Donald Trump’s son was promised damaging information about Hillary Clinton before he met a Kremlin-connected lawyer during last year’s presidential election, according to The New York Times.
The June 2016 meeting, described by five sources, offers the first suggestion that members of Mr Trump’s campaign were prepared to accept Russian help, a question that has sparked a string of investigations.
It heaps further pressure on a president who on Sunday said he wanted a new era of co-operation with Russia and announced joint plans with the Kremlin for a cyber-security unit to guard against election meddling.
Lawyers for the president said Mr Trump had been unaware of the meeting with Natalia Veselnitskaya at Trump Tower and did not attend.
In a statement, his son Donald Trump Jr said the meeting, which was also attended by then-campaign chairman, Paul Manafort, and the president’s son-in-law, Jared Kushner, was arranged by an acquaintance.
“After pleasantries were exchanged, the woman stated that she had information that individuals connected to Russia were funding the Democratic National Committee and supporting Ms. Clinton,” he said.
“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.”
He said the conversation quickly turned to a ban on Americans adopting Russian babies.
The statement came a day after Mr Trump Jr described it as a “short introductory meeting” during which the three discussed a disbanded programme that used to allow US citizens to adopt Russian children.
Russia ended the adoptions in response to American sanctions brought against the nation following the 2009 death of an imprisoned lawyer who spoke about a corruption scandal.
Mr Trump Jr. said he invited the other two Americans, was asked to attend by an acquaintance not named in the statement, and was not told beforehand with whom he would meet.
“It was not a campaign issue at that time and there was no follow up,” he said.
Allegations of the Trump campaign’s ties to Russia have cast a shadow over Donald Trump’s first five months in office, distracting from attempts by his fellow Republicans in Congress to overhaul the US healthcare and tax systems.
The Kremlin has denied US intelligence agencies’ conclusion that Moscow tried to tilt the election in Trump’s favor, using such means as hacking into the emails of senior Democrats. Trump has repeatedly denied any collusion.
The latest claims put the president back on the defensive despite claiming victory after his trip to Europe.
On Sunday morning he took to Twitter to say he “strongly pressed” the Russian president on allegations of Kremlin meddling in the US election, but that it was now “time to move forward in working constructively with Russia.”
“Putin & I discussed forming an impenetrable Cyber Security unit so that election hacking, & many other negative things, will be guarded… and safe,” he wrote.
His announcement provoked immediate disbelief from critics that he could consider working with the country accused of orchestrating last year’s cyber attacks in an effort to swing the outcome of the presidential vote.