A former Soviet counter intelligence officer who is suspected of having continued ties with the Russian government also attended the meeting between Donald Trump Jr. and a Russian lawyer who allegedly promised to hand over damaging information about Hillary Clinton last June, NBC News reported early Friday.
NBC News did not name the lobbyist who attended the meeting with Natalia Veselnitskaya, who met with Trump Jr., former campaign chair Paul Manafort and Jared Kushner, President Donald Trump’s son-in-law, on June 9, 2016, in Trump Tower. The Associated Press later identified the lobbyist as Rinat Akhmetshin, who confirmed he attended the meeting.
Akhmetshin served in the Soviet military and emigrated to the United States, where he holds dual citizenship, NBC News reported.
Hallie Jackson, NBC News’ chief White House correspondent, said she spoke with Trump Jr.’s lawyer who acknowledged he’s spoken with Akhmetshin but was unaware of his background as a Soviet counter intelligence officer.
NEWS: just spoke w/Donald Trump Jr.'s lawyer. Confirms he's spoken w/person described in our report – who denied working for Russian gov't.— Hallie Jackson (@HallieJackson) July 14, 2017
Says Trump Jr. knew nothing of the man's bkgrnd at time of meeting. Says man "was described as a friend of Emin's" & maybe of Veselnitskaya https://t.co/OUJzBzJUVl— Hallie Jackson (@HallieJackson) July 14, 2017
Earlier this week Trump Jr. tweeted out a potentially incriminating chain of emails that detailed the set up to the meeting with Veselnitskaya. The meeting was set up through Rob Goldstone, a British publicist, who promised Trump Jr. “official documents and information that would incriminate Hillary and her dealings with Russia and would be very useful to your father.”
“This is obviously very high level and sensitive information but is part of Russia and its government’s support for Mr. Trump,” Goldstone added.
Trump Jr. has repeatedly said that the meeting was inconsequential, and both he and Veselnitskaya said she had no information on Clinton.
Speaking with the AP, Akhmetshin said Veselnitskaya provided documents she claimed showed people with ties to Russia were funding the Democratic National Committee and supporting the Clinton campaign. Trump Jr. allegedly became uninterested after Veselnitskaya said they would have to do more research to prove the flow of funds.
Trump Jr. has denied he received any damaging on Clinton during the meeting.
The president and members of his campaign and administration are currently part of a federal probe into Russia’s attempts to mettle in and influence the 2016 presidential election. The emails and meeting are the first clear indication that members of Trump’s team were at least willing to entertain Russian help during the campaign.
You can read all of NBC News’ report here.
Update 10:22am CT, July 14: The AP has identified the ex-spy as Rinat Akhmetshin, who confirmed the meeting.