On Sunday, a report by The New York Times revealed that President Trump's first son met with a Russian lawyer during the 2016 election after being told he'd be given damaging information about his father's campaign rival. However, in an interview with NBC News on Tuesday, the Russian lawyer, Natalia Veselnitskaya, denied having information Trump Jr. wanted about Hillary Clinton.
"I never had any damaging or sensitive information about Hillary Clinton," she said. "It was never my intention to have that."
Veselnitskaya says her interest was to discuss "the real circumstances behind the Magnitsky Act," a subject she claims to have been circulating information about among friends, as well as friends of friends. Asked why Trump Jr. would believe she had information on Clinton, Veselnitskaya suggested that their strong desire for intelligence destructive to the Democratic candidate's campaign may have convinced them she possessed it.
"It is quite possible that maybe they were longing for such an information," she said. "They wanted it so badly that they could only hear the thought that they wanted."
Though Trump Jr. seems to have admitted that he met with the lawyer after being offered information on Clinton — "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 tweeted on Monday — he claimed to ultimately not have received any such information.
Veselnitskaya additionally claimed to have been unaware of who else might be part of the meeting beforehand. Paul Manafort, President Trump's campaign chairman, and Jared Kushner, Ivanka Trump's husband, both ended up being present during the conversation.
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. It was Mr. Jared Kushner. And he never came back, by the way. And the other individual who was 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.
On Monday, Reuters reported that Trump Jr. had hired lawyer Alan Futerfas to represent him in probes pertaining to Russia. Futerfas dismissed the controversy surrounding his client's meeting with Veselnitskaya as overblown.
"In my view, this is much ado about nothing. During this busy period, Robert Goldstone contacted Don Jr. in an email and suggested that people had information concerning alleged wrongdoing by Democratic Party front-runner, Hillary Clinton, in her dealings with Russia," he said in an email to The New York Times.
"Don Jr.'s takeaway from this communication was that someone had information potentially helpful to the campaign and it was coming from someone he knew. Don Jr. had no knowledge as to what specific information, if any, would be discussed," he continued.
According to the Times, President Trump has been frustrated with news of the meeting between his son and Veselnitskaya, as it has added to the list of Russian connections in the Trump camp and will undoubtedly prolong the current investigations his administration is under.