segunda-feira, 10 de julho de 2017

Donald Trump Jr reportedly told in email of Russian government efforts to help campaign

Donald Trump Jr met the Russian, Natalia Veselnitskaya, in June 2016, during the presidential election campaign, at Trump Tower in New York. Senator Mark Warner, the top Democrat on the Senate Intelligence Committee, says the panel ‘absolutely’ wants to speak to the president’s son about the meeting he had with a Russian lawyer who promised damaging information about Hillary Clinton during the campaign.

Donald Trump Jr reportedly told in email of Russian government efforts to help campaign

President’s son faces calls to testify before Senate over Russia meeting
Donald Trump Jr met Russian lawyer who promised information on Clinton

The revelation that Donald Trump Jr attended a meeting with a Russian lawyer is the first public evidence that members of the Trump campaign were willing to accept Russian assistance.

David Smith and Ben Jacobs in Washington, Jon Swaine in New York and Shaun Walker in Moscow
Monday 10 July 2017 20.16 BST Last modified on Tuesday 11 July 2017 05.40 BST

Donald Trump Jr was informed in an email ahead of a meeting with a Russian lawyer that damaging information about Hillary Clinton to be handed over was part of an effort by the Russian government to help the Trump campaign, the New York Times has reported.

The Times did not publish the email – sent by Rob Goldstone, the intermediary who set up the meeting – but reported that three different people had described it to them.

Trump Jr’s meeting is the first “clear evidence” in public of senior Trump campaign members meeting with Russians while looking for such material, a leading Democrat on the Senate intelligence committee said on Monday.

Mark Corallo, a spokesman for Marc Kasowitz, the president’s private attorney handling the Russia investigation, said simply: “The president was not aware of and did not attend the meeting.”

The White House did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

A spokeswoman for the DNC said: “Donald Jr was willing to accept the help of a hostile foreign government to sway the election. In the ensuing months, the Trump family watched as news of the Kremlin’s hacking campaign developed and they did nothing but celebrate and encourage it to continue.”

Top Democrat calls Trump Jnr meeting with Russia lawyer ‘remarkable’
But Alan Futerfas, appointed Trump Jr’s lawyer to represent him in the Russian investigations, described the New York Times report as “much ado about nothing”.

In a statement issued on Monday evening, Futerfas said May and June 2016 had been “an intensely busy time for Don Jr”.

The statement went on: “During this busy period, Robert Goldstone contacted Don Jr in an email and suggested that people had information concerning alleged wrongdoing by Democratic party front-runner, Hillary Clinton, in her dealings with Russia. 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.

“Don Jr had no knowledge as to what specific information, if any, would be discussed. Further, at no time was there ever any understanding or commitment that he, or anyone else, would find the information, whatever it turned out to be, to be reliable, credible or of interest, or would even survive due diligence. The meeting lasted about 20-30 minutes, and nothing came of it. His father knew nothing about it. The bottom line is that Don, Jr. did nothing wrong.”

The statement said that Natalia Veselnitskaya, the lawyer who met Trump Jr, “was not a government official”, adding that he “has not received any request from any committee or office. If we do, we will work with any committee or office to convey what he knows.”

Mark Warner of Virginia, the top Democrat on the intelligence committee, said he “absolutely” wanted to speak to the president’s son about the meeting. “This is the first time that the public has seen clear evidence of senior-level members of the Trump campaign meeting with Russians” to obtain information damaging to Clinton, Warner added.

Trump Jr attended the meeting in June 2016 at Trump Tower in New York – allegedly brokered by Goldstone, a British music publicist – with Veselnitskaya, a lawyer who reportedly has ties to the Kremlin; Paul Manafort, who was the Trump campaign’s chairman at the time, and Donald Trump’s son-in-law, Jared Kushner. The revelation, first reported by the New York Times, was the first public evidence that members of the Trump campaign were willing to accept Russian assistance.

Earlier, Susan Collins of Maine told reporters that “our intelligence committee needs to interview him and others who attended the meeting” as part of its investigation into Russian interference in the presidential election. Adam Schiff, the top Democrat on the House intelligence committee, has made a similar demand.

At the White House press briefing on Monday, the spokeswoman Sarah Huckabee Sanders insisted “the only thing inappropriate” about Trump Jr’s meeting was “the people who leaked” the details. She added that she did not know of any other meetings between Trump Jr and Russian nationals and that Donald Trump had only learned of the meeting “in the last several days”.

Alleged collusion between the Trump campaign and Moscow is the subject of an investigation by a special counsel. The president, who met his Russian counterpart, Vladimir Putin, for the first time last week, has dismissed the claims as “fake news”.

Trump Jr has come under particular scrutiny as he appeared to offer shifting explanations for the meeting. On Monday, the 39-year-old businessman tweeted sarcastically: “Obviously I’m the first person on a campaign to ever take a meeting to hear info about an opponent … went nowhere but had to listen”.

That appeared at odds with his first statement on Saturday when he omitted any mention of Clinton, saying the discussion focused on a defunct programme that had allowed American adoptions of Russian children.

Then, on Sunday, as the New York Times broke fresh details, Trump Jr admitted that Veselnitskaya told him “she had information that individuals connected to Russia were funding the Democratic National Committee [DNC] and supporting Ms Clinton”. He added: “No details or supporting information was provided or even offered. It quickly became clear that she had no meaningful information.”

He said he concluded that claims of information on Clinton had been a “pretext” for setting up the meeting to talk about adoptions, and that his father had been unaware of the meeting. On Monday, he posted on Twitter: “No inconsistency in statements, meeting ended up being primarily about adoptions. In response to further Q’s I simply provided more details.”

Veselnitskaya is a Russian criminal defence lawyer who has had a number of clients with links to Russian government officials. Her highest-profile case was the defence of Denis Katsyv, a Russian businessman accused of laundering a portion of the proceeds from a $230m tax fraud uncovered by the lawyer Sergei Magnitsky, who later died in jail.

The US imposed sanctions on officials considered complicit in Magnitsky’s death, which caused so much anger in Moscow that the Kremlin banned US adoptions of Russian children in response. This is the context in which Veselnitskaya might have raised “adoptions” with Trump Jr.

Veselnitskaya’s defence of Katsyv also fed into other parts of a campaign to discredit Magnitsky and Hermitage Capital, the investment fund that had retained him. She was involved in promoting a dubious film that attacked Magnitsky, attempting to organise its showing in the European parliament, and securing a screening in Washington last June, shortly after the meeting at Trump Tower.

Trump Jr said he was approached about the meeting by an acquaintance from the 2013 Miss Universe pageant, which his father owned at that time. Trump Jr did not name the acquaintance, but Goldstone, a British music publicist and former tabloid journalist, told the Associated Press he had set up the meeting on behalf of a client named Emin Agalarov, the son of a Moscow-based developer who tried to partner with Trump in a hotel project.

Donald Trump appeared in a music video with Agalarov in 2013 that featured several Miss Universe contestants. In November that year, Trump tweeted to Agalarov: “I had a great weekend with you and your family. You have done a FANTASTIC job. TRUMP TOWER-MOSCOW is next. EMIN was WOW!”

Goldstone’s statement added that the Russian lawyer claimed she had information about alleged illegal campaign contributions to the DNC that she thought Trump Jr might find helpful. Trump Jr agreed to fit the meeting into a busy schedule.

Trump raised the hacking issue with Putin in their talks on the sidelines of the G20 meeting in Hamburg last week, but critics say he failed to press it sufficiently or confront Moscow with any meaningful punishment. The US president was forced to backtrack on a promise of a joint “cybersecurity unit” after it was widely derided.

The New York Times said the Trump Jr meeting was disclosed in recent days to government investigators when Kushner filed a revised version of a form needed to obtain a security clearance. Manafort also recently disclosed the meeting to congressional investigators, the paper said.

In March, Trump Jr told the New York Times that he had never met Russians in a campaign capacity. Other senior figures have repeatedly said there were no contacts between the campaign and Russians.

On Monday, the White House vehemently denied that Trump Jr’s meeting was improper. Kellyanne Conway insisted that “there’s no evidence of collusion” between Trump Jr and Veselnitskaya. “No information was received that was meaningful or helpful and no action was taken,” she said on ABC television’s Good Morning America. “There was no follow-up whatsoever.”

Putin’s spokesman, Dmitry Peskov, said on Monday the Kremlin did not know Veselnitskaya and “cannot keep track” of every Russian lawyer who holds meetings in Russia or abroad.

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