Trump son met Krem­lin-linked lawyer Don­ald Jr was promised dam­ag­ing info about Clin­ton

Kuwait Times - - FRONT PAGE -

Don­ald Trump’s el­dest son yes­ter­day ad­mit­ted meet­ing a Rus­sian lawyer to get dirt on his fa­ther’s 2016 ri­val Hil­lary Clin­ton, thrust­ing the White House deep into an­other Rus­siare­lated scan­dal. Trump ju­nior con­firmed re­ports that he was on the trail of dam­ag­ing in­for­ma­tion on the Demo­crat vy­ing to be­come Amer­ica’s first woman pres­i­dent, when he met Natalia Ve­sel­nit­skaya in June 2016. “Ob­vi­ously I’m the first per­son on a cam­paign to ever take a meet­ing to hear info about an op­po­nent,” Trump’s son said in a tweet, claim­ing that it “went nowhere” but he “had to lis­ten.”

The FBI and Congress are in­ves­ti­gat­ing whether the Trump cam­paign col­luded with Rus­sia to in­flu­ence the 2016 pres­i­den­tial vote. US in­tel­li­gence agen­cies have con­cluded that Rus­sian Pres­i­dent Vladimir Putin ap­proved a mass ef­fort to tilt the elec­tion in Trump’s fa­vor, in­clud­ing hack­ing and leak­ing em­bar­rass­ing emails from Democrats. The New York Times re­ported that al­most all of Trump’s most se­nior cam­paign of­fi­cials - in­clud­ing Paul Manafort and Jared Kush­ner - were also in the meet­ing last year.

Ve­sel­nit­skaya is not well known in Rus­sia, but rep­re­sented the son of a se­nior Rus­sian of­fi­cial who was in­volved in a ma­jor fraud probe that had in­ter­na­tional reper­cus­sions. In a state­ment to the Times, the younger Trump said the lawyer “stated that she had in­for­ma­tion that in­di­vid­u­als con­nected to Rus­sia were fund­ing the Demo­cratic Na­tional Com­mit­tee and sup­port­ing Mrs Clin­ton”. “It quickly be­came clear that she had no mean­ing­ful in­for­ma­tion,” he said, adding

that the lawyer then be­gan dis­cussing the adop­tion of Rus­sian chil­dren by Amer­i­can cou­ples un­der a pro­gram Putin had sus­pended.

The meet­ing took place at a piv­otal point in the 2016 cam­paign, af­ter Trump had shocked Repub­li­cans with a string of pri­mary vic­to­ries and Clin­ton had all-but se­cured the Demo­cratic nom­i­na­tion. US of­fi­cials have sought to dis­tance the pres­i­dent him­self from the en­counter. “The Pres­i­dent was not aware of and did not at­tend the meet­ing,” Mark Co­rallo, a spokesman for Pres­i­dent Trump’s pri­vate lawyer, told AFP. A spokesper­son for Kush­ner did not re­spond to re­quest for com­ment. The Krem­lin said it “did not know who” Ve­sel­nit­skaya was. “We can’t be aware of all the meet­ings Rus­sian lawyers have abroad,” said spokesman Dmitri Peskov.

Pres­i­dent Trump has re­peat­edly de­cried al­le­ga­tions of col­lu­sion as “fake news” and equiv­o­cated about whether Rus­sia tried to in­ter­fere in the elec­tion. Dur­ing a meet­ing with Putin on Fri­day on the mar­gins of the G20 sum­mit in Germany, Trump raised the is­sue of elec­tion in­ter­fer­ence be­fore turn­ing to other sub­jects. “I strongly pressed Pres­i­dent Putin twice about Rus­sian med­dling in our elec­tion,” Trump later said. “He ve­he­mently de­nied it. I’ve al­ready given my opin­ion...”

That meet­ing in Hamburg is rais­ing yet more Rus­sia-re­lated prob­lems for the White House. Scram­bling for con­crete vic­to­ries to take away from the con­tro­ver­sial two-hour-plus sit-down, the White House hailed deals es­tab­lish­ing a joint “cy­ber unit” and a cease­fire in south­ern Syria.

Trea­sury Sec­re­tary Steven Mnuchin claimed Trump was “bril­liant” dur­ing the meet­ing and said the cy­ber unit would “make sure that Rus­sia and no­body else in­ter­feres in any demo­cratic elec­tions.” — AFP

Natalia Ve­sel­nit­skaya

Don­ald Trump Jr

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