A lobbyist who was once a Soviet counter-intelligence officer participated last year in a meeting with senior aides to US President Donald Trump, including his son, and a Russian lawyer, NBC News is reporting, adding to allegations of possible connections between Moscow and the November election.
NBC News, which did not identify the Russian-American lobbyist, on Friday said some US officials suspected him of still having ties to Russian intelligence, something he denied to the network.
The Associated Press said the lobbyist, whom it identified as Rinat Akhmetshin, confirmed that he had attended the June 2016 meeting in New York’s Trump Tower.
A source familiar with the participants of the meeting confirmed to Reuters that Akhmetshin was in the room.
The meeting appears to be the most tangible evidence of a connection between Trump’s election campaign and Russia, a subject that has prompted investigations by congressional committees and a federal special counsel.
Trump’s son-in-law, Jared Kushner, and former campaign adviser Paul Manafort were also at the meeting, which Donald Trump Jr. agreed to attend because he believed he could get damaging information about Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton.
Trump Jr., the president’s eldest son, did not mention Akhmetshin’s presence when he released a series of emails about the meeting earlier this week.
Representative Adam Schiff, the top Democrat on the House of Representatives Intelligence Committee, said the report about Akhmetshin “if accurate, adds another deeply disturbing fact about this secret meeting.”
Akhmetshin was not available for comment on Friday. There was no answer at the door of his house in Washington.
The White House had no immediate comment about the NBC News report of a Russian-American lobbyist at the meeting.
Kushner’s spokesman did not immediately respond to a request for comment and Manafort’s spokesman Jason Maloni said Manafort had no comment on the meeting.
A former Trump campaign adviser, Michael Caputo, told reporters after he testified to the House Intelligence Committee in closed session on Friday that he had no contact with Russians and never heard of anyone in the campaign “talking with Russians.”
Accusations by US intelligence agencies that Moscow meddled in the election and colluded with the Trump campaign have dominated the Republican president’s first months in office. Russia denies the allegations, and Trump says there was no collusion.
The agencies said earlier this year that Russia sought to help Trump win the election by hacking private emails from Democratic Party officials and disseminating false information online.