Thursday 21 September 2017

Russian who met Donald Trump Jr during election campaign: 'I couldn't have had information on Hillary Clinton'

  • US president defends son's 'transparency' and labels him 'a high-quality person'
  • Donald Trump Jnr on offer from Russia: 'I love it'
Donald Trump Jr. (C) hugs his father, Donald Trump, as Donald Jr's wife Vanessa (L) walks past REUTERS/Mike Segar/File photo
Donald Trump Jr. (C) hugs his father, Donald Trump, as Donald Jr's wife Vanessa (L) walks past REUTERS/Mike Segar/File photo
Independent.ie Newsdesk

Independent.ie Newsdesk

A Russian lawyer who met with Donald Trump Jr during the 2016 election campaign has said she had no compromising information on Hillary Clinton to offer - in contrast to what an email exchange released by the US president's eldest son suggests.

Asked if she had compromising information on the Democrat candidate, Natalia Veselnitskaya said that was "not true".

She added: "I never had compromising information and could not have had."

She insisted she "offered to meet with Trump Jr" in a "private setting not connected to the fact that he is the son of the presidential candidate".

Ms Veselnitskaya also claimed she is not sure Mr Trump had even won the Republican nomination to run for the White House at that time.

Earlier, US President Donald Trump said his eldest son, Donald Trump Jr, is "a high-quality person" and has applauded "his transparency".

Donald Trump Jr acknowledged meeting a Russian lawyer who he thought might have negative information on Hillary Clinton during last year's presidential campaign (AP)
Donald Trump Jr acknowledged meeting a Russian lawyer who he thought might have negative information on Hillary Clinton during last year's presidential campaign (AP)

White House spokeswoman Sarah Huckabee Sanders read a brief statement from the president in response to revelations that Mr Trump Jr agreed to hear damaging information on Hillary Clinton as part of the Russian government's effort to help his father.

Donald Trump's eldest son released an email chain that shows him discussing plans to hear damaging information on Hillary Clinton as "part of Russia and its government's support for Mr Trump".

The emails are the first documentary evidence of a top Trump associate knowingly engaging with what they believed to be a Russian government effort to help Mr Trump in the 2016 election.

In one of the emails to Donald Trump Jr, the music publicist seeking to set up a meeting with a lawyer from Russia describes her as a "Russian government attorney".

Hours after the emails were released, the president rose to his son's defence.

"My son is a high quality person and I applaud his transparency," Mr Trump said in the statement read to reporters by Mrs Huckabee Sanders.

She referred all questions about the emails to outside lawyers hired by the president's son.

Mr Trump Jr was deeply involved in his father's presidential campaign.

He posted the emails on Twitter on Tuesday and issued a statement describing it as an effort "to be totally transparent".

The emails with publicist Rob Goldstone show Mr Trump Jr was told the Russian government had information that could "incriminate" Mrs Clinton and her dealings with Russia.

Mr Goldstone wrote to Mr Trump Jr the information "would be very useful to your father".

He was working to connect Mr Trump Jr to Russian lawyer Natalia Veselnitskaya, who later met with Mr Trump Jr in New York at Trump Tower.

Ms Veselnitskaya has denied that she ever worked for the Russian government.

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"If it's what you say I love it especially later in the summer," Mr Trump Jr replied to Mr Goldstone in one of a series of email exchanges the younger Trump posted to Twitter.

The emails are dated early June.

The email release followed days of evolving accounts from Mr Trump Jr about the nature of the meeting and its purpose.

The president's son posted the emails only after they were obtained by The New York Times.

On Saturday, Mr Trump Jr described the encounter as being a "short introductory meeting" focused on the disbanded programme that had allowed American adoptions of Russian children.

Moscow ended the adoptions in response to Magnitsky Act sanctions created in response to alleged human rights violations in Russia.

A day later, Mr Trump Jr changed his account, acknowledging that he was told beforehand that Ms Veselnitskaya might have information "helpful" to the Trump campaign, and was told by her during the meeting that she had something about Mrs Clinton.

In his third description of what occurred, on Tuesday, he said he had believed the information he would hear about Mrs Clinton would be political opposition research.

He said that he first wanted to speak by phone, but that when that did not work out, he was told that the lawyer would be in New York "and I decided to take the meeting"

"The woman, as she has said publicly, was not a government official," Mr Trump Jr said in the statement on Tuesday.

"And, as we have said, she had no information to provide and wanted to talk about adoption policy and the Magnitsky Act."

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