Trump Jr defends self for meeting Kremlin-linked lawyer
Trump Jr said his June 9, 2016 meeting with Natalia Veselnitskaya and the email exchange with Rob Goldstone that he had released took place before Russia’s meddling became public knowledge.world Updated: Jul 13, 2017 08:54 IST
Donald Trump Jr, the US president’s eldest son, tried to extricate himself from a growing controversy about a 2016 meeting with a Russian lawyer, saying on Tuesday that in hindsight, he would have done things a “little differently”.
“In retrospect,” he said on Fox news, “I probably would have done things a little differently.”
However, he defended his decision to meet Natalia Veselnitskaya — who offered incriminating information against Hillary Clinton — despite having known that she represented the Russian government, a claim since been denied by Moscow.
“For me, this was opposition research. They had something, you know, maybe concrete evidence to all the stories I’d been hearing about, probably underreported for years, not just during the campaign, so I think I wanted to hear it out,” he said.
Trump Jr went on to point out that his June 9, 2016 meeting and the email exchange took place before Russia’s meddling became public knowledge.
“This (was) pre-Russia fever. This (was) pre-Russia mania … I don’t think my sirens went (off) or my antenna went up at this time because it wasn’t the issue that it’s been made out to be over the last nine months, ten months.”
Allegations of Russian meddling first surfaced in media reports in August and were affirmed in a joint statement by the American intelligence community in October.
Trump defended his son as well, but rather tamely at first — calling him a “high-quality person”.
He was more expansive on Wednesday, saying Trump Jr, “was open, transparent and innocent”. Trump was referring to his son’s Fox interview.
The meeting and related revelations have been described by Trump’s critics as the “smoking gun” that linked his campaign to Russian meddling in the 2016 election, under investigation by the justice department and congress.
Trump Jr, accompanied by his brother-in-law Jared Kushner and then campaign manager Paul Manafort, met Veselnitskaya at Trump Tower.
British publicist Rob Goldstone, an intermediary who set up the meeting, had in an email to Trump Jr described Veselnitskaya as a “Russian government attorney” who was offering information that “would incriminate Hillary and her dealings with Russia and would be very useful to your father”.
“This is obviously very high level and sensitive information but is part of Russia and its government’s support for Mr. Trump,” Goldstone had written in the email exchange made public by Trump Jr on Tuesday to pre-empt impending media release.
Trump Jr had replied within minutes of that mail, “If it’s what you say I love it especially later in the summer.”