The top Democrat on the House Intelligence Committee said the method used to gauge whether the Trump campaign would be interested in help from the Russian government is consistent with Kremlin practices.
Speaking to reporters at the Capitol Tuesday afternoon, Rep. Adam Schiff (D-CA) said the circumstances of the meeting between Donald Trump Jr., White House adviser Jared Kushner, then-campaign manager Paul Manafort and Russian lawyer Natalia Veselnitskaya was “very much consistent with Russian practices.”
“(It’s) essentially their operating procedures where they will use civilians, they’ll use often oligarchs, they’ll use others, they’ll look for relationships. Here I think the emails made quite clear that the Russian government was in possession of damaging information. They thought the way to get that to the campaign to test whether Donald Trump wanted this information was to go through people he had done business with, and this was in fact a formality the Russians use elsewhere,” he said.
“Who had they done business with? Well, they had done business with a gentleman that is known as the Russian Donald Trump, who had worked on the Miss Universe pageant, who had business discussions with the president over having a Trump Tower in Russia, so they go to this oligarch, they go to the son who knows the son of the now-President,” Schiff added. “They find out, yes, there is a deep interest in this, and then they dispatch this advocate for the Kremlin.”
He said it’s possible Veselnitskaya was chosen to meet with the Trump campaign because “she gives them some deniability, as opposed to someone who has a direct connection with the government. Now obviously this is something we need to determine, but it would be consistent with Russian tradecraft to do exactly this.”
He called the emails leading up to the meeting “very significant” and “deeply disturbing” and said that since there was “constantly evolving stories” from Trump Jr., Congress “cannot rely on any public representations that are made by the family about their contacts with the Russians.”
“We have now seen a very demonstrable pattern of obfuscation and dissembling about these meetings. … It is absolutely not only a breach of norms but a breach of civic responsibility to the country. If you get approached by foreign government offering to interfere in a presidential election, you go to the FBI. You report it. That’s what a decent citizen would do,” he said.
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