The Russian lawyer who met with Donald Trump Jr. during the 2016 US presidential campaign has denied any connections to the Russian government and suggested President Donald Trump’s inner circle was “longing” for info on the Democratic National Committee.
“It is quite possible that maybe they were longing for such an information,” Natalia Veselnitskaya told NBC News in an interview aired on the “Today” show.
“They wanted it so badly that they could only hear the thought that they wanted.”
Veselnitskaya, however, told NBC that she had no information on the DNC or on Hillary Clinton.
The New York Times reported on Monday that Donald Trump Jr. was told in an email that damaging information about Hillary Clinton that he was expecting to receive from Veselnitskaya at a meeting was part of a Russian effort to help his father’s campaign.
“Media & Dems are extremely invested in the Russia story. If this nonsense meeting is all they have after a yr, I understand the desperation!” Donald Trump Jr. tweeted Tuesday.
The Times report Monday night cited three people it said had knowledge of the email, which the paper said was sent by Rob Goldstone, a music publicist who represents the son of a wealthy Azerbaijani-Russian developer and is friendly with the Trump family.
The Times’ sources told the paper that Goldstone’s message indicated Russia was the source of the damaging information Donald Trump Jr. was expecting to receive.
It is unclear whether any information about Clinton was actually revealed in the meeting. But if the information in The Times’ latest report is true, it “indicates that the Trump campaign certainly knew that the Russian government was working to help elect Donald Trump,” said Jens David Ohlin, an associate dean at Cornell Law School who is an expert on criminal law.
In Ohlin’s view, the development means Trump and his associates can no longer credibly deny that Russia meddled in the election.
“They knew it, and hoped to benefit from it,” Ohlin said. “And they did.”
Veselnitskaya is considered to have strong ties to the Kremlin. She is married to a former deputy transportation minister of the Moscow region, and her clients have included Russian state-owned businesses.
Alan Futerfas, Donald Trump Jr.’s attorney, said the new report was “much ado about nothing.”
“During this busy period, Robert Goldstone contacted Don Jr. in an email and suggested that people had information concerning alleged wrongdoing by Democratic Party front-runner, Hillary Clinton, in her dealings with Russia,” Futerfas said in a statement. “Don Jr.’s takeaway from this communication was that someone had information potentially helpful to the campaign and it was coming from someone he knew. Don Jr. had no knowledge as to what specific information, if any, would be discussed.”
Veselnitskaya met with the younger Trump as well as his brother-in-law, Jared Kushner, and the Trump campaign chairman at the time, Paul Manafort, in June 2016, weeks after Donald Trump clinched the Republican nomination.
She said Kushner was in the meeting for only “seven to 10 minutes” and Manafort was on his phone and “never took any active part in the conversation.”
Natasha Bertrand and Bryan Logan contributed to this report.