White House Chief of Staff Reince Priebus has accused Democratic operatives of arranging a previously unknown meeting between Donald Trump Jr. and a Russian lawyer connected to the Kremlin last summer, Huffington Postreports.
The New York Timespublicized the meeting after receiving word of confidential government records describing it. Although the Times claims that Trump Jr. arranged the meeting that occurred two weeks after his father won the Republican presidential nomination, Priebus said that “the individual that set up the meeting may have been” linked to strategy firm Fusion GPS. Fusion GPS was previously linked to intelligence files hinting at Russians’ possession of potential blackmail of President Donald Trump.
The meeting took place at Manhattan’s Trump Tower in June 2016 and is now the first confirmed private meeting between a Russian official and Trump’s team. Trump Jr. claims that the meeting consisting of him, Jared Kushner and then-Trump campaign manager Paul Manafort focused on Russian child adoption policies. Priebus supported that detail in a Fox News Sunday interview, saying, “Talking about issues of foreign policy, issues related to our place in the world, issues important to the American people, like adoption, is something that’s not unusual.”
Citing an article that quoted a spokesman for Trump’s legal team, Priebus believes the initiation of the meeting is more complex than it seems. In his interview, he said, “There’s more questions on the Democrat side than anywhere else.”
In the referred article, spokesman Mark Corallo said, “We have learned from both our own investigation and public reports that the participants in the meeting misrepresented who they were and who they worked for. Specifically, we have learned that the person who sought the meeting is associated with Fusion GPS, a firm which, according to public reports, was retained by Democratic operatives to develop opposition research on the President and which commissioned the phony Steele dossier.”
According to the Times, Corallo also stated that the meeting was a setup, Russian lawyer Natalia Veselnitskaya and her translater “misrepresented who they were,” and that Veselnitskaya is connected to Fusion GPS.
Both Manafort and Kushner have been mentioned in reports as having further connections to Russia, and the reveal of this meeting could lead to Trump Jr. being included in related investigations.