Donald Trump Jr. was told of Russian effort to aid his father’s campaign; report
Donald Trump Jr. was told prior to meeting a Russian lawyer whom he believed had information damaging to Hillary Clinton that the material was part of a Russian government effort to help his father’s presidential campaign, the New York Times reported on Monday, citing three people with knowledge of the email.
Publicist Rob Goldstone, who helped broker the June 2016 meeting, sent the email to President Donald Trump’s eldest son, the Times said. Goldstone’s message indicates that the Russian government was the source of the potentially damaging information, according to the Times.
Trump Jr. hired New York lawyer Alan Futerfas, who specializes in criminal defense, to represent him in Russia-related investigations, his office and the lawyer said on Monday, as Republicans voiced concern about the meeting.
Futerfas would not say when he was retained or whether he played any part in the statements Trump Jr. made over the weekend about this meeting with the Russian attorney.
Trump Jr. met the Russian, Natalia Veselnitskaya, in June 2016, during the presidential election campaign, at Trump Tower in New York.
WATCH: Did Trump Jr. give proof of Russian collusion with the Trump Campaign?
He has said he agreed to meet Veselnitskaya, described by the New York Times as having links to the Kremlin, after being promised damaging information about Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton.
Trump‘s son-in-law, Jared Kushner, and Trump‘s then-campaign chairman, Paul Manafort, also attended, the Times said. It called the encounter the first confirmed private meeting of members of Donald Trump‘s inner circle with a Russian national during the campaign.
Congressional committees and a federal special counsel, Robert Mueller, are investigating whether Russia interfered in the election and colluded with the Trump campaign.
WATCH: Senator Mark Warner shocked Trump Jr.’s meeting with Russian lawyer not reported beforehand
Moscow denies interfering, and Trump, who became president on Jan. 20, says there was no collusion.
Futerfas told Reuters: “I look forward to assisting Donald Jr. and, quite frankly, there is nothing to all of the media buzz about the June 9th, 2016 meeting. That will be proven to be the case.”
A Republican member of the U.S. Senate Intelligence Committee, Susan Collins, called on Trump Jr. to testify before the panel, which is looking into accusations of Russian meddling in the election.
“Our intelligence committee needs to interview him and others who attended the meeting,” Senator Susan Collins told reporters at the U.S. Capitol.
Senator Mark Warner, the top Democrat on the Senate Intelligence Committee, said the panel “absolutely” wants to speak to Trump Jr. about the meeting. Warner said he and the Republican committee chairman, Richard Burr, will decide later whether to ask Trump Jr. to testify in public or in a classified setting.
“Rest assured, Donald Trump Jr. will be someone that we’ll want to talk to,” Warner told reporters outside his Senate office.
For his part, Trump Jr. says he is “happy to work with the committee.”
Allegations of the Trump campaign’s ties to Russia have cast a shadow over the Republican president’s first months in office.
White House defends meeting
White House spokeswoman Sarah Sanders said there was nothing inappropriate about the meeting with lawyer Veselnitskaya. “Don Junior took a very short meeting from which there was absolutely no follow-up,” Sanders told reporters.
But Republican Senator Pat Toomey said it was not appropriate for presidential campaigns to solicit or accept negative information about a rival from a Russian.
“It encourages countries to come in and undermine our democratic process. And these countries have great capabilities to do that sort of thing,” he told MSNBC.
In Moscow, Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov told reporters on Monday that the Kremlin did not know the identity of the Russian lawyer.
“No, we don’t know who it is and, certainly, we cannot track down all movements of all Russian lawyers both within Russia and abroad,” Peskov said.
A publicist who arranged the meeting with the lawyer last year said he did so at the request of singer and businessman Emin Agalarov, a Moscow-based client of his.
© 2017 Reuters