NBC’s Keir Simmons snagged the first interview with the Russian lawyer who met with Donald Trump Jr. for a now infamous June, 2016 meeting at Trump Tower.
Natalia Veselnitskaya, a Russian lawyer with reported Kremlin-ties, told Simmons that she received a call to set up a meeting at Trump Tower with President Donald Trump’s son — in which she was asked for damaging information on Hillary Clinton’s campaign.
“You wake up one morning and you find out you are the focus of all the high ranking, upstream media,” Veselnitskaya told Simmons through a translator.
Don Jr. initially said the meeting — also attended by then-campaign chairman Paul Manafort and Trump’s son-in-law Jared Kushner — was for a discussion over Russian adoption policy, before it was reported by The New York Times that he met with Veselnitskaya after she promised damaging information on Clinton.
“I never knew who else would be attending the meeting, Veselnitskaya said. “All I knew that Mr. Donald Trump Jr. was willing to meet with me.
She also detailed her interaction with Kushner, who she said “was only present in the meeting for probably the first seven to ten minutes,” before he “stood up and left the room.”
“And the other individual who was at the same meeting, was always looking at his phone,” she continued. “He was reading something. He never took any active part in the conversation. That was Mr. Manafort.”
Simmons asked why the Trump campaign officials had the impression Veselnitskaya could provide them with the damaging information they sought.
“It’s quite possible that maybe they were looking for such information,” she replied. “They wanted it so badly.”
Veselnitskaya was also asked about reports she had any connections to the Kremlin, or was working on behalf of the Russian government when she met with Don Jr., to which she offered a terse “nyet.”
Simmons said on the Today show that he conducted a lengthy interview with Veselnitskaya, segments of which would be aired throughout the day.
The exclusive interview comes on the back of Monday’s late night bombshell from The New York Times reporting Don Jr. was told that his meeting with Veselnitskaya was part of a Kremlin effort to help his father’s campaign.
Watch the interview above, via NBC.
[image via screengrab]
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