Russian Lawyer At Center Of Trump Jr Scandal Speaks: "I Have No Government Ties"
Last night, the New York Times dropped their latest Donald Trump Jr. "bombshell" in which they reported that 3 anonymous sources had informed them that Trump Jr. was notified in advance that the damaging information promised about Hillary Clinton was part of a Russian government effort to help his father's presidential campaign (we covered it here: Trump Jr. Was Allegedly Told Russian Government Behind Damaging Clinton Info: NYT)
Unfortunately, another small problem has arisen for the New York Times' new narrative this morning and it comes in the form of a exclusive interview that NBC managed to land with the now infamous Russian lawyer at the middle of this whole new scandal: Natalia Veselnitskaya. Asked directly whether she had any ties to the Russian government, Veselnitskaya had a rather simple answer for NBC: "No."
NBC: "Have you ever worked for the Russian government? Do you have connections to the Russian government?"
Veselnitskaya went on to say that while the Trump campaign may have been looking for damaging information on the Clinton campaign, she never possessed such information.
"I never had any damaging or sensitive information about Hillary Clinton. It was never my intention to have that."
Of course, the part of the interview that will undoubtedly draw the most coverage from CNN throughout the day is Veselnitskaya's speculation over Trump Jr.'s intentions for taking the meeting which she said were tied to his desire for "financial records" that would prove that the DNC wasgetting funding from "inappropriate sources."
"It is quite possible that maybe they were longing for such an information."
"They wanted it so badly that they could only hear the thought that they wanted."
"The question that I was asked was as follows: whether I had any financial records which might prove that the funds used to sponsor the DNC were coming from inappropriate sources."
Of course, the question allegedly asked by Trump Jr. seems to corroborate his original statement in which he implied he only took the meeting on the premise that the source put forward by Goldstone had information "that individuals connected to Russia were funding the Democratic National Committee and supporting Ms. Clinton." Here is Trump Jr.'s statement released yesterday:
I was asked to have a meeting by an acquaintance I knew from the 2013 Miss Universe pageant with an individual who I was told might have information helpful to the campaign. I was not told her name prior to the meeting. I asked Jared and Paul to attend, but told them nothing of the substance. We had a meeting in June 2016. After pleasantries were exchanged, the woman stated that she had information that individuals connected to Russia were funding the Democratic National Committee and supporting Ms. Clinton. Her statements were vague, ambiguous and made no sense. No details or supporting information was provided or even offered. It quickly became clear that she had no meaningful information. She then changed subjects and began discussing the adoption of Russian children and mentioned the Magnitsky Act. 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. I interrupted and advised her that my father was not an elected official, but rather a private citizen, and that her comments and concerns were better addressed if and when he held public office. The meeting lasted approximately 20 to 30 minutes. As it ended, my acquaintance apologized for taking up our time. That was the end of it and there was no further contact or follow-up of any kind. My father knew nothing of the meeting or these events.
Veselnitskaya also confirmed that Jared Kushner and Paul Manafort also sat in on the meeting but said she had no idea who they were until later. Per NBC News:
She described how Trump Jr. ran the meeting. Two other men who she never met by name were also in the room. She said she only realized three days who they were after seeing their photos in the news. Those men were Jared Kushner and Paul Manafort.
“I could recognize the young gentleman who was only present in the meeting for probably the first seven to 10 minutes, and then he stood up and left the room,” she said. “It was Mr. Jared Kushner. And he never came back, by the way.
“And the other individual who was always in the same meeting, but all the time he was looking at his phone. He was reading something. He never took any active part in the conversation. That was Mr. Manafort.”
To summarize where we are, Rob Goldstone, the intermediary who allegedly setup the meeting between Trump Jr. and Veselnitskaya, said there was no Kremlin connection and now Veselnitskaya herself has confirmed the same. That said, 3 anonymous sources from the New York Times beg to differ. We'll let you decide what to believe.