(The mainstream media and liberal politicians sought to reignite Russian collusion hysteria over the weekend after news surfaced that President Donald Trump’s son and son-in-law met with a Russian lawyer shortly after Trump clinched the Republican presidential nomination in the summer of 2016.
On June 6, 2016, White House senior adviser Jared Kushner — the president’s son-in-law — and Donald Trump Jr. met with Russian lawyer Natalia Veselnitskaya, who reportedly has ties to the Kremlin.
Trump Jr. arranged the meeting and asked Kushner and then-Trump campaign manager Paul Manafort to attend as well, The New York Times reported Saturday. Both Trump Jr. and Kushner confirmed the meeting. The Times said that “confidential government records described to” the outlet and “interviews and the documents, which were outlined by people familiar with them” provided the basis for its story on the “previously unreported meeting.”
Despite the benign details and circumstances surrounding the June 2016 meeting, the media speculated over the report as if it were a potential bombshell.
The purpose of the meeting, both as reported by The Times and confirmed by Trump Jr., was to discuss the possibility of lifting a set of 2012 sanctions slapped on Russian officials over the 2009 death under suspicious circumstances of a Russian auditor exploring possible fraud among well-connected Russians.
“A quick internet search reveals Ms. Veselnitskaya as a formidable operator with a history of pushing the Kremlin’s agenda. Most notable is her campaign against the Magnitsky Act, which provoked a Cold War-style, tit-for-tat row with the Kremlin when President Barack Obama signed it into law in 2012,” The Times reported. “An infuriated Mr. Putin has called the law an ‘outrageous act,’ and, in addition to banning American adoptions, compiled what became known as an ‘anti-Magnitsky’ blacklist of United States citizens.”
Trump Jr. said that the meeting with Veselnitskaya was “a short introductory meeting” in which they discussed “a program about the adoption of Russian children.”
“It was a short introductory meeting. I asked Jared and Paul to stop by. We primarily discussed a program about the adoption of Russian children that was active and popular with American families years ago and was since ended by the Russian government, but it was not a campaign issue at that time and there was no follow-up,” Trump Jr. said in a statement to Fox News. “I was asked to attend the meeting by an acquaintance, but was not told the name of the person I would be meeting with beforehand.”
Because Trump Jr. does not serve in his father’s administration in any capacity whatsoever, he was never required to list any meetings or conversations he held with foreigners. Kushner, on the other hand, ran into trouble when he submitted an incomplete list of his conversations following his appointment as a senior adviser.
Kushner’s lawyer, Jamie Gorelick, told Fox News in a statement that “as we have previously stated, Mr. Kushner’s SF-86 was prematurely submitted and, among other errors, did not list any contacts with foreign government officials.”
“The next day, Mr. Kushner submitted supplemental information stating that he had ‘numerous contacts with foreign officials’ about which he would be happy to provide additional information,” Gorelick added. “He has since submitted this information, including that during the campaign and transition, he had over 100 calls or meetings with representatives of more than 20 countries, most of which were during transition.”
Gorelick added that Kushner submitted, “out of an abundance of caution,” the details of his meeting with Veselnitskaya, whom he met at his brother-in-law’s request. Gorelick noted that Kushner is eager to comply with the investigation into Russian election interference and any potential collusion.
White House Chief of Staff Reince Priebus said Sunday on Fox News’ “Fox News Sunday” that the 20-minute-long Kushner-Manafort-Trump Jr. meeting with the Russian lawyer was a “nothing meeting” that deserved nowhere near the amount of attention the media and the Left were allotting to it.
“It was a nothing meeting,” Priebus said. “Talking about issues of foreign policy, issues related to our place in the world, issues important to the American people like adoption, is not unusual.”
“I don’t know much about it other than [that] it seems to be on the end of the Trump individuals a big nothing-burger but may spin out of control for the [Democratic National Committee] and the Democrats,” Priebus added.
Media pundits and liberals, in fact, did jump on the undisclosed meeting as the report circulated across the internet.
“Yep, they’re in trouble. 1st confirmed meeting btw a Kremlin operative & Trump campaign in the months b4 election,” Amy Siskind, an LGBT advocate, Huffington Post contributor and president of the feminist The New Agenda, tweeted Sunday.
While retweeting a Politico story citing Priebus’ “nothing-burger” comments, MSNBC justice and security analyst Matthew Miller tweeted, “If so, then why did they lie about it? Why have Trump Jr., [former National Security Adviser Michael] Flynn, Kushner, [Attorney General Jeff] Sessions all lied about or omitted mtgs with Russian officials?”
CNN’s “Reliable Sources” host Brian Stelter noted Saturday that in this story’s case anonymous sources appeared to be correct, tweeting, “Notable sourcing: ‘confidential government records described to The New York Times.’ Then Trump Jr. & Kushner’s reps confirmed it when asked.”
For her own part, Veselnitskaya told The Times, “Nothing at all was discussed about the presidential campaign,” adding, “I have never acted on behalf of the Russian government and have never discussed any of these matters with any representative of the Russian government.”
Rep. Adam Schiff (D-Calif.) said Sunday on CNN’s “State of the Union” that the House Intelligence Committee is “going to want to question everyone at that meeting about what was discussed.”
A spokesman for Trump’s legal team told Circa that “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,” spokesman Mark Corallo added, referring to the firm hired by anti-Trumpers during the campaign to perform opposition research on Trump.
“These developments raise serious issues as to exactly who authorized and participated in any effort by Russian nationals to influence our election in any manner,” Corallo continued.
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