Russian Gave Trump's Son Folder With Information Damaging To Clinton: Report
RFE/RL July 15, 2017
The Associated Press is reporting that a Russian lobbyist who met with U.S. President Donald Trump's son last year gave him a portfolio of information she said was damaging to his Democratic rival Hillary Clinton.
Donald Trump Jr. and his father have repeatedly insisted that nothing came out of the meeting at Trump Tower in New York during the presidential campaign in June 2016.
But in an interview with AP on July 14, Rinat Akhmetshin, a Russian-American lobbyist and former Soviet military officer, said he was present at the meeting when Russian lawyer Natalya Veselnitskaya told Trump Jr. that people tied to Russia were funding the Democratic National Committee and illegally supporting Clinton's campaign.
Akhmetshin said Veselnitskaya brought with her a plastic folder with printed-out documents that detailed what she believed was the flow of illicit funds to the Democrats.
Veselnitskaya presented the contents of the documents to Trump Jr. and suggested that making the information public could help the campaign, he told AP.
"This could be a good issue to expose how the DNC is accepting bad money," Akhmetshin recalled Veselnitskaya saying.
Trump Jr. asked the attorney if she had sufficient evidence to back up her claims, including whether she could demonstrate the flow of the money. But Veselnitskaya said the Trump campaign would need to research it more.
After that, Trump Jr. lost interest, according to Akhmetshin.
"They couldn't wait for the meeting to end," he said.
Akhmetshin told AP he does not know if Veselnitskaya's documents were provided by the Russian government. He said he thinks she left the materials in Trump's office.
It was unclear if she handed the documents to anyone in the room or simply left them behind, he said.
The top Democrat on the U.S. House of Representative's Intelligence Committee said he wants Akhmetshin to testify before the committee, which is one of several panels in Congress that are investigating alleged Russian efforts to influence the presidential election.
Based on information disclosed thus far about the Trump Tower meeting, "it is clear the Kremlin got the message that Donald Trump welcomed the help of the Russian government in providing dirt on Hillary Clinton," said Representative Adam Schiff.
Schiff called "deeply disturbing" the emergence this week of Akhmetshin, who told AP he was "loosely part of Russian counterintelligence" when he was in the Soviet Army, though Trump Jr. never mentioned or acknowledged he was at the meeting.
Moreover, Trump Jr.'s shifting explanations about what occurred at the meeting -- seemingly changing each time media reports disclose new information about it -- also shows a "deeply worrying trend," Schiff said.
Akhmetshin, who spoke to AP while on vacation in France, said the meeting was "not substantive" and he "actually expected more serious" discussion.
"I never thought this would be such a big deal, to be honest," he said.
The Russian government has denied any involvement or knowledge of the meeting. Asked Friday about Akhmetshin, Russian President Vladimir Putin's spokesman, Dmitry Peskov, told reporters: "We don't know anything about this person."
With reporting by AP, AFP, and Reuters
Copyright (c) 2017. RFE/RL, Inc. Reprinted with the permission of Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty, 1201 Connecticut Ave., N.W. Washington DC 20036.
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