Meeting between Trump Jr. and Russian lawyer was requested by Russian pop star whose family is close to Putin – Washington Post
By Rosalind S. Helderman and Tom Hamburger,
A meeting between Donald Trump Jr. and a Russian lawyer was set up at the request of Emin Agalarov, a Russian pop star whose Kremlin-connected family has done business with President Trump in the past, according to the person who arranged the meeting.
Rob Goldstone, a music publicist who represents Agalarov, confirmed on Monday that he requested the Trump Tower meeting at Agalarov’s request. Emin Agalarov and his father, Aras Agalarov, a wealthy Moscow real estate developer, helped sponsor the Trump-owned Miss Universe pageant in Russia in 2013.
After the pageant, the Agalarovs signed a preliminary deal with Trump to build a tower bearing his name in Moscow, though the deal has been on hold since Trump began running for president.
Goldstone had previously told The Washington Post that he set up and attended the meeting for the lawyer, Natalia Veselnitskaya, so that she could discuss the adoption of Russian children by Americans.
The revelations about the meeting come as federal prosecutors and congressional investigators explore whether the Trump campaign coordinated and encouraged Russian efforts to intervene in the election to hurt Clinton and elect Donald Trump.
In a new statement, Goldstone confirmed what Trump Jr. himself revealed Sunday: That he enticed the then-Republican candidate’s son by indicating that Veselnitskaya could provide damaging information about Democrats.
“The lawyer had apparently stated she had some information regarding illegal campaign contributions to the DNC which she believed Mr. Trump Jr. might find important,” he said.
At the meeting, which also included Trump’s son-in-law, Jared Kushner, and a top campaign aide, Paul Manafort, the Russian lawyer offered “a few very general remarks” about campaign funding, Goldstone said.
She then proceeded to discuss the Magnitsky Act, a 2012 U.S. law that imposed sanctions on Russia for its alleged human rights abuses. Angered over the law, Russia retaliated by halting U.S. adoptions of Russian children.
Trump Jr. has said his father was unaware of the meeting, and both he and Goldstone said there was no additional follow-up beyond the brief June 2016 session.
The involvement of the Agalarovs brings the meeting closer to both Trump’s past business interests and to the Kremlin. Trump has spent time with both Emin Agalarov and his father, Aras — appearing in a music video for the Russian musician, which was filmed at the Moscow Ritz-Carlton Hotel in 2013.
Meanwhile, the Agalarovs are also close to Russian President Vladimir Putin. Aras Agalarov’s company has been awarded several large state building contracts, and shortly after the pageant, Putin awarded the elder Agalarov the “Order of Honor of the Russian Federation,” a prestigious designation.
Emin Agalarov told The Post last year that he had spoken with Trump numerous times about the need to build stronger ties between Russia and the United States.
“He kept saying, ‘Every time there is friction between United States and Russia, it’s bad for both countries. For the people to benefit, this should be fixed. We should be friends,’ ” Emin Agalarov told The Post last year about his conversations with Trump.
A spokesman for the Agalarovs did not respond to request for comment, nor did a spokeswoman for Trump Jr.
On Monday, the Kremlin said it was unaware of a the meeting between Trump Jr. and a Russian lawyer purported to have information that could potentially damage Hillary Clinton’s presidential campaign.
Asked about the meeting Monday, Putin’s spokesman, Dmitry Peskov, told reporters that the Kremlin does not know the lawyer, and added that the Kremlin “cannot keep track of every Russian lawyer and their meetings domestically or abroad.”
Peskov, asked about Veselnitskaya by reporters on a conference call, said, “We do not know who that is.”
Veselnitskaya has for the past several years been a leading advocate around the world to fight a policy imposed on Russia for human rights abuses, which have been vehemently opposed by Putin and other leading Russian officials.
Putin personally assured Trump at the Group of 20 summit in Hamburg over the weekend that Russia had not meddled in the 2016 election. Putin’s comments, however, did little to change widespread views in the United States that Russia was behind the election meddling intended to help Trump.
Hackers began leaking emails stolen from the Democratic Party in July 2016, and U.S. intelligence agencies have said the effort was orchestrated by Russia.
Trump officials have vigorously denied they colluded with Russia in any way.
The president’s eldest son said in a statement Sunday said that he had agreed to the meeting at Trump Tower in New York because he was offered information that would be helpful to the campaign of his father, then the presumptive GOP presidential nominee.
At the meeting, the Russian lawyer opened by claiming she knew about Russians funding the Democratic National Committee and Clinton, the statement said.
Trump Jr. said that her comments during the meeting were “vague, ambiguous and made no sense” and that she then changed the subject to discuss a prohibition that the Russian government placed on the adoption of Russian children as retaliation for sanctions imposed by Congress in 2012.
Trump Jr. said that his father “knew nothing of the meeting or these events” and that the campaign had no further contact with the woman after the 20- to 30-minute session.
On Monday, the younger Trump added a bit of sarcasm against the growing scrutiny over the meeting. “Obviously,” he said in a tweet, “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.”
The president’s son did not disclose the discussion when the meeting was first made public by the New York Times on Saturday and did so only on Sunday as the Times prepared to report that he had been offered information on Clinton at the session.
The meeting suggests that some Trump aides were in the market to collect negative information that could be used against Clinton — at the same time that U.S. government officials have concluded Russians were collecting such data.
In his statement, Trump Jr. said he did not know the lawyer’s name before attending the meeting at the request of an acquaintance. He said that after pleasantries were exchanged, the lawyer told him that “she had information that individuals connected to Russia were funding the Democratic National Committee and supporting Ms. Clinton.”
“No details or supporting information was provided or even offered. It quickly became clear that she had no meaningful information,” he said, saying he concluded that claims of helpful information for the campaign had been a “pretext” for setting up the meeting.
Mark Corallo, a spokesman for Trump’s attorney, said the president was unaware of the meeting and did not attend it.
Neither Manafort nor his spokesman responded to requests for comment. Attorneys for Kushner also did not respond to requests for comment Sunday. On Saturday, a Kushner attorney, Jamie Gorelick, said her client had previously revised required disclosure forms to note multiple meetings with foreign nationals, including the session in June with Veselnitskaya. “As Mr. Kushner has consistently stated, he is eager to cooperate and share what he knows,” Gorelick said.
In his statement, Trump Jr. said he was approached about the meeting by an acquaintance he knew from the 2013 Miss Universe pageant.
Veselnitskaya has not responded to requests for comment from The Post but told the Times in a statement that she had never acted on behalf of the Russian government and that the meeting included no discussion of the presidential campaign.
She has for the past several years been a leading advocate around the world to fight the Magnitsky Act, sanctions intended to rebuke Russia for human rights abuses. Putin reacted angrily to the passage of the act, and has since denounced it repeatedly.
The acts are named for Sergei Magnitsky, a Russian auditor who died under mysterious circumstances in a Moscow prison in 2009 after exposing a corruption scandal.
The meeting occurred during a period of intense focus on the Magnitsky sanctions. Four days after the June 9 Trump Tower session, Veselnitskaya was in Washington attending a House Foreign Affairs Committee hearing about sanctions and other aspects of U.S.-Russia relations.
That evening, a film critical of the Magnitsky sanctions — and the story behind them — showed at the Newseum. On June 15, Veselnitskaya was featured on the Sputnik News website criticizing the sanctions and its leading advocate, William Browder, a financier who left Russia a decade ago amid concerns about corruption, including what was exposed by Magnitsky, the auditor he had hired.
David Filipov and Natalya Abbakumova in Moscow and Brian Murphy in Washington contributed to this report.
Powered by WPeMatico