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An ex-Soviet counterintelligence officer was in the Donald Trump Jr meeting

Key Points
  • A Russian-born American lobbyist who once was a Soviet counterintelligence officer was also at the June 2016 meeting with Donald Trump Jr. and a Russian lawyer.
  • The lobbyist denies current ties to any Russian intelligence agencies.
Ex-Soviet counter intelligence officer attended the Donald Trump Jr meeting

When Russian lawyer Natalia Veselnitskaya met with members of then-candidate Donald Trump's campaign team, she brought a guest — a former Soviet counterintelligence officer.

The man at the June 2016 meeting with Donald Trump Jr., Jared Kushner and Paul Manafort is a Russian-born American lobbyist who also served in the Soviet military, NBC News reported. The lobbyist, Rinat Akhmetshin, has been reported to have ties with Russian intelligence, though he denies the connections.

Some U.S. officials suspect otherwise, NBC said.

Akhmetshin told The Associated Press the meeting was "not substantive" and he "actually expected more serious" discussion. The AP reported that Akhmetshin said the younger Trump asked Veselnitskaya for "evidence of illicit money flowing to the Democratic National Committee, but Veselnitskaya said she didn't have that information." Akhmetshin added that Trump Jr. lost interest after that, the AP reported, and "they couldn't wait for the meeting to end."

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

Trump Jr. agreed to the meeting after being offered compromising material on then-candidate Hillary Clinton, according to emails he released this week. Veselnitskaya told NBC News she had at least one other guest with her in the meeting, but declined to say who he was.

The revelation adds a new layer to the meeting, which has drawn the attention of congressional and possibly federal investigators. Congressional committees and a special counsel appointed by the Justice Department are looking into Russian attempts to influence the 2016 election and whether the Trump campaign coordinated with the Kremlin.

Trump Jr.'s lawyer, Alan Futerfas, told NBC that two other people came to the meeting with Veselnitskaya, one who was described as a translator and one described as a "friend of Emin's and maybe as a friend of Natalia's." Emin Agalarov is a Russian pop singer whose billionaire father, Aras, is a friend of President Trump.

Futerfas told NBC he spoke with the "friend," but it is not clear if that person is the same one who U.S. officials suspect could have ties to Russian intelligence. The person Futerfas spoke to told the lawyer that he was not working for the Russian government, according to NBC.

In the emails released this week by the younger Trump, Emin Agalarov's agent, Rob Goldstone, said the Agalarovs were involved in setting up Trump Jr.'s meeting with Veselnitskaya.

On Fox News' "Hannity" this week, before NBC News' Friday report, Trump Jr. was asked, "as far as you know, as far as this incident is concerned, this is all of it?"

"This is everything. This is everything," Trump Jr. responded.

The emails showed that Trump Jr. accepted the meeting after he was offered "high level and sensitive information" that would "incriminate" Clinton as part of "Russia and its government's support" for his father's campaign. In messages from Goldstone to Trump Jr., Veselnitskaya was characterized as a "Russian government attorney," though she has denied connections to the Kremlin.

"If it's what you say I love it," Trump Jr. said in response to the offer about Clinton, according to the email exchange.

Trump Jr. emails show desire to collude with Russia, says Former Bush ethics lawyer

Akhmetshin told the AP that Veselnitskaya brought a folder with documents, part of which "detailed what she believed was the flow of illicit funds to the Democratic National Committee." She "presented the contents of the documents to the Trump associates" and suggested that taking the material public "could help the Trump campaign," the AP reported of Akhmetshin's account.

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

Akhmetshin added in the interview that he did not know if the Russian government gave the documents, but he "thinks she left the materials with the Trump associates."

Later Friday, The Wall Street Journal reported that Veselnitskaya said she was not "working for Russian authorities." But she was in regular contact with the Russian prosecutor general's office about her efforts lobbying against the Magnitsky Act, the U.S. policy aimed at punishing Russian human rights abusers. She "shared information" with the prosecutor's office about William Browder, the fund manager who supports the Magnitsky Act.

"I personally know the general prosecutor," she told the Journal. "In the course of my investigation [about the fund manager], I shared information with him."

Akhmetshin has also lobbied against the policy.

President Trump has defended his son's conduct, saying Thursday that "most people would have taken that meeting." However, accepting campaign opposition research under the pretext that it is from a foreign government is not a common practice.

The president's legal team has said he was not aware of and did not attend the meeting.

Representatives of Kushner and Manafort declined to comment, NBC News reported. CNBC could not reach their representatives.

The White House did not respond to CNBC's request to comment.

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