The cascade of reports about what really went on at a 2016 meeting between Donald Trump Jr., former Trump campaign manager Paul Manafort, Trump’s son-in-law Jared Kushner, and Kremlin-connected lawyer Natalia Veselnitskaya keeps getting worse and worse for the Trump team.
On Friday, it was revealed that the three members of Trump’s inner circle and Veselnitskaya weren’t alone in their meeting. At least two other people were present, one of whom is a suspected former Soviet intelligence officer who is suspected of maintaining ties to Russian intelligence services named Rinat Akhmetshin.
The revelation that this individual was present at the meeting has added to the scrutiny that it’s been cast under, and now, Akhmetshin has confirmed a key detail that was disputed by other accounts of the meeting that have been released thus far.
Trump Jr. has maintained throughout the days since his meeting with Veselnitskaya was revealed that nothing came of it and thus, he says, it warrants little to no further scrutiny. He didn’t even admit at first that he went into the meeting expecting to get dirt from the Russian government on Hillary Clinton, instead simply initially stating that the meeting was about an adoption program that had been suspended by the Russian government in retaliation for an American law they didn’t like.
The meeting, however, isn’t as inconsequential as Trump Jr. would have you believe. Akhmetshin, speaking to the Associated Press, has confirmed that Veselnitskaya did, in fact, have hard copies of documents that she believed showed an illegal flow of money to the DNC. Akhmetshin says that Veselnitskaya presented this information to Trump Jr., but when the latter asked if all of the supporting documentation was present and Veselnitskaya said no, he lost interest and Trump’s associates who were present “couldn’t wait for the meeting to end.”
Akhmetshin’s testimony to the AP casts doubt on Trump Jr.’s account that Veselnitskaya shared no meaningful information, making the meeting, in his view, inconsequential. Actually, Akhmetshin says, Veselnitskaya had hard copies of documents outlining the information she intended to spread, and, Akhmetshin believes, she left these documents with the Trump associates. Akhmetshin added that he did not recall if the lawyer handed the documents she had to anyone in the room or just left them there, hoping someone would take them with them.
In short, Trump Jr. has been shown yet again to have been lying in characterizing his meeting with Veselnitskaya as some sort of showcase of the Russians’ ridiculousness. She had real information. She handed it off, or attempted to hand it off to the Trump associates who were present.
These things together spell bad news for the Trump team. Trump Jr. has already been called before the Senate Judiciary Committee, and he will likely be called to defend himself before other investigators as well. Jared Kushner has been questioned by the FBI over the meeting.
Investigators continue to try and get to the bottom of what exactly went on at that meeting, and as a part of this, they want to know why Akhmetshin was there and if that reason has something to do with why Trump Jr. didn’t mention him before. Akhmetshin has denied both past and present connections to Russian intelligence services.
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