decided to abandon the proposal less than two weeks later for business reasons and do not recall any response to my email, nor any other contacts by me with Mr. Peskov or other Russian government officials about the proposal.”

The Trump Moscow development proposal, which was first reported Monday by The Washington Post, provides a new look at the relationship between the president’s real estate firm and Sater, a convicted felon who served a year in New York state prison for stabbing a man during a bar fight.

Sater is a controversial figure who served for many years as a federal government cooperating witness on a host of matters involving organized crime and national security. Sater had also traveled in Moscow with Trump’s son, Donald Trump Jr., in the mid-2000s and handed out business cards identifying himself as a “senior adviser” to Donald Trump Sr.

Trump had taken pains to distance himself from Sater. In one sworn deposition, regarding a Trump development in Florida on which Sater had worked, Trump said “I don’t know him very well … if he were sitting in the room right now I really wouldn’t know what he looked like.”

The emails show Sater and Cohen – friends since their teenage years growing up in Brooklyn – sharing their dreams of a Trump presidency.

In one, made public Monday by The Washington Post and New York Times, Sater writes: “I know how to play it and we will get this done. Buddy, our boy can become President of the USA and we can engineer it.”

And Sater adds, pointedly: “I will get all of Putins team to buy in on this.”

On Sept. 30, 2015, Trump Organization officials told ABC News that Sater had inflated his connections to the company. Alan Garten, a senior Trump Organization attorney, told ABC News that “there’s really no direct relationship” between Sater and the real estate firm.

“To be honest, I don’t know that he ever brought any deals,” Garten said.

That was the same month Sater brought the company the Trump Moscow development proposal, according to Cohen’s statement. Cohen’s statement notes that he did not share the proposal with others in his firm.

“Mr. Sater, on occasion, made claims about aspects of the proposal, as well as his ability to bring the proposal to fruition. Over the course of my business dealings with Mr. Sater, he has sometimes used colorful language and has been prone to ‘salesmanship,’” Cohen wrote. “As a result, I did not feel that it was necessary to routinely apprise others within the Trump Organization of communications that Mr. Sater sent only to me.”

Garten and an attorney for Sater did not immediately respond to requests for comment.

For five months, the Trump Organization gave serious consideration to the Moscow development idea. But Cohen told ABC News he scuttled the plan in January 2016, one year before Trump was sworn in as president.

“I abandoned the Moscow proposal because I lost confidence that the prospective licensee would be able to obtain the real estate, financing, and government approvals necessary to bring the proposal to fruition,” Cohen said. “It was a building proposal that did not succeed and nothing more.”

[ABC News]

Trump Associate Boasted That Moscow Business Deal ‘Will Get Donald Elected’

A business associate of President Trump promised in 2015 to engineer a real estate deal with the aid of the president of Russia, Vladimir V. Putin, that he said would help Mr. Trump win the presidency.

The business associate, Felix Sater, wrote a series of emails to Mr. Trump’s lawyer, Michael Cohen, in which he boasted about his ties to Mr. Putin and predicted that building a Trump Tower in Moscow would be a political boon to Mr. Trump’s candidacy.

“Our boy can become president of the USA and we can engineer it,” Mr. Sater wrote in an email. “I will get all of Putins team to buy in on this, I will manage this process.”

The emails show that, from the earliest months of Mr. Trump’s campaign, some of his associates viewed close ties with Moscow as a political advantage. Those ties are now under investigation by the Justice Department and multiple congressional committees.

There is no evidence in the emails that Mr. Sater delivered on his promises. Mr. Sater, a Russian immigrant, was a broker for the Trump Organization at the time, which means he was paid to deliver real estate deals.

In another email, Mr. Sater envisioned a ribbon-cutting in Moscow. “I will get Putin on this program and we will get Donald elected,” Mr. Sater wrote.

Mr. Cohen suggested that Mr. Sater’s comments were puffery. “He has sometimes used colorful language and has been prone to ‘salesmanship,’ ” Mr. Cohen said in a statement. “I ultimately determined that the proposal was not feasible and never agreed to make a trip to Russia.”

Mr. Sater presented himself as so influential in Russia that he helped arrange a 2006 trip that Mr. Trump’s daughter, Ivanka, took to Moscow. “I arranged for Ivanka to sit in Putins private chair at his desk and office in the Kremlin,” he said.

Ms. Trump said she had no involvement in the discussions about the Moscow deal. In a statement, she said she that during the 2006 trip, she took “a brief tour of Red Square and the Kremlin but I have never met President Vladimir Putin.” She did not say whether she sat in his chair.

The Times reported earlier this year on the plan for a Trump Tower in Moscow, which never materialized. On Sunday, The Washington Post reported the existence of the correspondence between Mr. Sater and Mr. Cohen but not its content.

The Trump Organization on Monday turned over emails to the House Intelligence Committee, which is investigating Russian meddling in the presidential election and whether anyone in Mr. Trump’s campaign was involved. Some of the emails were obtained by The Times.

The Trump Organization issued a statement Monday saying: “To be clear, the Trump Organization has never had any real estate holdings or interests in Russia.”

[New York Times]

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]