clear
Wednesday November 22nd, 2017 9:46AM

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

By The Associated Press
Related Articles
  Contact Editor

WASHINGTON (AP) — 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.

___

Associated Press writers Eric Tucker, Stephen Braun and Julie Pace contributed to this report.

___

Submit a confidential tip to The Associated Press: https://www.ap.org/tips

___

Follow Desmond Butler and Chad Day on Twitter: https://twitter.com/desmondbutler and https://twitter.com/ChadSDay

  • Associated Categories: Associated Press (AP), AP National News, AP Online National News, Top General short headlines, AP Online Headlines - Washington, AP Online Congress News, AP Elections, AP World News, AP Elections - Campaigns
© Copyright 2017 AccessWDUN.com
All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed without permission.
Russian-American lobbyist joined Trump's son's meeting, too
A Russian-American lobbyist says he attended a June 2016 meeting with President Donald Trump's son that was billed as part of a Russian government effort to help the Republican campaign
4:36PM ( 4 minutes ago )
Top House Republican says budget plan to move ahead
A Republican leader says the House is moving ahead with the party's long-overdue budget blueprint, even as divisions between moderates and conservatives over cutting programs like food stamps threaten passage of the measure
4:31PM ( 8 minutes ago )
Amtrak praises riders, calls 1st week of repairs 'very good'
Amtrak is calling the first week of summer-long track work at New York's Penn Station 'very good'
4:19PM ( 20 minutes ago )
Associated Press (AP)
Senator selling stock after AP ties company to Mexican labor
Indiana Sen. Joe Donnelly says he's selling his stock in a family business that relies on Mexican labor to produce dye for ink pads
3:57PM ( 42 minutes ago )
Bastille Day: Macron vows merciless fight against terror
French President Emmanuel Macron has vowed a "fight without mercy" inside and outside France to end extremist attacks like the one that killed 86 revelers on Bastille Day in the Riviera city of Nice last year
3:55PM ( 44 minutes ago )
Nevada Sen. Dean Heller is the man to watch on health bill
With health care legislation hanging by a thread in the Senate, no lawmaker is under more pressure than Nevada's GOP Sen. Dean Heller
3:54PM ( 45 minutes ago )
AP Online Headlines - Washington
Trump, administration press Republicans to back health bill
President Donald Trump and other administration are lobbying Republicans from both sides of the Atlantic to back the Senate GOP's reworked health care bill
1:27PM ( 3 hours ago )
Lawmakers say world owes debt of gratitude to Liu Xiaobo
Lawmakers say the death of Liu Xiaobo is a catastrophic loss for China and the entire world, and his contributions to human rights should never be forgotten
1:10PM ( 3 hours ago )
Governors look to talk to Pence about GOP health care plan
Vice President Mike Pence will address U.S. governors in Rhode Island, and some of them say they'll be looking to speak with him about the latest Republican health care overhaul
1:04PM ( 3 hours ago )
AP Online Congress News
The Latest: Pelosi calls for independent Russia commission
House Democrats are renewing calls for a vote on an independent commission to investigate Russia's election meddling and ties to the Trump administration
9:48AM ( 6 hours ago )
Trump maintains 'nothing happened' when son met Russian
Although Trump says 'nothing happened' when son met Russian, senators investigating Russian election meddling want more from Trump Jr.
3:27AM ( 13 hours ago )
The Latest: Senate intel panel asks Trump Jr. for documents
The top Democrat on the Senate Intelligence Committee says the panel has requested documents from Donald Trump Jr.
1:56AM ( 14 hours ago )
AP Elections
AP Explains: How do politicians collect opposition research?
The typically inside-the-Beltway term 'opposition research' has burst onto the public stage with the recent disclosure that Trump's eldest son was receptive to an offer from a "Russian government attorney" for dirt on Hillary Clinton
7:41AM ( 1 day ago )
The Latest: FBI pick says Russia probe not a "witch hunt"
President Trump's choice to lead the FBI says he does not believe a special counsel investigation into possible coordination between Russia and the Trump election campaign is a "witch hunt."
3:22AM ( 1 day ago )
AP Exclusive: Senator profits from outsourcing he slams
An Indiana senator who railed against Carrier Corp. for moving manufacturing jobs to Mexico profits from a family business that relies on Mexican labor to produce dye for ink pads
1:18AM ( 1 day ago )
AP Elections - Campaigns
Top House Republican says budget plan to move ahead
A Republican leader says the House is moving ahead with the party's long-overdue budget blueprint, even as divisions between moderates and conservatives over cutting programs like food stamps threaten passage of the measure
4:31PM ( 8 minutes ago )
Amtrak praises riders, calls 1st week of repairs 'very good'
Amtrak is calling the first week of summer-long track work at New York's Penn Station 'very good'
4:19PM ( 20 minutes ago )
FBI: Buried body is fugitive accused in police chief slaying
Authorities have confirmed that the remains of a fugitive wanted in the 1980 slaying of a Pennsylvania police chief have been found buried in a yard in Massachusetts
4:19PM ( 20 minutes ago )
New York museum recreates scene of Nazi war criminal's trial
A New York museum is recreating the Jerusalem court where Nazi war criminal Adolf Eichmann was tried in 1961 for engineering the deaths of millions of Jews
4:18PM ( 21 minutes ago )
The Latest: 3rd home threatened by growing Florida sinkhole
Officials say a third home is threatened by a growing sinkhole in Florida
4:16PM ( 24 minutes ago )