WASHINGTON/MOSCOW — Before he met with a Russian lawyer to obtain damaging information about Hillary Clinton, Donald Trump Jr. was told in an email that the material was part of an effort by Moscow to aid his father’s presidential run, the New York Times has reported.
Citing three people with knowledge of the email, the paper said that the email was sent to Trump Jr. by Rob Goldstone, a publicist and former British tabloid reporter who helped set up the June 2016 meeting.
It indicated that the Russian government was the source of the information, though there was no suggestion that the promised information came from Moscow’s hacking of the Democratic National Committee, the paper wrote.
The Times first reported about the meeting on Saturday. Trump Jr. has confirmed that it took place at Trump Tower shortly after his father, U.S. President Donald Trump, won the Republican nomination but said there was nothing wrong with it.
“Obviously I’m the first person on a campaign to ever take a meeting to hear info about an opponent… went nowhere but had to listen,” he tweeted earlier Monday.
U.S. intelligence agencies have accused Russia of meddling in the 2016 presidential election in order to damage Clinton and help Trump.
Congressional committees and special counsel Robert Mueller are investigating whether there was any collusion between the Trump campaign and Moscow.
Earlier Monday the Kremlin denied knowing the lawyer involved, Natalia Veselnitskaya, while the White House said that President Trump had only found out about the meeting a couple of days ago.
“No, we do not know who this is, and of course we are not able to keep track of the meetings of every Russian lawyer within our own country, let alone abroad,” said Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov, according to state news agency TASS.
Donald Trump Jr’s meeting with Veselnitskaya was “very short” and there was no follow-up, White House spokeswoman Sarah Sanders said.
The June 2016 meeting was also attended by then-campaign advisor Paul Manafort and the president’s son-in-law, Jared Kushner, according to the Times.
It appears to be the first public confirmation that some members of Trump’s campaign team were “willing to accept Russian help,” the Times reported.
Sanders defended the White House position, saying the point it continues to try to make is that there was no collusion between the campaign and Russia.
“I would certainly say that Don Jr did not collude with anybody to influence the election,” Sanders told reporters. “Again, I think I’ve been very clear. Our position is that no one within the Trump campaign colluded in order to influence the election.”
Trump Jr in an earlier statement that the lawyer “stated that she had information that individuals connected to Russia were funding the Democratic National Committee and supporting Ms Clinton.”
But, he continued, “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.”
On Monday morning he tweeted that the Times’ expose about the meeting was a “big yawn” and denied that their had been any inconsistency in his statements.