Rus­sian will­ing to tes­tify; Trump al­lies set

Northwest Arkansas Democrat-Gazette - - NATIONAL - MARY CLARE JALONICK

WASH­ING­TON — The Rus­sian lawyer who met with Pres­i­dent Don­ald Trump’s el­dest son dur­ing the 2016 elec­tion cam­paign said she’s ready to tes­tify be­fore the U.S. Se­nate and “clar­ify the sit­u­a­tion be­hind this mass hys­te­ria.”

Don­ald Trump Jr. agreed to meet with Natalia Ve­sel­nit­skaya in the ex­pec­ta­tion of re­ceiv­ing in­crim­i­nat­ing in­for­ma­tion about Demo­cratic can­di­date Hil­lary Clin­ton as part of a Rus­sian gov­ern­ment ef­fort to help his fa­ther’s White House cam­paign, ac­cord­ing to emails Trump Jr. has pub­licly re­leased.

The pres­i­dent’s son-in-law, Jared Kush­ner, and then-cam­paign chair­man Paul Manafort also at­tended the June 2016 meet­ing at Trump Tower. The Se­nate Ju­di­ciary Com­mit­tee on Wednes­day an­nounced that Trump Jr. and Manafort will tes­tify July 26 in its in­ves­ti­ga­tion into Rus­sian med­dling.

Also, a lawyer for Kush­ner said the ad­viser will speak to the Se­nate In­tel­li­gence Com­mit­tee on Mon­day.

“As Mr. Kush­ner has been say­ing since March, he has been and is pre­pared to vol­un­tar­ily co­op­er­ate and pro­vide what­ever in­for­ma­tion he has on the in­ves­ti­ga­tions to Congress,” at­tor­ney Abbe Low­ell said. “He will con­tinue to co­op­er­ate and ap­pre­ci­ates the op­por­tu­nity to as­sist in putting this mat­ter to rest.”

That meet­ing will be pri­vate.

The Trump Tower meet­ing raised new ques­tions about the Trump cam­paign’s pos­si­ble ties to Moscow, which are be­ing scru­ti­nized by fed­eral and con­gres­sional in­ves­ti­ga­tors. These ques­tions have only in­ten­si­fied as the iden­ti­ties of other Rus­sia-con­nected par­tic­i­pants have be­come known.

“I am ready to clar­ify the sit­u­a­tion be­hind the mass hys­te­ria, but only through lawyers or tes­ti­fy­ing in the Se­nate,” Ve­sel­nit­skaya said in an in­ter­view with Krem­lin-funded RT tele­vi­sion broad­cast Wednes­day.

“If the Se­nate wishes to hear the real story, I will be happy to speak up and share ev­ery­thing I wanted to tell Mr. Trump,” she added. That ap­peared to be a ref­er­ence to Ve­sel­nit­skaya’s pre­vi­ous state­ment that the meet­ing with Trump Jr. fo­cused on U.S.-Rus­sian adop­tion poli­cies and a U.S. sanc­tions law.

Ve­sel­nit­skaya has de­nied work­ing for the Rus­sian gov­ern­ment. She has not re­sponded to re­peated at­tempts by The As­so­ci­ated Press to reach her for com­ment.

Con­gres­sional in­ves­ti­ga­tors in both par­ties have said they want to hear from those in­volved in the meet­ing. The top Demo­crat on the Se­nate in­tel­li­gence panel, Mark Warner of Vir­ginia, said Wednes­day af­ter­noon that the panel hasn’t yet in­vited Ve­sel­nit­skaya to tes­tify, but that he wants to hear from her and others who at­tended.

Warner said “it’s still be­ing worked out” whether some of that com­mit­tee’s more high-pro­file wit­nesses, in­clud­ing Trump Jr. and Manafort, should tes­tify pub­licly or pri­vately. The Se­nate and House in­tel­li­gence pan­els con­duct most of their in­ter­views in pri­vate, but they oc­ca­sion­ally hold open hear­ings.

The Se­nate Ju­di­ciary Com­mit­tee is re­view­ing a law that over­sees the reg­is­tra­tion of for­eign agents. The panel has been in­ves­ti­gat­ing one of the par­tic­i­pants at the meet­ing, Rus­sian-Amer­i­can lob­by­ist and former Soviet mil­i­tary of­fi­cer Ri­nat Akhmetshin, as part of its probe into the law.

The House In­tel­li­gence Com­mit­tee is also in­ves­ti­gat­ing the Rus­sian med­dling.


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