Global intrigue

Russian lawyer who met with Donald Trump Jr. speaks out, disputes his claim

Natalia Veselnitskaya (Twitter / NBC News).

Following a barrage of bombshell reports by The New York Times that revealed President Donald Trump’s eldest son, Donald Jr., met with a Russian attorney during the 2016 presidential campaign in the hopes of obtaining dirt on Hillary Clinton, the lawyer, Natalia Veselnitskaya, spoke out on Tuesday morning in an interview with NBC’s Today show and responded to the claims.

According to the reports, Trump Jr. had specifically agreed to the meeting with Veselnitskaya on the basis that she had and would share damaging info on Clinton, who was in the final stages of nailing down the Democratic presidential nomination at the time. Trump had just wrapped up the GOP nomination. As the special counsel investigation into whether the Trump campaign colluded with Russia in an effort to defeat Clinton continues, the revelations by the Times represent the strongest case yet that there were at least meetings between the campaign and Russian operatives. Veselnitskaya reportedly had ties to the Kremlin.

But in her interview with the Today show, Veselnitskaya denied having any connections to the Kremlin and said she didn’t have compromising information on Clinton or the Democratic National Committee.

“I never had any damaging or sensitive information about Hillary Clinton. It was never my intention to have that,” Veselnitskaya told NBC News correspondent Keir Simmons. “It’s quite possible that maybe they were looking for such information,” she said when asked about how Trump Jr. got the impression that she had dirt on Clinton. “They wanted it so badly.” Watch a clip of the interview below.

Trump Jr. has confirmed the meeting with Veselnitskaya took place at Trump Tower on June 9, 2016. Both he and Veselnitskaya agree that one topic discussed at the meeting was the Magnitsky Act, a law passed by Congress and signed by then-President Obama in 2012. Apart from that, Trump Jr. and Veselnitskaya seem to disagree on who called the meeting — she said she never requested a meeting with Trump officials — and what was said. The man who set up the meeting, a music publicist and tabloid reporter named Rob Goldstone, said that Veselnitskaya’s supposed information on Clinton amounted to “nonsense.”

Veselnitskaya contends that she was asked whether she had damaging information. “The question that I was asked was as follows: Whether I had any financial records which might prove that the funds used to sponsor the DNC were coming from inappropriate sources.”

Veselnitskaya said she had no such records and told NBC News “it was never my intention to collect any financial records to that end.” In further developments on Tuesday, the Times published part of an email in which Trump Jr. reacted to the claim that the information the lawyer had “would incriminate Hillary and her dealings with Russia and would be very useful to your father” by replying, “I love it.” The email also said the sharing of the information would be part of the Russia “government’s support for Mr. Trump.”

Moments after the Times published the story, Trump Jr. posted the full email chain on Twitter, showing the complete conversation. As The Associated Press notes, the email chain is the “first documentary evidence of a top Trump associate knowingly engaging with what they believed to be a Russian government effort to help Trump in the 2016 election.”

Of course, the question of whether the Trump campaign colluded with Russia during the 2016 campaign has continued to loom large not only in the early days after the election, but for the entirety of Trump’s presidency.

Hillary Clinton gave her first major interview on the topic at the Women in the World New York Summit back in April. The specter of Trump-Russia collusion was a key point in her conversation with New York Times columnist Nicholas Kristof. “Do you think there was collusion between the Trump campaign and the Kremlin?” Kristof asked Clinton. “I think that is what this investigation should look at,” Clinton responded, referencing the probe into Trump campaign ties with Russia, which was just taking shape at the time. “I hope that the Congress will pull together and realize that because of the success that the Kremlin feels that it had, they’re not going to go away.”

Watch the highlight below and the full interview with Clinton here.

Read the full story at NBC News.


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