NYT: Email to Trump Jr. cites Russian government effort to help Trump campaign

NYT: Email to Trump Jr. cites Russian government effort to help Trump campaign
Posted at 9:00 PM, Jul 10, 2017

WASHINGTON (CNN) -- An email sent to Donald Trump Jr. last year stated that a Russian lawyer had "compromising" information about Hillary Clinton as "part of a Russian government effort" to help the Trump campaign, The New York Times reported Monday.

Citing three people with knowledge of the email, the Times reported that Rob Goldstone, who connected Trump Jr. with the Russian lawyer, sent the email to Trump Jr. pointing to the Russian government as a source of potential information that could damage Clinton.

The story that Trump Jr. was offered potential information from the Russian government to aide his father's campaign came after months of staunch denials from President Donald Trump that his campaign had a connection to Russia.

Alan Futerfas, a lawyer for Trump Jr., said in a statement following the story that it was "much ado about nothing." The statement called the period of May to early June 2016 "an intensely busy time" for Trump Jr. The statement said Goldstone had emailed Trump's son about alleged wrongdoing from Clinton regarding Russia.

"The meeting lasted about 20-30 minutes, and nothing came of it," Futerfas said. "His father knew nothing about it. The bottom line is that Don, Jr. did nothing wrong. I have been representing people in investigatory matters for almost 30 years, and I see nothing here."

In response to the Times' previous reporting revealing the June 2016 meeting, Trump Jr. said in a statement Sunday that he met with Natalia Veselnitskaya, the Russian lawyer, in Trump Tower last June. He responded to the latest development on Tuesday morning, tweeting, "Media & Dems are extremely invested in the Russia story. If this nonsense meeting is all they have after a yr, I understand the desperation!"

Goldstone did not immediately respond to CNN requests for comment on the latest Times reporting. Mark Corallo, a spokesman for the President's legal team, reiterated an earlier statement saying, "The President was not aware of and did not attend the meeting."

The Times said it was not clear if Goldstone knew where the potential information was coming from, and one person the report cited said it appeared Goldstone was sending Trump Jr. information that had come through several other people.

By the time of the June meeting with Veselnitskaya, Trump had clinched the Republican presidential nomination. In his statement, Trump Jr. said the meeting also involved Jared Kushner, his brother-in-law, who now serves as a senior adviser to Trump, and Paul Manafort, who was running the Trump campaign at the time.

Trump Jr. on Saturday said the meeting primarily focused on adoption policy, and was not related to the campaign. Veselnitskaya has been a major campaigner against the Magnitsky Act, a US law targeting alleged Russian human rights abusers. In response to the passage of the Magnitsky Act, Russian President Vladimir Putin blocked Americans from adopting Russian children.

On Sunday, Trump Jr. said in a statement that he had attended the meeting in the hope that there would be helpful information for the campaign. He defended his actions at length on Twitter, saying sarcastically at one point: "Obviously I'm the first person on a campaign to ever take a meeting to hear info about an opponent... went nowhere but had to listen."'

He said in a statement that it quickly became clear in the June 2016 meeting that Veselnitskaya had no useful information and that the meeting ended after she attempted to talk to them about adoption policy.

White House deputy press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders said earlier on Monday that the President did not know about Trump Jr.'s meeting with Veselnitskaya and asserted that Trump Jr. "did not collude with anybody to influence the election." The White House has steadily denied collusion with Russia on the campaign.

Ongoing investigation

In March, then-FBI Director James Comey confirmed that the Department of Justice was investigating Trump associates for potential coordination with Russia as part of an effort to influence the election.

A report from the intelligence community in early January accused Russia of attempting to influence the election to hurt Clinton's candidacy and bolster Trump's by taking several measures, including disseminating false information online and orchestrating the hacks of political officials like Clinton campaign chair John Podesta.

The June 9, 2016 meeting occurred prior to reports that emerged later that month saying Russia had hacked the Democratic National Committee. In July, WikiLeaks began posting emails online from the DNC.

Trump has denied any wrongdoing, as has Russia. WikiLeaks has denied Russia was the source for its releases.

Following Comey's ouster in early May, the Department of Justice appointed former FBI Director Robert Mueller as a special counsel to lead the investigation.

Members of the Senate intelligence committee, which is conducting its own investigation, indicated they would want to speak to Trump Jr. about his meeting with the Russian lawyer. Rep. Adam Schiff, the top Democrat on the House intelligence committee, said on CNN's "State of the Union" Sunday that the House panel would like to question everyone who attended the meeting.

Futerfas said Trump Jr. had not received any request from a committee or office and would work with them to "convey what he knows."