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Manafort turns over notes that could provide new details on Trump Tower meeting with Russian lawyer

Carlo Allegri | REUTERS
Carlo Allegri | REUTERS
Paul Manafort of Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump's staff listens during a round table discussion on security at Trump Tower in the Manhattan borough of New York, Aug. 17, 2016.

Paul Manafort, a top campaign aide to President Donald Trump, took notes at a meeting with a Russian lawyer that he attended during the presidential campaign and has agreed to turn over the document to the Senate investigators.

Manafort submitted the documents to the Senate Intelligence Committee in advance of appearing behind closed doors to answer questions from committee staff, said a person familiar with the investigation of the Trump campaign’s interactions with Russia.

The notes could provide a key contemporaneous account of a meeting that has emerged as a key focal point of investigations into Russia’s interference in the 2016 campaign by both Congress and Special Counsel Robert Mueller.

Manafort’s submission comes as he has engaged in intense negotiations with congressional committees about how and when to provide testimony. A person familiar with those talks said Manafort is now expected to meet with the Senate Intelligence Committee either on Tuesday or Wednesday.

But the Senate Judiciary Committee has continued to press for him to appear separately and late Monday, the committee issued a subpoena compelling Manafort’s appearance at a hearing on Wednesday.

In a joint statement, committee chairman Sen. Charles Grassley, R-Iowa, and its ranking Democrat, Sen. Dianne Feinstein of California, said negotiations over Manafort’s voluntary cooperation broke down after Manafort’s lawyer indicated he was willing to provide only one transcribed interview with congressional staff.

“While the Judiciary Committee was willing to cooperate on equal terms with any other committee to accommodate Mr. Manafort’s request, ultimately that was not possible,” they said.

Grassley and Feinstein said they were willing to continue talks to excuse Manafort from the hearing if he agreed to voluntarily provide documents and an interview to their committee.

A spokesman for Manafort did not immediately respond.

Emails sent to Donald Trump Jr., the president’s son, before the meeting show he agreed to meet with Russian attorney, Natalia Veselnitskaya, after being told she was a Russian government lawyer, bearing damaging information about Trump’s opponent Hillary Clinton that was being shared as part of a Russian government effort to help his father’s campaign.

Manafort’s notes could provide information about what, exactly, was said at the meeting and how participants responded. Manafort, who would be named the campaign’s chairman days after the June 9, 2016, meeting, attended at Trump Jr.’s request, as did Trump’s son-in-law, Jared Kushner.

In a statement Monday, Kushner said he has found an email he sent an assistant during the meeting, requesting that he be called on his cellphone to provide an excuse to leave early.

In an initial statement as The New York Times prepared to report that the meeting had taken place, Trump Jr. had said it was “primarily” about the issue of the adoption of Russian children by American families. The Russian government halted such adoptions in retaliation for a U.S. law passed in 2012 which blacklisted top Russian officials over alleged human rights abuses.

Later, he acknowledged that Veselnitskaya had first described information she believed could be damaging to Democrats but has called that information “vague” and “ambiguous.” Rinat Akhmetshin, a Russian American lobbyist who also attended the meeting, has said that Veselnitskaya left behind documents describing the information.

Manafort’s notes could shed more light on the information she provided and what happened to the documents she brought to the session.

Washington Post writer Karoun Demirjian contributed to this report.

 


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