A former Soviet military intelligence officer told the Associated Press on Friday that a Russian lawyer he accompanied to a June 9, 2016, meeting at Trump Tower offered to provide information about illicit financial activity carried out by the Democratic National Committee.
Nine days later, on June 18, Guccifer 2.0, the hacker believed to be a front for Russian spy agencies, dropped a bombshell.
“NEW DOCS FROM DNC NETWORK: LOTS OF FINANCIAL REPORTS AND DONORS’ PERSONAL DATA,” was the headline plastered across the Guccifer 2.0 website.
The article included a trove of information about DNC donors and memos related to the Clinton campaign.
On June 20 Guccifer 2.0 announced that that they were planning to release a dossier of information on Clinton. The next day, the website published a slew of files about Clinton that appear to have been hacked from the DNC. (RELATED: Here’s What We Know About Rinat Akhmetshin)
Three days before, Guccifer 2.0 made the first post on the WordPress website. In the post, the hacker(s) claimed that the DNC breach was a one-man operation not connected to the Russian government.
The Trump White House has strongly denied that the campaign participants in the June 9 meeting — Donald Trump Jr., Jared Kushner, and Paul Manafort — colluded with Russian agents. But details of the meeting provided by the former Soviet counterintelligence officer raise new questions about those denials.
Rinat Akhmethsin, the former Soviet agent and a lobbyist operating in Washington, D.C., told the Associated Press that he attended the meeting along with Natalia Veselnitskaya, a Russian lawyer.
The pair were associated with the Human Rights Accountability Global Initiative Foundation, a small non-profit that aims to roll back a law that imposes sanctions on Russian criminals.
Veselnitskaya and Trump Jr. have said that the Trump Tower meeting centered on the Magnitsky Act.
But Akhmetshin said that Veselnitskaya brought a plastic folder full of printed-out documents to the meeting. Veselnitskaya’s documents “detailed her claims about the contributions to the Democratic National Committee,” AP reported.
Akhmetshin said he did not know if the documents came from the Russian government but that he believes that Veselnitskaya left the information with the Trump team members.
The operative, who operates in the shadows of Washington, D.C. but has close contacts to Beltway reporters, claimed that the meeting was “not substantive.”
“I never thought this would be such a big deal to be honest,” he told the wire service.
The presentation of DNC information is somewhat different than what Trump Jr. was promised when he was approached about the meeting on June 3.
Rob Goldstone, a music publicist who works for Trump family associate Emin Agalarov, reached out to Trump Jr. through email that day offering opposition research on Hillary Clinton.
Goldstone said that he wanted Trump Jr. to meet with a “Russian government attorney” who claimed to have “some official documents and information that would incriminate Hillary and her dealings with Russia and would be very useful to your father.”
Goldstone was informed of the offer by Agalarov, whose father, Aras Agalarov, is a Russian oligarch close to Russia’s president Vladimir Putin.
“This is obviously very high level and sensitive information but is part of Russia and its government’s support for Mr. Trump,” Goldstone wrote.
Trump Jr. responded to the offer saying, “I love it.”
The revelations about the Trump Tower meeting have drawn new attention to other goings on at that point of the campaign cycle.
On June 7, several hours after Trump Jr. and Goldstone set a time for the meeting, then-candidate Trump said that he would be making a major revelation about Clinton.
“I am going to give a major speech on probably Monday of next week, and we’re going to be discussing all of the things that have taken place with the Clintons,” Trump said that night. “I think you’re going to find it very informative and very, very interesting. I wonder if the press will want to attend.”
The White House has said that Trump only recently learned of the Trump Tower meeting. Trump never made the explosive speech, which would have occurred on June 13. The White House has said that the speech was delayed because of the Orlando nightclub shooting the day before.