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NY Times reports Russian lawyer promised Clinton information to Trump's son

US President Donald Trump's son reportedly met with a Russian lawyer during the 2016 election campaign to gather information about Hillary Clinton. The meeting raises questions about collusion with Russia.

The New York Times reported that US President Donald Trump's son Donald Trump Jr. had a meeting with Russian lawyer Natalia Veselnitskaya during his father's 2016 presidential campaign after she promised "damaging information" about Trump's rival, Hillary Clinton.

The paper quoted a statement from Donald Trump Jr. in which he apparently acknowledged the meeting in June 2016:

"After pleasantries were exchanged, the woman stated that she had information that individuals connected to Russia were funding the Democratic National Committee and supporting Ms. Clinton," the Times quoted Donald Trump Jr. as saying.

"Her statements were vague, ambiguous and made no sense. No details or supporting information was provided or even offered. It quickly became clear that she had no meaningful information."

Trump's campaign chairman at the time, Paul Manafort, and his son-in-law, Jared Kushner, were reported to also have attended the meeting, the New York Times reported. According to the newspaper, three advisers to the White House confirmed the information.

The meetings raise further questions about whether the Trump campaign colluded or attempted to collude with Russia to influence the election. 

According to two articles in The New York Times last weekend, the meeting focused on the Magnitsky Act, a US law targeting a number of Russian officials. Russia has criticized the 2012 law and responded by banning Americans from adopting Russian children. 

The Kremlin denied any knowledge about Veselnitskaya.

"No, we don't know who that is, and, naturally, we cannot keep track of meetings of all Russian lawyers in Russia and abroad," Putin's spokesman Dmitry Peskov told reporters on Monday. 

Trump 'not aware' of meeting

Allegations of the Trump campaign's ties to Russia have cast a long shadow over Trump's first months in office.

The Kremlin has denied various US intelligence agencies' conclusion that Moscow did try to tilt the election in Trump's favor, using means ranging from hacking into the emails of senior Democrats to actively spreading misinformation campaigns about Hillary Clinton.

Trump himself has repeatedly denied any collusion. In regard to Don Jr.'s reported meeting with Veselnitskaya, Mark Corallo, the spokesman for Trump's legal team, said the candidate was "not aware of and did not attend" the meeting.

US-Russia cybersecurity unit

On Sunday, Trump said he and Russian President Vladimir Putin discussed forming a cybersecurity unit. 

"Putin & I discussed forming an impenetrable Cyber Security unit so that election hacking, & many other negative things, will be guarded and safe," he wrote on Twitter following their talks at the G20 in Hamburg.

His suggestion was criticized by Republicans who said Moscow could not be trusted after its alleged meddling in the 2016 US election.

"It's not the dumbest idea I have ever heard but it's pretty close," Republican senator Lindsey Graham of South Carolina told NBC's "Meet the Press" program on Sunday.

Republican Senator for Florida Marco Rubio said Trump's idea to partner "with Putin on a 'Cyber Security Unit' was akin to partnering with (Syrian President Bashar) Assad on a 'Chemical Weapons Unit.'"

Later on Sunday, Trump sent out another message by Twitter saying: "The fact that President Putin and I discussed a Cyber Security unit doesn't mean I think it can happen. It can't - but a ceasefire can,& did!"

ss/jm (Reuters, AP)

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