Re­ports: First son met Rus­sian

Trump Jr. admits ’16 adop­tion talk with Krem­lin-tied lawyer

Northwest Arkansas Democrat-Gazette - - NEWS - JO BECKER AND MATT APUZZO In­for­ma­tion for this ar­ti­cle was con­trib­uted by Adam Goldman, Sophia Kishkovsky, Eric Lip­ton and Kitty Bennett of The New York Times.

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 Times.

The pre­vi­ously undis­closed meet­ing was also at­tended by Trump’s cam­paign chair­man at the time, Paul Manafort, and 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 Don­ald Trump Jr. and Kush­ner con­firmed the meet­ing af­ter The New York Times ap­proached them with in­for­ma­tion about it. In a state­ment, Don­ald Jr. de­scribed the meet­ing as pri­mar­ily about an adop­tion pro­gram. The state­ment did not ad­dress whether the pres­i­den­tial cam­paign was dis­cussed.

U.S. in­tel­li­gence agencies have con­cluded that Rus­sian hack­ers and pro­pa­gan­dists worked to tip the election to­ward Don­ald Trump, and a spe­cial pros­e­cu­tor and con­gres­sional com­mit­tees are in­ves­ti­gat­ing whether his cam­paign as­so­ciates col­luded with Rus­sians. Pres­i­dent Trump has dis­puted that, but the in­ves­ti­ga­tion has cast a shadow over his ad­min­is­tra­tion for months.

Pres­i­dent Trump has also equiv­o­cated on whether the Rus­sians were solely re­spon­si­ble for med­dling in the election. But in Ger­many on Fri­day, meet­ing Pres­i­dent Vladimir Putin for the first time as pres­i­dent, Trump ques­tioned him about the med­dling. The Rus­sian leader de­nied any in­ter­fer­ence in the election.

The Rus­sian lawyer in­vited to the Trump Tower meet­ing, Natalia Ve­sel­nit­skaya, is best known for mount­ing a mul­ti­pronged at­tack against the Mag­nit­sky Act, a U.S. law that black­lists sus­pected Rus­sian hu­man-rights abusers. Putin re­tal­i­ated for that law by halt­ing Amer­i­can adop­tions of Rus­sian chil­dren.

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 Mag­nit­sky, a lawyer and au­di­tor who died in a Rus­sian prison in 2009 af­ter ex­pos­ing one of the big­gest cor­rup­tion scan­dals un­der Putin’s rule.

Ve­sel­nit­skaya is mar­ried to a for­mer deputy trans­porta­tion min­is­ter, and her clients in­clude state-owned busi­nesses. Her ac­tiv­i­ties and as­so­ci­a­tions had pre­vi­ously drawn the at­ten­tion of the FBI, ac­cord­ing to a for­mer se­nior law en­force­ment of­fi­cial.

In his state­ment, Don­ald 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 fol­low up.”

He added: “I was asked to at­tend the meet­ing by an ac­quain­tance, but was not told the name of the per­son I would be meet­ing with be­fore­hand.”

Don­ald Trump Jr. had de­nied par­tic­i­pat­ing in any cam­paign-re­lated meet­ings with Rus­sian na­tion­als when he was in­ter­viewed by The Times in March. “Did I meet with peo­ple that were Rus­sian? I’m sure, I’m sure I did,” he said. “But none that were set up. None that I can think of at the mo­ment. And cer­tainly none that I was rep­re­sent­ing the cam­paign in any way, shape or form.”

Asked at that time whether he had ever dis­cussed gov­ern­ment poli­cies re­lated to Rus­sia, the younger Trump replied, “A hun­dred per­cent no.”

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.

Kush­ner filed the new form af­ter The Times re­ported in April that he had failed to dis­close any for­eign con­tacts, in­clud­ing meet­ings with the Rus­sian am­bas­sador to the United States and the head of a Rus­sian state bank. Fail­ure to re­port such con­tacts can re­sult in a loss of ac­cess to clas­si­fied in­for­ma­tion and even, if in­for­ma­tion is know­ingly fal­si­fied or con­cealed, in im­pris­on­ment.

Kush­ner’s ad­vis­ers said at the time that the omis­sions were an er­ror and that he had met with the Rus­sians in his of­fi­cial tran­si­tion ca­pac­ity as a main point of con­tact for for­eign of­fi­cials.

In a state­ment Satur­day, Kush­ner’s lawyer, Jamie Gore­lick, said: “He has since sub­mit­ted this in­for­ma­tion, in­clud­ing that dur­ing the cam­paign and tran­si­tion, he had over 100 calls or meet­ings with rep­re­sen­ta­tives of more than 20 coun­tries, most of which were dur­ing tran­si­tion. 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. As Mr. Kush­ner has con­sis­tently stated, he is ea­ger to co­op­er­ate and share what he knows.”

Later Satur­day, a spokesman for the pres­i­dent’s out­side le­gal team con­tended that par­tic­i­pants in the June meet­ing “mis­rep­re­sented who they were and who they worked for.” How­ever, the spokesman, Mark Co­rallo, would not say specif­i­cally who mis­rep­re­sented them­selves or how they did so.

Kush­ner’s lawyers re­ferred all other ques­tions about the Trump Tower meet­ing to Don­ald Trump Jr.

Manafort also re­cently dis­closed the meet­ing, and Don­ald Trump Jr.’s role in or­ga­niz­ing it, to con­gres­sional in­ves­ti­ga­tors who had ques­tions about his for­eign con­tacts, ac­cord­ing to peo­ple fa­mil­iar with the events.

A spokesman for Manafort de­clined to com­ment. Ve­sel­nit­skaya did not im­me­di­ately re­spond to a re­quest for com­ment.

Be­cause Don­ald Trump Jr. does not serve in the ad­min­is­tra­tion and does not have a se­cu­rity clear­ance, he was not re­quired to dis­close his for­eign con­tacts. Fed­eral and con­gres­sional in­ves­ti­ga­tors have not pub­licly asked for any records that would re­quire his dis­clo­sure of Rus­sian con­tacts.

It is not clear whether the Jus­tice De­part­ment was aware of the meet­ing be­fore Kush­ner dis­closed it re­cently. Nei­ther Kush­ner nor Manafort was re­quired to dis­close the con­tent of the meet­ing in their gov­ern­ment fil­ings.

Dur­ing the cam­paign, Don­ald Trump Jr. served as a close ad­viser to his fa­ther, fre­quently ap­pear­ing at cam­paign events. Since the pres­i­dent took of­fice, the younger Trump and his brother, who have worked for the Trump Or­ga­ni­za­tion for most of their adult lives, as­sumed day-to­day con­trol of their fa­ther’s real es­tate em­pire.

AP/MATT YORK

Don­ald Trump Jr. cam­paigns for his fa­ther then-Repub­li­can pres­i­den­tial can­di­date Don­ald Trump on Nov. 4 in Gil­bert, Ariz.

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