Trump’s son, ad­vis­ers met with Rus­sian lawyer in June 2016

The Washington Post Sunday - - NEWS - BY TOM HAM­BURGER AND ROS­ALIND S. HELDERMAN tom.ham­burger@wash­post.com ros­alind.helderman@wash­post.com

The pres­i­dent’s el­dest son, Don­ald Trump Jr., ac­knowl­edged at­tend­ing a June 2016 meet­ing at Trump Tower with a Rus­sian lawyer tied to the Krem­lin, one of the first con­firmed en­coun­ters be­tween Pres­i­dent Trump’s in­ner cir­cle and a Rus­sian na­tional dur­ing the pres­i­den­tial cam­paign.

In a state­ment dis­trib­uted Satur­day evening, Trump Jr. con­firmed he had par­tic­i­pated in a “short in­tro­duc­tory meet­ing,” which, per his re­quest, was also at­tended by Jared Kush­ner, the pres­i­dent’s son-in-law, and the chair of the Trump cam­paign, Paul Manafort.

“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 that time and there was no fol­low-up,” Trump Jr. said in the state­ment. “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.”

The meet­ing was re­ported Satur­day by the New York Times.

Kush­ner’s lawyer said in a state­ment that the pres­i­dent’s son-in-law had dis­closed the ses­sion pre­vi­ously on his se­cu­rity clear­ance forms. But the new pub­lic re­port adds to the ros­ter of cu­ri­ous pri­vate meet­ings be­tween Trump al­lies and Rus­sians dur­ing and af­ter the cam­paign.

The meet­ing be­tween the Rus­sian lawyer, Natalia Ve­sel­nit­skaya, and the pres­i­dent’s in­ner cir­cle be­came pub­lic the day af­ter Pres­i­dent Trump met in Ger­many with Rus­sian Pres­i­dent Vladimir Putin for the first time. Trump ques­tioned Putin about Rus­sian med­dling dur­ing the 2016 election; the Rus­sian leader de­nied any such in­ter­fer­ence.

Ve­sel­nit­skaya is well known to ad­vo­cates of sanc­tions against Rus­sia, par­tic­u­larly the Mag­nit­sky Act, which pro­hibits U.S. in­ter­ac­tion with Rus­sians al­leged to have com­mit­ted hu­man rights vi­o­la­tions. Congress’s pas­sage of the law in 2012 an­gered Putin and led him to re­tal­i­ate by halt­ing Amer­i­can adop­tions of Rus­sian chil­dren.

The adop­tion is­sue is fre­quently used as a talk­ing point by op­po­nents of the Mag­nit­sky Act, said Wil­liam Brow­der, an Amer­i­can fi­nancier who worked in Rus­sia and lob­bied for the sanc­tions, which are named af­ter an au­di­tor Brow­der em­ployed, Sergei L. Mag­nit­sky. Mag­nit­sky died in a Rus­sian prison un­der mys­te­ri­ous cir­cum­stances in 2009 af­ter ex­pos­ing a cor­rup­tion scan­dal.

The act lists the names of in­di­vid­u­als in Rus­sia, in­clud­ing judges and other pub­lic of­fi­cials, ef­fec­tively black­list­ing them from do­ing busi­ness in the United States.

“I can’t imag­ine that she brought up any­thing dur­ing the Trump Tower meet­ing other than the Mag­nit­sky Act,” said Brow­der, who re­called Ve­sel­nit­skaya de­fend­ing her Rus­sian clients against mon­ey­laun­der­ing al­le­ga­tions made by the U.S. gov­ern­ment con­nected to a tax fraud that Mag­nit­sky un­cov­ered.

Ve­sel­nit­skaya could not be reached for com­ment late Satur­day.

Manafort’s lawyer de­clined to com­ment on the Times re­port.

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