WASHINGTON — President Trump’s oldest son said he took a meeting with a Russian agent promising damaging information about Hillary Clinton because he thought he “should hear him out.”.
Donald Trump Jr.’S explanation to Fox News Channel came after he released emails earlier Tuesday showing he knew the allegedly incriminating information was being peddled by the highest levels of the Russian government in order to support the Trump campaign.
In response, Trump Jr. Emailed back, eager to set up a meeting. “If it’s what you say I love it,” he said.
Trump Jr., Who along with his brother Eric took over management of the Trump’s business empire after his father became president, said he was releasing the emails via Twitter “in order to be totally transparent.”.
But those emails appear to back up the most damning revelation in New York Times reports that Trump’s closest associates and family members actively sought out information they knew was part of a high-level Russian government effort to support Trump’s campaign.
The U.S. Intelligence community has concluded that Russian President Vladimir Putin orchestrated a campaign of cyberattacks and fake news to influence the presidential election in favor of Trump. A special counsel and multiple congressional committees are currently investigating whether Trump associates colluded with Russia.
At an off-camera news briefing at the White House on Tuesday, deputy press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders read a statement from President Trump: “My son is a high quality person and I applaud his transparency.”.
Sanders said Trump is “frustrated” that the Russian controversy “continues to be an issue.” Trump said he would prefer an emphasis on policy issues.
The emails came from Rob Goldstone, an entertainment publicist who was trying to set up the meeting at Trump Tower in New York. Goldstone told Trump Jr. That he had just heard “something very interesting” from Russian pop musician Emin Agalarov.
“The Crown prosecutor of Russia met with his father Aras this morning and in their meeting offered to provide the Trump campaign with some official documents and information that would incriminate Hillary and her dealings with Russia and would be very useful to your father,” Goldstone wrote.
Russia doesn’t have a position with the title of crown prosecutor, but does have a prosecutor general, who was appointed by Russian President Vladimir Putin.
Aras refers to Aras Agalarov, a Russian businessman with ties to both Putin, who awarded him the Russian Order of Honor, and President Trump. Agalarov hosted Trump’s Miss America Pageant in Moscow in 2013, and he’s been known to serve as a go-between for Trump and Putin in the past.
“This is obviously very high level and sensitive information but is part of Russia and its government’s support for Mr. Trump,” Goldstone’s email continued. Finally, Goldstone suggested that Trump Jr. Send the “ultra sensitive” information to his father.
That didn’t happen, Trump Jr. Told Fox’s Sean Hannity, the conservative host known for his full-throated defense of the Trumps. “There was nothing to tell. I mean, I wouldn’t have even remembered it until you started scouring through this stuff,” he said.
Yet Trump Jr.’S emails show he was interested in having the meeting. Seventeen minutes after Goldstone’s email, Trump Jr. Replied to set up a phone call with Emin Agalarov, the pop singer. “Seems we have some time and if it’s what you say I love it especially later in the summer.”.
That was June 3, 2016, a week after Trump clinched the GOP nomination for president.
“Things are going a million miles per hour,” Trump Jr. Told Hannity. “In retrospect I probably would have done things a little differently.”.
On June 9, Trump Jr. And Goldstone – along with Trump campaign chairman Paul Manafort and Trump son-in-law Jared Kushner – met with Russian lawyer Natalia Veselnitskaya at Trump Tower. The meeting took place right after Trump clinched the Republican nomination.
In a statement posted on Twitter, Trump Jr. Said that meeting never amounted to anything.
“The information they suggested they had about Hillary Clinton I thought was political opposition research,” he wrote. “She had no information to provide and wanted to talk about adoption policy and the Magnitsky Act.”.
That 2012 law imposed sanctions on Russian government officials for the 2009 killing of Russian lawyer Sergei Magnitsky by Russian police. Russia retaliated by ending U.S. Adoptions of Russian children, and lifting those sanctions has been a priority for the Russian government.
The question of sanctions has also been central to the investigation by special counsel Robert Mueller. A key figure in that probe, former National Security Adviser Michael Flynn, discussed sanctions with the Russian ambassador after the election, and was later fired for lying to Vice President Pence about it.
Trump Jr. Noted that the meeting happened “before the current Russian fever was in vogue.”.
But Russia would soon take center stage in the campaign, and Trump Jr. — As a key campaign surrogate for his father — was forced to address allegations that the Trump campaign was colluding with the Russians.
On July 24, Trump Jr. Complained to CNN that the accusations were coming from unnamed sources. “His house cat at home once said, ‘This is what’s happening with the Russians,'” he said. “It’s disgusting. It’s so phony. I can’t think of a bigger lie.”.
Virginia Sen. Mark Warner, the top Democrat on the Senate Intelligence Committee said Monday his panel “absolutely” wants to speak with the president’s son about the Veselnitskaya meeting.
“This was the first time the public has seen direct evidence that Trump campaign officials reached out… To agents of a foreign government to try to get damaging information on Hillary Clinton,” said Warner, whose panel is investigating possible collusion between Trump associates and Russia.
Contributing: David Jackson.
Donald Trump Jr.’S meeting with Russian lawyer draws scrutiny of Congress.
5 takeaways on Donald Trump Jr. Meeting from Russian lawyer Natalia Veselnitskaya.
Rob Goldstone: The music publicist mixed up in Trump-Russia saga.
Rob Goldstone, publicist who organized Trump Jr.’S Russia meeting, outspoken on social media.