A spokesperson for Russian President Vladimir Putin issued a statement Monday denying Putin had any knowledge of an alleged June 2016 meeting between Donald Trump Jr. and a Russian lawyer with ties to the Kremlin, the Associated Press reported.
The statement comes one day after the New York Times published its bombshell report alleging that Trump Jr. met with Putin-linked lawyer Natalia Veselnitskaya in order to obtain damning information on Trump opponent Hillary Clinton.
In a statement to the Times, the president’s eldest son did not deny that the meeting took place, though he claimed that Veselnitskaya did not have any “meaningful information” to offer him when they spoke at Trump Tower on June 9, 2016.
“After pleasantries were exchanged, [Veselnitskaya] stated that she had information that individuals connected to Russia were funding the Democratic National Committee and supporting Mrs. Clinton,” Trump Jr. said in a statement to the Times. “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.”
On Monday morning, Trump Jr. tweeted sarcastically to reiterate his statement disputing the notion that he received damning information from Veselnitskaya on Clinton.
The Times report, and the Kremlin’s seeming attempt to distance itself from its findings, come on the heels of President Donald Trump’s hotly anticipated meeting with President Putin Friday in the midst of a special investigation into whether his presidential campaign had any improper dealings with ranking Russian officials.
Though some expected Trump to use his meeting with Putin to hold him accountable for what the intelligence community claims was Russian interference in the 2016 presidential election, instead the two presidents discussed “forming an impenetrable cybersecurity unit” to prevent election hacking — a discussion that was immediately mocked by Democrats and even those in Trump’s own party.
“I’m sure that Vladimir Putin could be of enormous assistance in that effort since he is doing the hacking,” Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) said, whereas Rep. Ted Lieu (D-Calif.) called it a “crazy idea.”
“You don’t form a unit with the Russians, who just attacked America last year with a massive cyberattack,” Lieu said.
After the bipartisan backlash, President Donald Trump has since abandoned the idea to form the unit.