Days after Donald Trump Jr. hosted a group of Russians at Trump Tower promising to deliver damaging information on the Democratic National Committee and presidential candidate Hillary Clinton, a hacker believed connected to the Russian government released a trove of documents online ― including ones that sound similar to those reportedly provided to Trump Jr.
Ranit Akhmetshin, a Russian American lobbyist and former Soviet counterintelligence officer, told The Associated Press on Friday he took part in the meeting on June 9, 2016, along with Russian lawyer Natalia Veselnitskaya. Akhmetshin said Veselnitskaya brought a folder full of documents, which he said she left behind after the meeting.
The documents detailed the Democratic National Committee's finances and funding sources, some of which Veselnitskaya described as unlawful, Akhmetshin told the AP.
Trump Jr. has dismissed the meeting as "a nothing" that led "nowhere."
Nine days after the meeting, an entity who identifies as "Guccifer 2.0" ― believed to be a front for Russia's intelligence services ― released a cache of documents that appear to have been stolen from a DNC server. The contents seem similar to those described by Akhmetshin in Friday's interview.
"Here I upload a new part of docs from the DNC network," the Guccifer 2.0 website bragged at the time. "It appears there are a lot of financial reports, donors lists and their detailed personal information including e-mail addresses and private cell phone numbers... I got tons of files and docs!!!"
If the files Akhmetshin said were left in Trump Jr.'s office and those released by Guccifer 2.0 are the same, it would apparently show an information pipeline flowing from Russian intelligence to the Trump campaign.
Without knowing more about the documents reportedly left in Trump Jr.'s office, it's unclear whether that's actually the case.
In an interview with NBC News this week, Veselnitskaya specifically addressed ― then ruled out ― any possibility that she provided Trump Jr. with records about DNC finances.
Trump Jr. "clearly asked me if I had any financial records to back and support the idea that some funds from illegal sources went to DNC, went to Hilary Clinton," Veselnitskaya said. "In reply to that, I told him that not only I don't have any financial records of that time — there was no chance that I could somehow, anyhow, have such records."
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