NYT: Russian lawyer at Trump Tower meeting had closer ties to Kremlin than previously disclosed

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(CNN) — Newly surfaced emails indicate that Natalia Veselnitskaya, the Russian lawyer who met with Trump campaign associates in 2016, once worked with Russia’s chief legal office in an effort to thwart the Justice Department, The New York Times reported on Friday.

The newspaper notes that the disclosure suggests that the lawyer had closer ties to the Kremlin than she had previously suggested.

The Times reported that, according to an NBC News interview to be broadcast Friday, Veselnitskaya disclosed that she was a “source of information” for Russian Prosecutor General Yuri Chaika.

The Times said Chaika’s office did not respond to requests for comment and that Veselnitskaya said she would respond in two weeks.

The June 2016 meeting at Trump Tower is an area of inquiry in special counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation into whether anyone from the Trump campaign colluded with Russians to meddle in the election.

Donald Trump Jr., then-Trump campaign chairman Paul Manafort and President Donald Trump’s son-in-law Jared Kushner, among others, attended the meeting. Emails have revealed that Trump Jr. accepted the meeting on the premise that he would be offered incriminating information on Hillary Clinton by way of the Russian government.

Trump Jr. has said the meeting was unproductive and that instead of providing dirt on Clinton, Veselnitskaya tried to lobby the Trump campaign on repealing 2012 sanctions.

Last year, Veselnitskaya denied having worked for the Russian government in an interview with NBC News. According to the Times, however, Veselnitskaya now appears to be backtracking from her prior denials.

The newspaper reports that in the interview with NBC News set to air on Friday, she says, “I am a lawyer, and I am an informant” and that since 2013, she has been “actively communicating with the office of the Russian prosecutor general.”

In a statement to the Senate Judiciary Committee last year, Veselnitskaya said that she “operate(s) independently of any governmental bodies.” In response to a question from the committee about her relationship with Chaika, she stated, “I have no relationship with Mr. Chaika, his representatives, and institutions, other than those related to my professional functions of a lawyer.”

But the Times report states that email correspondence involving Veselnitskaya suggests that she is more closely linked to the Russian Prosecutor General’s office than she has previously disclosed. The newspaper reports that an organization set up by an opponent of Russian President Vladimir Putin obtained the emails.

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