Former Soviet spy attended Don Jr’s meeting with Russian lawyer
A former Soviet counter-intelligence officer accompanied the Russian lawyer who met with Donald Trump Jr. to dish dirt on Hillary Clinton during the presidential race, according to a report.
NBC News reported Friday that the unnamed former officer – a Russian-American lobbyist — is suspected by some US officials of having continuing ties to Russian intelligence.
The lobbyist accompanied the lawyer, Natalia Veselnitskaya, to the June 2016 meeting at Trump Tower attended by Trump Jr., President Trump’s son-in-law Jared Kushner and Paul Manafort, the former chairman of the Trump campaign.
The former Soviet official – who denies any current connections to Russian spy agencies — served in the Soviet military and moved to the US, where he holds dual citizenship, NBC News reported.
Veselnitskaya acknowledged to NBC News that she was accompanied by at least one other man, but she declined to name him.
Reps for Kushner and Manafort declined to comment when reached by NBC News. A lawyer for Trump Jr. also did not respond to several requests for comment.
Trump Jr. eagerly agreed to meet Veselnitskaya, who he was told was a Russian government lawyer who might have compromising information about Clinton as part of the Kremlin’s support for his father, according to emails Trump’s eldest son released this week.
Veselnitskaya told NBC that she has no connections to the Kremlin and insisted the meeting with Team Trump was to discuss sanctions, not the presidential campaign.
Congress and special counsel Robert Mueller are conducting separate probes into Russia’s meddling and possible collusion with the Trump campaign.
The June 2016 meeting was arranged between Trump Jr. and music publicist Rob Goldstone, who has ties to Russia.
In an email exchange released by Trump Jr., he wrote “I love it” when told about possibly getting his hands on potentially damaging material about the Clinton campaign.
Goldstone told Trump Jr. that the sit down would be with a “Russian government attorney” and that the information was “part of Russia and its government’s support for Mr. Trump.”
Trump Jr. later said in an interview on Fox News that, “in retrospect, I probably would have done things a little differently.”
The president has defended his son’s decision to meet with Veselnitskaya, saying “most people would have taken that meeting.”
“My son is a wonderful young man. He took a meeting with a Russian lawyer, not a government lawyer but a Russian lawyer,” Trump said Thursday.
“From a practical standpoint most people would have taken that meeting. It’s called opposition research or research into your opponent,” he added.