Michael Isikoff reports:
President Trump’s legal team was informed more than three weeks ago about the email chain showing that his son Donald Jr. met with a Kremlin-connected lawyer last June, two sources familiar with the handling of the matter told Yahoo News.
Trump told Reuters in an interview on Wednesday that he learned just “a couple of days ago” that his son, Donald Trump Jr, had met with the Russian lawyer, Natalia Veselnitskaya, after receiving emails that she would supply him with information that “would incriminate Hillary” and was “part of Russia and its government’s support for Mr. Trump.” That was the day after Donald Jr. released the email exchanges himself, after learning they would be published by the New York Times.
Trump repeated that assertion in a talk with reporters Air Force One on his way to Paris Wednesday night. “I only heard about it two or three days ago,” he said according to a transcript of his talk when asked about the meeting with Veselnitskaya at Trump Tower in June 2016 attended by Donald Trump Jr., Paul Manafort, then Trump’s campaign chief, and Trump’s son-in-law Jared Kushner.
But the sources told Yahoo News that Marc Kasowitz, the president’s chief lawyer in the Russia investigation, and Alan Garten, executive vice president and chief legal officer of the Trump Organization, were both informed about the emails in the third week of June, after they were discovered by lawyers for Kushner, who is now a senior White House official.
On June 8, 2016, Trump Jr. had forwarded an email to Kushner and Manafort about the upcoming meeting with the subject line: “FW: Russia-Clinton-private & confidential.”
The discovery of the emails prompted Kushner to amend his security clearance form to reflect the meeting, which he had failed to report when he originally sought clearance for his White House job. That revision — his second — to the so-called SF-86, was done on June 21. Kushner made the change even though there were questions among his lawyers whether the meeting had to be reported, given that there was no clear evidence that Veselntiskya was a government official. The change to the security form prompted the FBI to question Kushner on June 23, the second time he was interviewed by agents about his security clearance, the sources said.
But the information that Trump’s lawyers were told about the emails in June raises questions about why they would not have immediately informed the president. Trump’s campaign is under investigation by Special Counsel Robert Mueller into possible collusion with Russian government officials. The emails appear to be the first hard evidence of contacts between top campaign officials and someone connected to the Kremlin.
A spokesman for Kasowitz declined to comment, saying the matter involved “privileged information.” Garten did not respond to an email request for comment.
Pushing back the discovery of the emails to the third week in June also raises additional questions about the initial public statements made by the White House after the existence of the meeting was first reported by the New York Times on July 8. At that time, Trump, Jr. issued a public statement describing the session as a “short introductory meeting” in which the primary topic of discussion was “the adoption of Russian children” by American families.” The actual purpose of the meeting, to obtain damaging information about Hillary Clinton ostensibly collected by the Russian government, wasn’t mentioned in Trump’s initial statement.
The next day, Reince Priebus, the White House chief of staff, said in an interview that the meeting was a “big nothing burger.”
The president himself repeatedly described the Russia investigation as “fake news” and ridiculed television networks’ reports about it. “With four months looking at Russia…under a magnifying glass, they have ‘zero tapes’ of T people colluding. There is no collusion & no obstruction. I should be given an apology!” the president wrote in two tweets on June 26.
Read more at Yahoo News