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Friday, July 14, 2017

Ex-Soviet officer was also in Trump Jr. meeting: report

Ex-Soviet officer was also in Trump Jr. meeting: report
By Julia Manchester - 07-14-17 07:56 AM EDT

A former Soviet counterintelligence officer accompanied the Russian lawyer at the center of a summer 2016 meeting with Donald Trump Jr., according to a new report from NBC News.

It's the first news of additional people attending the meeting with Natalia Veselnitskaya, the Russian lawyer at the center of the story.

The meeting was prompted by emails to Trump Jr. that promised damaging information on then-Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton.

Trump Jr. has said no such information was provided by Veselnitskaya, who instead wanted to talk about the separate issue of a U.S. law targeting Russians for human rights abuses known as the Magnitsky Act, and countermeasures from Russia prohibiting U.S. adoptions of Russian children.

Alan Futerfas, Trump Jr.'s lawyer, told The Hill that the lobbyist mentioned in the NBC report was introduced as a friend of Veselnitskaya. Futerfas declined to name the individual.

In a separate story, the Associated Press reported that a Russian-American lobbyist named Rinat Akhmetshin had confirmed his attendance in the meeting. It was not immediately clear if he is the individual described in the NBC report.

President Trump's son-in-law Jared Kushner and then-campaign chairman Paul Manafort were also present for the meeting.

Futerfas said the lobbyist was one of three people in addition to Veselnitskaya who came to the meeting as part of her group. He did not identify the other two people.

"He's a U.S. citizen and not working for the Russian government and my client was introduced to him literally at the meeting," Futerfas said of the individual identified by NBC.

He said the man helped translate for Veselnitskaya, who was connected to Trump by Agalarov, who along with his father collaborated with Trump on the 2013 Miss World beauty pageant in Moscow.

"[Trump Jr.] didn't know the name before and had no recollection after that. He was introduced either as a friend of Emin's or of Natalia's," Futerfas said.

"Basically he helped translate because Natalia's English is not that good. He's a U.S. citizen. All I can say is Trump Jr. met him for the first time and learned his name minutes before the meeting and he was introduced as a friend."

NBC said some U.S. officials suspect the Russian-American lobbyist and former intelligence officer as having ongoing ties to Russian intelligence. NBC, which did not name the individual, said he denies having any current ties to the Kremlin.

Trump Jr.'s meeting with Veselnitskaya was first reported over the weekend by The New York Times. On Tuesday, Trump Jr. tweeted out emails with Goldstone that detailed how the meeting was arranged.

In one of the emails, Goldstone writes that the information being offered "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 continued.

"If it's what you say I love it especially later in the summer," Trump Jr. replied.

Democrats are pointing to the meeting as proof that Trump's campaign sought to collude with Moscow amid its efforts to meddle in last year's presidential election.

The White House says nothing substantial came out of the meeting, and Trump has said "most people"would have taken the opportunity to get opposition research on a campaign opponent.

Updated at 10:51 a.m. Jonathan Easley contributed.

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