Well, if true, this is an interesting twist to the story I discussed on Saturday evening, regarding a Trump Tower meetup between Donald Trump Jr., Paul Manafort, Jared Kushner, and a Kremlin-connected attorney.
To recap: two weeks after Trump secured the Republican nomination, the meeting was called, presumably to talk about an adoption program that had been closed down by Russian President Vladimir Putin.
Today, the New York Times is suggesting that while that was the actual bulk of the meeting, it wasn’t why Trump Jr. called in Manafort and Kushner.
President Trump’s eldest son, Donald Trump Jr., was promised damaging information about Hillary Clinton before agreeing to meet with a Kremlin-connected Russian lawyer during the 2016 campaign, according to three advisers to the White House briefed on the meeting and two others with knowledge of it.
The meeting was also attended by his campaign chairman at the time, Paul J. Manafort, and his son-in-law, Jared Kushner. Mr. Manafort and Mr. Kushner only recently disclosed the meeting, though not its content, in confidential government documents described to The New York Times.
So Junior was offered damaging evidence on Hillary Clinton. That’s not exactly an earth-shattering reveal in the world of politics. It’s called oppo-research. I think the problem is that it was from Kremlin-based sources. That puts a bit more “uncomfortable” spin on it, than just simply tapping a source.
And while President Trump has been dogged by revelations of undisclosed meetings between his associates and the Russians, the episode at Trump Tower is the first such confirmed private meeting involving members of his inner circle during the campaign — as well as the first one known to have included his eldest son. It came at an inflection point in the campaign, when Donald Trump Jr., who served as an adviser and a surrogate, was ascendant and Mr. Manafort was consolidating power.
It is unclear whether the Russian lawyer, Natalia Veselnitskaya, actually produced the promised compromising information about Mrs. Clinton. But the people interviewed by The Times about the meeting said the expectation was that she would do so.
What does Junior have to say about all of this? He spoke earlier Sunday:
In a statement on Sunday, Donald Trump Jr. said he had met with the Russian lawyer at the request of an acquaintance. “After pleasantries were exchanged,” he said, “the woman stated that she had information that individuals connected to Russia were funding the Democratic National Committee and supporting Ms. Clinton. 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.”
He said the conversation then turned to the suspended adoption program and the Magnitsky Act – an American law that targets and blacklists suspected Russian human rights abusers – and the reason Putin suspended American adoptions of Russian children.
He also felt that that was the purpose of the meeting, all along.
Ms. Veselnitskaya, the Russian lawyer invited to the Trump Tower meeting, is best known for mounting a multipronged attack against the Magnitsky Act.
The adoption impasse is a frequently used talking point for opponents of the act. Ms. Veselnitskaya’s campaign against the law has also included attempts to discredit the man after whom it was named, Sergei L. Magnitsky, a lawyer and auditor who died in 2009 in mysterious circumstances in a Russian prison after exposing one of the biggest corruption scandals during Mr. Putin’s rule.
So she’s not exactly a mild-mannered foreign attorney.
On Saturday, she insisted that she had no connection to our election and that nothing about the election was discussed. That contradicts what Junior said.
This particular meeting was revealed on revised security paperwork turned in by Jared Kushner.
Back in April, it was reported that the initial paperwork turned in by Kushner to receive his security clearance failed to disclose several meetings with the Russian ambassador, Sergei Kislyak, as well as the head of a Russian state bank.
This is likely one of the earliest known instances of members of Trump’s circle meeting with Russians. Was she feeling them out, checking to see just how malleable the team was, or was she generally interested in doing something about the adoption program?
There are more questions than answers attached to this one.