Donald Trump Jr. hires criminal defense lawyer for Russia probes

July 11, 2017 - 7:24 AM
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Donald Trump Jr. hugs his father as wife Vanessa walks past after the elder Trump accepted the Republican presidential nomination in 2016. (Reuters file)
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NEW YORK — (UPDATE – 10:04 a.m.) Donald Trump Jr. has hired a lawyer to represent him in Russia-related investigations, his office and the lawyer said on Monday, as Republicans voiced concern about a meeting between the U.S. president’s son and a Russian.

Trump Jr. hired New York lawyer Alan Futerfas, who specializes in criminal defense.

Futerfas would not say when he was retained or whether he played any part in the statements Trump Jr. made over the weekend about a meeting with a Russian lawyer.

Trump Jr. met the Russian, Natalia Veselnitskaya, in June 2016, during the presidential election campaign, at Trump Tower in New York.

He has said he agreed to meet Veselnitskaya, described by the New York Times as having links to the Kremlin, after being promised damaging information about Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton.

Trump’s son-in-law, Jared Kushner, and Trump’s then-campaign chairman, Paul Manafort, also attended, the Times said. It called the encounter the first confirmed private meeting of members of Donald Trump’s inner circle with a Russian national during the campaign.

Congressional committees and a federal special counsel, Robert Mueller, are investigating whether Russia interfered in the election and colluded with the Trump campaign.

Moscow denies interfering, and Trump, who became president on Jan. 20, says there was no collusion.

Futerfas told Reuters: “I look forward to assisting Donald Jr. and, quite frankly, there is nothing to all of the media buzz about the June 9th, 2016 meeting. That will be proven to be the case.”

A Republican member of the U.S. Senate Intelligence Committee, Susan Collins, called on Trump Jr. to testify before the panel, which is looking into accusations of Russian meddling in the election.

“Our intelligence committee needs to interview him and others who attended the meeting,” Senator Susan Collins told reporters at the U.S. Capitol.

Senator Mark Warner, the top Democrat on the Senate Intelligence Committee, said the panel “absolutely” wants to speak to Trump Jr. about the meeting. Warner said he and the Republican committee chairman, Richard Burr, will decide later whether to ask Trump Jr. to testify in public or in a classified setting.

“Rest assured, Donald Trump Jr. will be someone that we’ll want to talk to,” Warner told reporters outside his Senate office.

Allegations of the Trump campaign’s ties to Russia have cast a shadow over the Republican president’s first months in office.

White House defends meeting

White House spokeswoman Sarah Sanders said there was nothing inappropriate about the meeting with lawyer Veselnitskaya. “Don Junior took a very short meeting from which there was absolutely no follow-up,” Sanders told reporters.

But Republican Senator Pat Toomey said it was not appropriate for presidential campaigns to solicit or accept negative information about a rival from a Russian.

“It encourages countries to come in and undermine our democratic process. And these countries have great capabilities to do that sort of thing,” he told MSNBC.

In Moscow, Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov told reporters on Monday that the Kremlin did not know the identity of the Russian lawyer.

“No, we don’t know who it is and, certainly, we cannot track down all movements of all Russian lawyers both within Russia and abroad,” Peskov said.

A publicist who arranged the meeting with the lawyer last year said he did so at the request of singer and businessman Emin Agalarov, a Moscow-based client of his.

Who is Alan Futerfas?

Futerfas has over 25 years’ experience in handling government investigations and criminal cases.

John Moscow, a former assistant district attorney in Manhattan, described Futerfas as a “top-flight lawyer” who is both “high-powered and low-key.”

Here are some facts about Futerfas:

He became a top mob defense lawyer early on.

Miami-born Futerfas joined the law firm of veteran criminal defense lawyer Gerald Shargel after graduating from Yeshiva University’s Benjamin N. Cardozo School of Law in New York in 1987, and quickly became a partner. He left to form his own firm in 1994.

In one of his biggest cases from that period, Futerfas won a new trial in 1997 for mob captain Anthony Russo after it was revealed that a Federal Bureau of Investigation agent may have leaked information to fuel an organized crime war in the early 1990s.

He expanded into white-collar cases.

Futerfas encountered Moscow in the early 2000s case against former Tyco International chief executive L. Dennis Kozlowski. Futerfas represented Christine Berry, Kozlowski’s art consultant, in the sales tax avoidance investigation that led to the larger case over Kozlowski’s corporate “looting.”

In 2010, he represented hedge fund group HFV Management in connection with a wide-ranging probe by the New York attorney general’s office into corruption in the state’s pension fund.

He has also handled cybercrime cases

Futerfas is defending Ziv Orenstein, one of three Israelis charged by federal prosecutors with hacking into JPMorgan Chase & Co and the Wall Street Journal, among other rtargets, as part of a massive “pump and dump” scheme. Orenstein pleaded not guilty.

Another client of Futerfas was Nikita Kuzmin, a Russian national who agreed last year to pay $6.9 million for creating computer malware that made users’ bank accounts vulnerable to cyber criminals.

He worked one summer for a longtime lawyer to Donald Trump.

In the summer of 1985, while he was in law school, Futerfas worked for lawyer Jay Goldberg, who went on to become Trump’s divorce lawyer.

Futerfas said he did not come to Trump Jr. through Goldberg.

He studied at Juilliard.

Futerfas earned his undergraduate degree from the prestigious performing arts school. He still plays bass trombone for the Park Avenue Chamber Symphony.