Rus­sian’s of­fer said to be Clin­ton dirt

But talk yielded zilch, Trump Jr. says

Northwest Arkansas Democrat-Gazette - - FRONT PAGE - In­for­ma­tion for this ar­ti­cle was con­trib­uted by Jo Becker, Matt Apuzzo, Adam Goldman, Mag­gie Haber­man, Sophia Kishkovsky, Eric Lip­ton and Kitty Ben­nett of The New York Times; by Ros­alind S. Hel­der­man and Tom Ham­burger of The Wash­ing­ton Post; and by staff

WASH­ING­TON — Don­ald Trump’s el­dest son said Sun­day that he met with a Krem­lin-linked lawyer shortly af­ter his fa­ther clinched the GOP pres­i­den­tial nom­i­na­tion, hop­ing to get in­for­ma­tion about Demo­cratic can­di­date Hil­lary Clin­ton.

Don­ald Trump Jr. at­tended the meet­ing at Trump Tower on June 9, 2016, with his fa­ther’s cam­paign chair­man at the time, Paul Manafort, and Trump’s son-in-law, Jared Kush­ner. Manafort and Kush­ner only re­cently dis­closed the meet­ing, though not its con­tent, in con­fi­den­tial gov­ern­ment doc­u­ments de­scribed to The New York Times.

In a state­ment, Trump Jr. said at­tor­ney Natalia Ve­sel­nit­skaya claimed to have in­for­ma­tion that “in­di­vid­u­als con­nected to Rus­sia were fund­ing the Demo­cratic Na­tional Com­mit­tee” and

sup­port­ing Clin­ton.

He said no de­tails or sup­port­ing in­for­ma­tion were ever of­fered, and that his fa­ther was un­aware of the meet­ing.

The ac­counts of the meet­ing rep­re­sent the first public in­di­ca­tion that mem­bers of Don­ald Trump’s cam­paign were will­ing to ac­cept Rus­sian help be­fore the elec­tion. Ac­cord­ing to three ad­vis­ers to the White House briefed on the meet­ing and two oth­ers with knowl­edge of it, the ex­pec­ta­tion was that Ve­sel­nit­skaya would pro­duce com­pro­mis­ing in­for­ma­tion about Clin­ton.

Ve­sel­nit­skaya said in a state­ment Satur­day that “noth­ing at all about the pres­i­den­tial cam­paign” was dis­cussed.

In his state­ment Sun­day, Trump Jr. said he had met with the Rus­sian lawyer at the re­quest of “an ac­quain­tance I knew from the 2013 Miss Uni­verse pageant,” which his fa­ther, then the owner of the pageant, had taken to Moscow.

“Af­ter pleas­antries were ex­changed,” he said, “the woman stated that she had in­for­ma­tion that in­di­vid­u­als con­nected to Rus­sia were fund­ing the Demo­cratic Na­tional

Com­mit­tee and sup­port­ing Ms. Clin­ton. Her state­ments were vague, am­bigu­ous and made no sense. No de­tails or sup­port­ing in­for­ma­tion was pro­vided or even of­fered. It quickly be­came clear that she had no mean­ing­ful in­for­ma­tion.”

He said she then turned the con­ver­sa­tion to adop­tion of Rus­sian chil­dren and the Mag­nit­sky Act, a U.S. law that black­lists sus­pected Rus­sian hu­man-rights abusers. The law so en­raged Rus­sian Pres­i­dent Vladimir Putin that he re­tal­i­ated by halt­ing U.S. adop­tions of 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,” Trump Jr. said.

Trump Jr. said his fa­ther “knew noth­ing of the meet­ing or these events” and that there was no fur­ther con­tact with Ve­sel­nit­skaya af­ter what he said was a 20- to 30-minute meet­ing.

When he was first asked about the meet­ing Satur­day, Trump Jr. said only that it was pri­mar­ily about adop­tions and men­tioned noth­ing about Clin­ton.

Mark Co­rallo, a spokesman for the pres­i­dent’s lawyer, said Sun­day that “the pres­i­dent was not aware of and did not at­tend the meet­ing.”

Lawyers and spokes­men for Kush­ner and Manafort did not im­me­di­ately re­spond to re­quests for com­ment. In both his Satur­day and Sun­day state­ments, Trump Jr. said he asked Manafort and Kush­ner to at­tend. On Sun­day, he said he did not tell them what the meet­ing was about.

Rob Gold­stone, the pres­i­dent of the mu­sic man­age­ment and public re­la­tions firm Oui 2 En­ter­tain­ment, said Sun­day that he was the ac­quain­tance who ar­ranged the meet­ing at the re­quest of a Rus­sian client and that he at­tended with Ve­sel­nit­skaya. Two peo­ple briefed on the meet­ing con­firmed that Gold­stone had ar­ranged it. Gold­stone, who has been ac­tive with the Miss Uni­verse pageant, would not name the Rus­sian client.

The Trump Tower meet­ing was dis­closed to gov­ern­ment of­fi­cials in re­cent days, when Kush­ner, who is also a se­nior White House ad­viser, filed a re­vised ver­sion of a form re­quired to ob­tain se­cu­rity clear­ance.

Trump Jr. does not serve in the ad­min­is­tra­tion and does not have a se­cu­rity clear­ance, so he has not been re­quired to dis­close his for­eign con­tacts. He and his brother Eric have as­sumed day-to-day con­trol of their fa­ther’s real es­tate

em­pire. Fed­eral and con­gres­sional in­ves­ti­ga­tors have not pub­licly asked for any records that would re­quire his dis­clo­sure of Rus­sian con­tacts.

On Sun­day morn­ing on Fox News, the White House chief of staff, Reince Priebus, de­scribed the Trump Tower meet­ing as a “big noth­ing burger.”

“Talk­ing about is­sues of for­eign pol­icy, is­sues re­lated to our place in the world, is­sues im­por­tant to the Amer­i­can peo­ple is not un­usual,” he said.

But Rep. Adam Schiff of Cal­i­for­nia, the lead­ing Demo­crat on the House In­tel­li­gence Com­mit­tee, one of the pan­els in­ves­ti­gat­ing Rus­sian elec­tion in­ter­fer­ence, said he wanted to ques­tion “ev­ery­one that was at that meet­ing.”

“There’s no rea­son for this Rus­sian gov­ern­ment ad­vo­cate to be meet­ing with Paul Manafort or with Mr. Kush­ner or the pres­i­dent’s son if it wasn’t about the cam­paign and Rus­sia pol­icy,” Schiff said af­ter the ini­tial New York Times re­port.

Ve­sel­nit­skaya, how­ever, said in the state­ment Satur­day that she had “never acted on be­half of the Rus­sian gov­ern­ment.”

The lawyer has long cam­paigned against the Mag­nit­sky Act, a law that pro­voked a dis­pute with the

Krem­lin when Pres­i­dent Barack Obama signed it into law in 2012.

Gold­stone said Ve­sel­nit­skaya wanted to meet with the Trump cam­paign to dis­cuss ways that Don­ald Trump could be help­ful on the Mag­nit­sky Act is­sue should he be elected pres­i­dent.

“Once she pre­sented what she had to say, it was like, ‘Can you keep an eye on it? Should [Trump] be in power, maybe that’s [a] con­ver­sa­tion that he may have in the fu­ture?’” Gold­stone said.

Ve­sel­nit­skaya’s work to fight the law has also in­cluded at­tempts to dis­credit the man af­ter whom it was named, Sergei Mag­nit­sky, a Rus­sian lawyer and au­di­tor who sup­port­ers say was killed for ex­pos­ing fraud.

In 2008, Mag­nit­sky ac­cused Rus­sian po­lice of­fi­cials of steal­ing $230 mil­lion in tax re­bates through a com­pany run by U.S.-born fi­nancier Wil­liam Brow­der. Mag­nit­sky was then ar­rested on tax eva­sion ac­cu­sa­tions, and he died in his cell af­ter he was im­pris­oned for more than a year. A Rus­sian hu­man-rights panel found that he had been as­saulted.

Un­der the law named for Mag­nit­sky, some 44 Rus­sian cit­i­zens have been put on a list that al­lows the United States to seize their U.S. as­sets and deny them visas. The United States as­serts that many of them are con­nected to the fraud ex­posed by Mag­nit­sky.

Putin has called the law an “out­ra­geous act,” and, in ad­di­tion to ban­ning U.S. adop­tions, he com­piled what be­came known as an “anti-Mag­nit­sky” black­list of U.S. cit­i­zens.

Ve­sel­nit­skaya’s ef­forts to dis­credit Mag­nit­sky in­clude her work on The Mag­nit­sky Act. Be­hind the Scenes, a film that dis­putes the widely ac­cepted ver­sion of Mag­nit­sky’s life and death. In the film and in her state­ment, she said Brow­der was the true cul­prit, hir­ing Mag­nit­sky to in­ves­ti­gate the fraud af­ter three of Brow­der’s in­vest­ment fund com­pa­nies in Rus­sia were seized.

Brow­der called the film a state-spon­sored smear cam­paign.

“She’s not just some pri­vate lawyer,” Brow­der said of Ve­sel­nit­skaya. “She is a tool of the Rus­sian gov­ern­ment.”

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