NEW YORK (Reuters) – Donald Trump Jr. was told in an email before meeting a Russian lawyer who he thought had material damaging to Hillary Clinton that it was part of a Russian government bid to aid his father’s presidential campaign, the New York Times (NYT) said on Monday.
Citing three people with knowledge of the email, the paper said publicist Rob Goldstone indicated in the message to U.S. President Donald Trump’s eldest son that the Russian government was the source of the potentially damaging information.
Trump Jr did not indicate in a statement on Sunday that he had been told the lawyer might be a proxy for the Kremlin.
The email is likely to be of interest to investigators examining whether any Trump associates colluded with the Russian government to sway last year’s election, the Times said.
Trump Jr. hired a lawyer on Monday to represent him in the Russia-related investigations as prominent Republicans voiced concern about the meeting between the president’s son and a Russian.
Allegations of the Trump campaign’s ties to Russia have cast a shadow over the Republican president’s first months in office and sparked investigations by congressional committees and a federal special counsel, Robert Mueller, into whether Russia interfered in the election and colluded with the Trump campaign.
Moscow denies interfering and Trump, who became president on Jan. 20, says there was no collusion.
“It’s a very serious development,” Representative Adam Schiff, the top Democrat on the House Intelligence Committee, told MSNBC of the Times report. “It all warrants thorough investigation. Everyone who was in that meeting ought to come before our committee.”
Trump Jr. hired New York lawyer Alan Futerfas, who specializes in criminal defense and whose clients have included alleged organized crime figures, a Russian computer hacker and white-collar criminals.
“I look forward to assisting Donald Jr. and, quite frankly, there is nothing to all of the media buzz about the June 9th, 2016 meeting,” Futerfas told Reuters. “That will be proven to be the case.”
Futerfas would not say when he was retained or whether he played any part in the statements Trump Jr. made during the weekend about his June 2016 meeting at Trump Tower in New York with a Russian lawyer, Natalia Veselnitskaya, during the presidential election campaign.
Trump Jr. said he agreed to meet Veselnitskaya, described by the New York Times as having links to the Kremlin, after being promised damaging information about Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton.
Trump’s son-in-law, Jared Kushner, and Trump’s then-campaign chairman, Paul Manafort, also attended, the Times said.
It called the encounter the first confirmed private meeting of members of Donald Trump’s inner circle with a Russian national during the campaign.