The Russian lawyer who met Donald Trump Jr. during last year’s election campaign says he offered her a clear quid pro quo at the meeting: dirt on Hillary Clinton in exchange for changes to a U.S. law.
In an interview with Bloomberg, Natalia Veselnitskaya gave details for the first time of what passed between her and Trump Jr. in a meeting at Trump Tower in Manhattan on June 9th last year. The meeting was also attended by Paul Manafort (at the time, Donald Trump senior’s campaign manager) and Jared Kushner, the future president’s son-in-law and senior advisor.
Veselnitskaya had engineered the meeting by offering proof that Democratic donors had evaded U.S. taxes. In return, by her own account, she was trying to lobby for changes to the so-called 2012 Magnitsky Law that imposed travel bans and sanctions on Russian officials accused of conspiring in the murder of an accountant, Sergey Magnitsky, who had accused officials of corruption.
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“Looking ahead, if we come to power, we can return to this issue and think what to do about it,’’ Trump Jr. said of the 2012 law, Bloomberg cited Veselnitskaya as saying. “I understand our side may have messed up, but it’ll take a long time to get to the bottom of it.”
She also said that Trump Jr. had asked her for written proof of her claim that Ziff Brothers Investments had evaded U.S. taxes while donating heavily to Clinton and other Democratic candidates. As she didn’t have that, the meeting quickly ran into the sand, she said.
Bloomberg said Trump Jr.’s lawyer Alan Futerfas declined to comment.
Veselnitskaya also told Bloomberg that she would be happy to travel to the U.S. to be interviewed by the Senate Judiciary Committee, but only if her answers are made public—a condition the Senate hasn’t agreed to yet. She also said she would be willing to testify to Special Counsel Robert Mueller, if asked.
Her comments add to a growing body of evidence indicating that the Trump campaign was willing to change official U.S. policy to please Russia in return for anything that would help win the election. The Trump camp has routinely denied any allegations of collusion.
Mueller last week ordered the arrest of Manafort and two other former Trump campaign aides in connection with his investigation into alleged collusion between the campaign and Russia. Manafort was charged with multiple counts of money-laundering and failing to register as a foreign agent (mostly pertaining to his work before joining the Trump campaign) working on behalf of Ukraine’s then-President Viktor Yanukovych.
Yanukovych fled to Russia after he was deposed in February 2014.