New evidence shows that U.S. President Donald Trump’s son, Donald Trump Jnr., spoke to a Russian lawyer in June 2016 with the hope of gaining information that would damage Hilary Clinton’s campaign.
A New York Times report reveals that during the U.S. presidential election, Trump Jnr., met with Natalia Veselnitskaya in order to gain information that would damage Hilary Clinton’s campaign. Also in attendance were Donald Trump’s campaign chairman, Paul J. Manafort, and Trump’s son-in-law, Jared Kushner. Veselnitskaya is a lawyer known to have close connections with the Kremlin. She claimed to have information about Russian funding of the Democratic National Committee and Hillary Clinton.
In March 2017, Trump Jnr. said that he may have had meetings with Russians “but none that were set up. […] And certainly none that I was representing the campaign in any way, shape or form.” He later changed his story, saying that he had spoken to Veselnitskaya but only about the adoption of Russian children, specifically the Magnitsky Act, a U.S. law that blacklists suspected Russian human rights abusers. The act provoked Russian President Putin to halt all American adoptions of Russian children.
Veselnitskaya’s claim to have damaging information about Clinton and the Democratic National Committee turned out to be a an empty promise and a pretext to talk with Trump Jnr. about Russian adoptions. Trump Jnr. said, “It became clear to me that this was the true agenda all along and that the claims of potentially helpful information were a pretext for the meeting.”
Although this does not prove any collusion between Russia and Trump’s campaign, it raise issues concerning a law that says “A foreign national shall not, directly or indirectly, make a contribution or a donation of money or other thing of value, or expressly or impliedly promise to make a contribution or a donation, in connection with any Federal, State, or local election.” The phrase of importance is “other thing of value”. A promise of comprising information on Clinton could fall into this category.
Even though Trump Jnr. has claimed that the President “knew nothing of the meeting or these events,” the fact that these high-level officials met with Veselnitskaya with the pretext of discussing the campaign could be problematic regardless of what was actually discussed. Kushner and Manafort also omitting this meeting from their White House security clearance forms which specifically ask for detailed descriptions of all contacts with representatives of foreign governments.