Archive for Friday, July 14, 2017

Russian-American lobbyist joined Trump’s son’s meeting, too

In this photo provided by Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty, Rinat Akhmetshin is photographed at the Newseum in Washington, June 13, 2016 after a documentary screening. Rep. Adam Schiff, ranking member on the Senate Intelligence Committee says reports that a second Russian person was in a meeting with Donald Trump Jr. last summer "adds another deeply disturbing fact about this secret meeting." Akhmetshin confirmed his participation to The Associated Press on Friday, July 14, 2017.

In this photo provided by Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty, Rinat Akhmetshin is photographed at the Newseum in Washington, June 13, 2016 after a documentary screening. Rep. Adam Schiff, ranking member on the Senate Intelligence Committee says reports that a second Russian person was in a meeting with Donald Trump Jr. last summer "adds another deeply disturbing fact about this secret meeting." Akhmetshin confirmed his participation to The Associated Press on Friday, July 14, 2017.

July 14, 2017, 11:25 a.m. Updated July 14, 2017, 5:31 p.m.

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WASHINGTON — A prominent Russian-American lobbyist and former Soviet military officer attended a meeting with President Donald Trump's son, son-in-law and campaign chairman last year, the lobbyist said Friday, adding a new wrinkle to the Trump team's evolving explanations about the June 2016 session.

Rinat Akhmetshin confirmed his involvement to The Associated Press in an interview. He had not been previously identified as a participant in the meeting at Trump Tower in New York, which was billed as part of a Russian government effort to help the Republican's White House campaign.

The meeting has heightened questions about whether Trump's associates coordinated with Russia to meddle in the presidential election — to help him and thwart Hillary Clinton — and whether they've been forthcoming about their foreign contacts. Federal and congressional investigators are probing possible connections between the campaign and Moscow.

Akhmetshin has been reported to have ties to Russian intelligence, a characterization he dismisses as a "smear campaign." He's a well-known Washington presence, lobbying for Russian interests trying to undermine the allegations of a lawyer who died in a Russian prison and is the namesake of a U.S. sanctions law.

Akhmetshin told the AP he served in the Soviet military in a unit that was part of counterintelligence but he was never formally trained as a spy.

In emails posted by Donald Trump Jr. earlier this week, a music publicist said he arranged the meeting because a Russian lawyer wanted to pass on negative information about Democrat Clinton. The go-between stated that the discussion was part of a Russian government effort to help the GOP candidate.

While Trump Jr. has confirmed that Russian attorney Natalia Veselnitskaya was in the meeting, he has not disclosed Akhmetshin's presence. The president's son has publicly discounted the meeting, saying he did not receive the information he was promised.

In a statement Sunday, Trump Jr. said the attorney had said she had information that people tied to Russia were funding the Democratic National Committee and supporting Clinton, a description that Akhmetshin backed up in his interview with the AP.

In his first public interview about the meeting, Akhmetshin said he accompanied Veselnitskaya to Trump Tower where they met an interpreter. He said he had learned about the meeting only that day when Veselnitskaya asked him to attend. He said he showed up in jeans and a T-shirt.

Veselnitskaya brought with her a plastic folder with printed-out documents that detailed what she believed was the flow of illicit funds to the Democrats, Akhmetshin said. Veselnitskaya presented the contents of the documents to the Trump associates and suggested that making the information public could help the campaign, he said.

"This could be a good issue to expose how the DNC is accepting bad money," Akhmetshin recalled her saying.

Trump Jr. asked the attorney if she had sufficient evidence to back up her claims, including whether she could demonstrate the flow of the money. But Veselnitskaya said the Trump campaign would need to research it more. After that, Trump Jr. lost interest, according to Akhmetshin.

"They couldn't wait for the meeting to end," he said.

Akhmetshin said he does not know if Veselnitskaya's documents were provided by the Russian government. He said he thinks she left the materials with the Trump associates. It was unclear if she handed the documents to anyone in the room or simply left them behind, he said.

Jared Kushner, Trump's son-in-law and current White House senior adviser, and then-campaign chairman Paul Manafort also attended the meeting. Akhmetshin said he recognized Kushner and Trump Jr. He also said he recognized Manafort because they worked in "adjacent political circles" but never together.

He said there were others in the room but he didn't know them. Publicist Rob Goldstone, who brokered the meeting via email with Trump Jr., has told the AP that he was there.

Asked about Akhmetshin's participation, Manafort spokesman Jason Maloni declined comment. Trump Jr.'s attorney did not respond to inquiries, nor did a spokesman for Kushner. Veselnitskaya has denied having any ties to the Russian government. When reached by the AP this week, she declined comment. She did not respond to additional attempts to contact her Friday.

The confirmation of Akhmetshin's participation in the meeting drew swift reaction from the top Democrat on the House intelligence committee, Rep. Adam Schiff of California, who said he wanted Akhmetshin to appear before the committee and provide "any relevant documents and information."

Schiff said whether Akhmetshin is connected to Russian intelligence or not "it is clear the Kremlin got the message that Donald Trump welcomed the help of the Russian government in providing dirt on Hillary Clinton." Schiff said Trump Jr.'s omission of Akhmetshin's role in his public account of the meeting and the president's son's shifting explanations "paint a portrait of consistent dissembling and deceit."

Kushner disclosed the meeting on his security clearance paperwork, but Schiff said the Akhmetshin revelation raises questions about how much Kushner disclosed about it. He said he believes Kushner's clearance should be reviewed, and "if he was not perfectly candid," the clearance should be revoked.

Akhmetshin, who spoke to the AP while on vacation in France where he said he has been surfing, said the meeting was "not substantive" and he "actually expected more serious" discussion.

"I never thought this would be such a big deal, to be honest," he said.

The Russian government has denied any involvement or knowledge of the June 2016 meeting. Asked Friday about Akhmetshin, Russian President Vladimir Putin's spokesman, Dmitry Peskov, told reporters: "We don't know anything about this person."

Akhmetshin has been identified in media reports as a former officer in Russia's military intelligence service known as the GRU. He has denied that, saying he served in the Soviet Army from 1986 to 1988 after he was drafted but was not trained in spy tradecraft. He said his unit operated in the Baltics and was "loosely part of counterintelligence."

Akhmetshin said he has not been contacted by the U.S. special counsel's office or the FBI about the meeting with Trump Jr. He said he's willing to talk with the Senate Judiciary Committee, whose chairman has pressed the Justice Department about why Akhmetshin has not registered as a foreign agent.

The chairman, Republican Chuck Grassley of Iowa, said in a March letter that Akhmetshin has "reportedly admitted to being a 'Soviet counterintelligence officer' and has a long history of lobbying the U.S. government for pro-Russia matters."

Akhmetshin said that the Justice Department's Foreign Agents Registration Act unit sent him a letter in April and told him, "it has come to our attention you should have filed for FARA." He said he didn't believe he needed to file. He has previously registered with Congress for the lobbying work, and he plans to raise this issue before Grassley's committee.

"I think I have a legal right to tell my story," he said.

Separately on Friday, the data and digital director for Trump's presidential campaign said he will speak with the House Intelligence committee later this month as part of its own Russia probe.

Brad Parscale said in a statement that he is "unaware of any Russian involvement" in the data and digital operations but will voluntarily appear before the panel.

Comments

Fred Whitehead Jr. 4 months, 1 week ago

You are going to be in hot water with the Trump Administration for publishing this "fake news" in this news rag. Trump said himself that none of his people had anything to do with the Russians.

And Trump is the legitimate President of the United States. He cannot ever tell lies or misinformation........can he??

Scott Burkhart 4 months, 1 week ago

Remember that time that President Trump said that if you liked your healthcare you could keep it, if you liked your doctor you could keep them, his DOJ set up a gun running operation that fed automatic weapons into Mexico only to be lost and then result in the death of a border patrol agent, under his watch the IRS targeted conservative groups applying for tax exempt status, his SOS funneled hundreds of millions of dollars into her family's foundation while allowing access to herself as a result, his SOS setting up a computer server that held classified information and then he denied knowing about it only to found out later he had communicated on it as well, his Ambassador to the United Nations went on 5 Sunday talk shows and put forth a narrative about a YouTube video that resulted in a "spontaneous" protest by Libyans who killed three Americans including the Ambassador to Libya, his Attorney General met on a tarmac at the Phoenix airport with the former President of the United States whose wife, and possibly himself, were under investigation by the FBI?

That darn Trump. #MAGA

Greg Cooper 4 months, 1 week ago

Is that how you run your home, Scott? She did it so I can do it? I don't believe that's a part of your life now or when your kids were growing up. So what makes that two-year-old, kids-don't-know-any-better excuse valid coming from you or your grown up political party?

Chump, I will admit, has the rationality and self control of a two year old, but that doesn't mean that his followers have to be the same.

Michael Kort 4 months, 1 week ago

Well, it's that wild and crazy Trump Family again !

Now, does anybody know if people from North Korea or Iran and Lybia were at that meeting also ?

The Trump Family Faucet just keeps dripping........what is next ?

Fred Whitehead Jr. 4 months, 1 week ago

And the beat goes on. There should be no doubt at all with anyone that the Russians did all they could to defeat Mrs. Clinton, who was hands down the better and more experienced and logical candidate. She was ahead in most of the polls and got the most votes. Except for the antiquated and fraudulent "Electoral College" we would not be having this national crisis.

Of course.....if she had won......(she did).....the news stories would be pretty much the same.....the private server.......classified information (something that very few civilians have any knowledge of) Bill Clinton..Monica.......Whitewater.......yada...yada....yada.........the "Bobs" and their ilk would be posting daily slams and garbage about :President Clinton" extolling the defeat of a fine candidate, a genuinely competent and reasonable "president" truthful, gracious and wonderful real estate magnate who had much more positive attributes to be "president".

Michael Kort 4 months, 1 week ago

OBVIOUSLY, the whole world saw donald trump go on TV during a campaign event and openly ask a foreign power to find and release to the public hillary's missing emails .

he wasn't asking the British or the French......nor the Japanese or either of the Koreans .........can any of his supporters remember who he was asking ?...........exactly which country was it that was spoke of from his insane mouth ?........could it have been RUSSIA ?........BUT OF COURSE !

And now he is pretending that the Russian campaign contacts were just about Donald Jr, Son in law Kushner or Flynn who did all of this, without him knowing any of it ?.........RIGHT !

I know.......somebody whom he can't remember told him (?) that the RUSSIANS could find and release hillary's emails if he asked them nicely to do it on TV ?

REALLY ?.......his lies just keep growing and growing.........the drip, drip. drip that is endless !

Fred Whitehead Jr. 4 months, 1 week ago

As of today (Monday July 17)........Trump's approval rating......36%

Says it all.......

Richard Aronoff 4 months, 1 week ago

The hypocrisy among the Democrats in Congress is amazing. John Podesta, Debbie Wasserman-Schultz, Donna Brazile and the rest of the crew would have crawled over broken glass to attend a meeting with a foreigner who claimed to have damaging information about a Republican candidate.

Greg Cooper 4 months, 1 week ago

It's so easy to do that, isn't it Richard? You know, that "it's good that my guy did this stuff because your guy might have done the same thing". So adult, so intelligent, so absolutely damning to "my guy". Wow. I feel so castigated.

I also feel pretty damned good that "tour guy" got caught, and caught lying. Sorry you have to sometime face that inconvenient fact.

Greg Cooper 4 months, 1 week ago

It's so easy to do that, isn't it Richard? You know, that "it's good that my guy did this stuff because your guy might have done the same thing". So adult, so intelligent, so absolutely damning to "my guy". Wow. I feel so castigated.

I also feel pretty damned good that "your guy" got caught, and caught lying. Sorry you have to sometime face that inconvenient fact.

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