Financial Times - Trump Jr was told of Russian plot to boost father’s campaign

Financial Times - Trump Jr was told of Russian plot to boost father’s campaign

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July 11, 2017. David J Lynch.

Email said damaging material on Clinton was part of Kremlin effort to sway election.

Donald Trump Jr met a Russian lawyer last year expecting to receive damaging information about Hillary Clinton after being told in an email that the material was part of Moscow’s efforts to boost his father’s presidential bid.

As Donald Trump was closing in on the Republican party’s nomination, the candidate’s son received the email from Robert Goldstone, a public relations executive and former British tabloid journalist, according to Alan Futerfas, a New York lawyer representing Mr Trump Jr.

“Goldstone contacted Don Jr, in an email and suggested that people had information concerning alleged wrongdoing by Democratic party frontrunner, Hillary Clinton, in her dealings with Russia,” Mr Futerfas said in an email to the Financial Times. “Don Jr’s takeaway from this communication was that someone had information potentially helpful to the campaign and it was coming from someone he knew.”

On June 9 2016, Mr Trump Jr — joined by his father’s campaign manager Paul Manafort and son-in-law Jared Kushner — met Natalia Veselnitskaya, a Russian lawyer friendly to the Kremlin. The meeting lasted “about 20-30 minutes and nothing came of it”, according to the statement from Mr Futerfas. 

“This is much ado about nothing,” he added. 

Sarah Huckabee Sanders, White House spokeswoman, referred questions about the meeting to Mr Futerfas, who said the president “knew nothing about it”.

Mr Futerfas did not respond to follow-up queries about the contents of the Goldstone email, which was first described by the New York Times late on Monday. The newspaper quoted three people familiar with the message, who said it had identified the Russian government as the source of the allegedly damaging information about Mrs Clinton. 

Mr Goldstone did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

The disclosure is the clearest sign to date that the Trump campaign was aware of Russian efforts to assist his candidacy during the 2016 race. It also marks the latest in a series of explanations about the meeting with Ms Veselnitskaya from the Trump camp which have contained shifting justifications for the session.

On Sunday, after first stating that the meeting was focused on US-Russian adoption issues, Mr Trump Jr acknowledged he had attended believing he would receive compromising information about his father’s opponent from Ms Veselnitskaya, a Russian lawyer and well-known advocate for lifting Russian sanctions. 

The New York Times report that Mr Trump Jr was told the material originated with the Russian government came after months of denials by the president and his associates of any campaign collusion with Moscow. 

Robert Mueller, the justice department’s special counsel, and the House and Senate intelligence committees are conducting separate investigations into the alleged collusion with Russia.

On Monday two members of the Senate committee, Democrat Mark Warner and Republican Susan Collins, said they wanted the president’s son and others at the June 9 2016 meeting to appear before the panel. 

Mr Futerfas said Mr Trump Jr had not yet received an official request from “any committee or office” to appear for questioning, but would co-operate and “convey what he knows”. 

The bottom line is that Don Jr did nothing wrong,” Mr Futerfas said. 

Administration critics said the revelation was the most concrete sign that the Trump campaign actively courted Russian assistance during the 2016 race.

“This isn’t just smoke any more,” said Adrienne Watson, spokeswoman for the Democratic National Committee. “Donald Jr was willing to accept the help of a hostile foreign government to sway the election.” 

Adam Schiff, the ranking Democrat on the House intelligence committee, noted that the Trump Tower meeting occurred more than a month before the first unauthorised release of emails from the DNC, which US intelligence believes was orchestrated by the Kremlin. 

“If Don Jr learnt of Kremlin intent to help Trump in June, that was well before public knew,” Mr Schiff wrote on Twitter. 

US intelligence agencies earlier this year said publicly that the release of Democratic emails was part of a Russian government operation ordered by President Vladimir Putin to tilt the election towards Mr Trump.

The US president has repeatedly cast doubt on that conclusion, saying that while Russia apparently meddled in the campaign, other countries did as well. On Sunday, after saying that he had pressed Mr Putin on the issue during a meeting at the G20 summit in Hamburg, he said it was time to “move forward” with Russia.

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