NEW YORK • United States President Donald Trump's eldest son, Mr Donald Trump Jr, was promised damaging information about Mrs Hillary Clinton before agreeing to meet a Kremlin-connected Russian lawyer during the 2016 presidential campaign, according to three White House advisers and two others with knowledge of it.
The New York Times (NYT) reported the existence of the meeting on Saturday. But subsequently, the advisers and others revealed the motivation behind it.
The meeting was also attended by Mr Trump's campaign chairman at the time, Mr Paul Manafort, and his son-in-law, Mr Jared Kushner. Mr Manafort and Mr Kushner recently disclosed the meeting, though not its content, in confidential government documents described to NYT.
The meeting - at Trump Tower on June 9 last year, two weeks after Mr Trump clinched the Republican nomination - points to the central question in federal investigations of the Kremlin's meddling in the election: whether the Trump campaign colluded with the Russians.
The accounts of the meeting represent the first public indication that at least some in the campaign were willing to accept Russian help.
While Mr Trump has been dogged by revelations of undisclosed meetings between his associates and the Russians, the episode at Trump Tower is the first such confirmed private meeting involving his inner circle during the campaign - and the first known to include his eldest son.
A special prosecutor and congressional committees are investigating the Trump campaign's possible collusion with the Russians. Mr Trump has disputed that.
It is unclear whether the Russian lawyer, Ms Natalia Veselnitskaya, produced the promised compromising information about Mrs Clinton. But the people interviewed by NYT said the expectation was that she would do so.
When he was first asked about the meeting on Saturday, Mr Trump Jr said that it was primarily about US adoptions of Russian babies - halted by Russia angry over the Magnitsky Act, a US law that blacklists suspected Russian human rights abusers - and mentioned nothing about Mrs Clinton.
But on Sunday, presented with NYT's findings, he offered a new account.
He said he met the Russian lawyer at the request of an acquaintance from the 2013 Miss Universe pageant, which his father took to Moscow.
"The woman stated that she had information that individuals connected to Russia were funding the Democratic National Committee and supporting Mrs Clinton. 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.
"It became clear to me that this was the true agenda all along and that the claims of potentially helpful information were a pretext for the meeting," Mr Trump Jr said.
Ms Veselnitskaya said in a statement that "nothing at all about the presidential campaign" was discussed at the meeting.
The Kremlin said yesterday it was unaware of the meeting and does not know the lawyer involved.
NYTIMES, WASHINGTON POST