WASHINGTON — A Russian-American lobbyist says he attended a June 2016 meeting with President Donald Trump’s son, marking another shift in the account of a discussion that was billed as part of a Russian government effort to help the Republican’s White House campaign.
Rinat Akhmetshin confirmed his participation to The Associated Press on Friday.
The meeting heightened questions about whether Trump’s campaign coordinated with the Russian government during the election, which is the focus of federal and congressional investigations. In emails posted by Donald Trump Jr. earlier this week, an associate who arranged the meeting said a Russian lawyer wanted to pass on negative information about Democrat Hillary Clinton and stated plainly that the discussion was part of a Russian government effort to help the GOP candidate.
While Trump Jr. has confirmed that the Russian attorney was in the meeting he did not disclose Akhmetshin’s presence. The president’s son has tried to discount the meeting, saying that he did not receive the information he was promised.
Akhmetshin said the meeting was “not substantive” and he “actually expected more serious” discussion.
“I never thought this would be such a big deal to be honest,” he told AP.
Jared Kushner, Trump’s son-in-law and current White House senior adviser, and then-campaign chairman Paul Manafort also attended the meeting.
Asked about Akhmetshin and his possible participation in the June 2016 meeting, Dmitry Peskov, spokesman for Russian President Vladimir Putin, told reporters on Friday: “We don’t know anything about this person.”