Saturday 21 October 2017

Russian lobbyist who met Trump Jr testifies to grand jury

People march and chant slogans against US President Donald Trump's proposed end of the DACA program that protects immigrant children from deportation at a protest in New York City. Photo: Reuters
People march and chant slogans against US President Donald Trump's proposed end of the DACA program that protects immigrant children from deportation at a protest in New York City. Photo: Reuters

Chad Day and Eric Tucker in Washington

A GRAND jury used by special counsel Robert Mueller has heard secret testimony from a Russian-American lobbyist who attended a June 2016 meeting with US President Donald Trump's eldest son.

A person familiar with the matter confirmed to reporters that Rinat Akhmetshin had appeared before Mr Mueller's grand jury in recent weeks. The person spoke on condition of anonymity.

The revelation is the clearest indication yet that Mr Mueller and his team of investigators view the meeting, which came weeks after Mr Trump had secured the Republican presidential nomination, as a relevant inquiry point in the broader probe into Russian interference in the 2016 election.

The meeting included Donald Trump Jr; the president's son-in-law, Jared Kushner; and his former campaign chairman, Paul Manafort. Emails released by Mr Trump Jr show he took the meeting expecting he would be receiving damaging information about Hillary Clinton as part of what was described to him as a Russian government effort to aid the Trump campaign.

'The Financial Times' first reported Mr Akhmetshin's grand jury appearance.

Mr Akhmetshin has since declined to comment to reporters.

The confirmation of Mr Akhmetshin's grand jury testimony comes after he spoke at length about his involvement in the Trump Tower meeting in an interview last month.

Mr Akhmetshin, a former Soviet military officer who served in a counter-intelligence unit, is also a well-known Washington lobbyist. He has been representing Russian interests trying to undermine the story of lawyer Sergei Magnitsky, who died in a Russian prison and is the namesake of a US sanctions law. Mr Akhmetshin has been reported to have ties to Russian intelligence but he has denied that, calling the allegations a "smear campaign".

Mr Mueller and his team first signalled their interest in the Trump Tower gathering last month by contacting an attorney for at least some of the Russians who attended.

The meeting at issue was disclosed earlier this year to Congress and first revealed by 'The New York Times'.

Mr Trump Jr has offered evolving explanations for the circumstances of the meeting, initially saying the purpose was to discuss adoption and later acknowledging he anticipated receiving information he thought could be damaging to Mrs Clinton.

Irish Independent

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