A lawyer for Donald Trump Jr. late Monday dismissed a New York Times report that the president’s eldest son knew that potentially damaging information on Hillary Clinton was offered as part of a Russian government effort to assist his father in last year’s election.
The paper reported that music publicist Rob Goldstone indicated in an email to Trump Jr. that the Kremlin was the source of information about purported illegal campaign contributions to the Democratic National Committee provided by attorney Natalia Veselnitskaya.
“In my view, this is much ado about nothing,” said attorney Alan Furtefas, who said that Goldstone had contacted Trump Jr. late in the Republican primary campaign and “suggested that people had information concerning alleged wrongdoing” by Clinton.
“The meeting [with Veselnitskaya] lasted about 20-30 minutes and nothing came of it,” Furtefas went on. “His father knew nothing about it. The bottom line is that Don Jr. did nothing wrong.”
The White House referred questions to the president’s son. Mark Corallo, a spokesman for the president’s outside legal team, would not comment on the Times story, reiterating only that the president “was not aware of and did not attend the meeting.”
Democratic National Committee spokeswoman Adrienne Watson said the Times report proved “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.
“It is time for Donald Trump, his family, and his team to stop lying and come clean about their contacts with Russia, what they knew about the Kremlin’s effort to help them, and when they knew it,” Watson added.
Goldstone confirmed earlier Monday that he had set up the meeting between Trump Jr. and Veselnitskaya on behalf of his client, singer Emin Agalarov.
In a statement Sunday, Trump Jr. acknowledged taking the meeting to learn damaging information about Clinton, but claimed that Veselnitskaya allegations were “vague, ambiguous and made no sense” and it “became clear that she had no meaningful information.”
The Times story, which cited three unnamed people with knowledge of Goldstone’s email but did not relate the actual email text, was the third report in as many days concerning the meeting between Trump Jr. and Veselnitskaya.
In response to an Times report published Saturday, Trump Jr. said the meeting was primarily about allowing Americans to adopt Russian children and “mentioned nothing about Mrs. Clinton.” Responding to the paper’s Sunday report, Trump Jr. acknowledged that he was told Veselnitskaya “might have information helpful to the campaign.”
The Veselnitskaya meeting, which was also attended by Trump’s then-campaign manager Paul Manafort and adviser Jared Kushner, is the first confirmed private meeting between members of President Trump’s inner circle and a Russian national. If the content of Goldstone’s email is confirmed, it would be the first public word that Trump Jr. had been made aware the material could have been emanating from the Kremlin.
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. https://t.co/ccUjL1KDEa
— Donald Trump Jr. (@DonaldJTrumpJr) July 10, 2017
Dmitry Peskov, a spokesman for Russian President Vladimir Putin, said Monday the Kremlin doesn’t know Veselnitskaya and “cannot keep track” of every Russian lawyer who holds meetings in Russia or abroad. Although she has not been publicly linked with the Russian government itself, Veselnitskaya represented the son of a vice president of state-owned Russian Railways in a New York money-laundering case settled in May before a trial.
Happy to work with the committee to pass on what I know. https://t.co/tL47NOoteM
— Donald Trump Jr. (@DonaldJTrumpJr) July 10, 2017
Trump spent time with Agalarov during his visit to Moscow for the 2013 Miss Universe pageant, which Trump owned at the time. The real estate mogul appeared in a music video with Agalarov and several pageant contestants. Agalarov’s father, Aras, is a Russian developer who sought to partner with Trump on a hotel project in Moscow and tried to set up a meeting between Trump and Putin during the Miss Universe contest.
Earlier Monday, Trump Jr. tried to brush off the significance of the meeting, tweeting 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.”
Trump Jr. also said on Twitter he was willing to work with the Senate intelligence committee, one of the panels probing possible campaign collusion, “to pass on what I know.”
Lawmakers on the committee from both parties said they indeed wanted to talk with the president’s son. Sen. Susan Collins, R-Maine, said the panel “needs to interview him and others who attended the meeting.” Sen. Ron Wyden, D-Ore., agreed, saying, “Based on his own admissions, this is an attempt at collusion.”
The Associated Press contributed to this report.