WASHINGTON President Donald Trump’s son Donald Trump Jr. agreed to meet with a Kremlin-linked lawyer during the 2016 campaign after being promised damaging information about Hillary Clinton, the New York Times reported on Sunday, citing three advisers to the White House.
Trump’s then-campaign chairman, Paul Manafort, and his son-in-law, Jared Kushner, also attended the meeting at Trump Tower on June 9, 2016, two weeks after Trump won the Republican nomination, the Times reported.
The Times quoted a statement from Donald Trump Jr. in which he acknowledged meeting with Russian lawyer Natalia Veselnitskaya.
“After pleasantries were exchanged, the woman stated that she had information that individuals connected to Russia were funding the Democratic National Committee and supporting Ms. Clinton,” the Times quoted Donald Trump Jr. as saying. Clinton was the 2016 Democratic presidential nominee.
“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.”
The Times said Veselnitskaya then turned the conversation to the adoption of Russian children and a U.S. law blackisting Russians linked to alleged human-rights abuses.
President Trump was “not aware of and did not attend” the meeting reported by the Times, Mark Corallo, a spokesman for Trump’s legal team, said in an emailed statement.
Trump Jr. was quoted saying he believed information on Clinton was only a pretext for the meeting. The Times said it was unclear whether Veselnitskaya produced the promised compromising information about Clinton.
Trump Jr. told the Times he did not tell Manafort and Kushner what the meeting was about when he asked them to attend.
Representatives for Manafort and Kushner did not immediately respond to a Reuters’ request for comment.
Allegations of the Trump campaign’s ties to Russia have cast a shadow over Donald Trump’s first five months in office, distracting from attempts by his fellow Republicans in Congress to overhaul the U.S. healthcare and tax systems.
The Kremlin has denied U.S. intelligence agencies’ conclusion that Moscow tried to tilt the election in Trump’s favor, using such means as hacking into the emails of senior Democrats.
Trump has repeatedly denied any collusion.
The allegations came up during Trump’s meeting on Friday with Russian President Vladimir Putin but the two agreed to focus on better ties rather than litigating the past.
Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said Trump accepted Putin’s assertions the allegations of Russian meddling were false.
Trump said on Sunday he and Putin had discussed forming a cyber security unit, an idea harshly criticized by Republicans who said Moscow could not be trusted after its alleged meddling in the 2016 U.S. election.
(Reporting by Phil Stewart and David Brunnstrom; Editing by Peter Cooney and Chris Reese)