A former Soviet counter-intelligence officer was in the meeting with Donald Trump Jr. and a Russian lawyer in June 2016, in which Trump Jr. was promised damaging information on Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton, according to a report from NBC News.
NBC said some U.S. officials suspect the former intelligence officer, who was identified as a Russian-American lobbyist, has ongoing ties to Russian intelligence.
NBC did not name the individual, but it said he denies having any current ties to the Kremlin.
President Trump’s son-in-law Jared Kushner and then-campaign chairman Paul Manafort were also present for the meeting.
Alan Futerfas, Trump Jr.’s lawyer, told The Hill that the lobbyist mentioned in the NBC report was introduced as a friend of Veselnitskaya and Emin Agalarov, the Russian pop star whose agent, Goldstone, arranged the meeting.
Futerfas would not give the name of the lobbyist, but said he 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 Emin Agalarov, an associate of Trump’s who collaborated with him 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.”
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 British publicist Rob Goldstone that showed how the meeting was set up.
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,” the publicist 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 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 8:41 a.m. Jonathan Easley contributed.