No collusion with Russians, Trump Jr insists to Congress

2017-09-08 13:21
Donald Trump's son, Donald Trump Jr. (Robyn Beck/ AFP)

Donald Trump's son, Donald Trump Jr. (Robyn Beck/ AFP)

Multimedia   ·   User Galleries   ·   News in Pictures Send us your pictures  ·  Send us your stories

Washington – President Donald Trump's eldest son cast his meeting with a Russian lawyer last year as simply an opportunity to learn about Hillary Clinton's "fitness, character or qualifications", insisting on Thursday to Senate investigators behind closed doors that he did not collude with Russia to hurt her campaign against his father.

Donald Trump Jr's description of the June 2016 meeting at Trump Tower in New York, delivered in a statement at the outset of a Senate panel's staff interview, provided his most detailed account yet of an encounter that has drawn close scrutiny from Congress and special counsel Robert Mueller.

He tried to dismiss concerns about one comment he made in emails leading up to the meeting. He said he was just being polite when he emailed "I love it" to Rob Goldstone, the publicist who was setting up the meeting with a Russian who was said to have election-season dirt on Clinton.

Trump Jr said it was "simply a colloquial way of saying that I appreciated Rob's gesture".

Thursday's interview at the Capitol was the first known instance of Trump Jr giving his version of the meeting in a setting that could expose him to legal jeopardy. It's a crime to lie to Congress.

Multiple congressional committees and Mueller's team of prosecutors are investigating whether the Trump campaign co-ordinated with Russia to influence the outcome of the election. A grand jury used by Mueller as part of his investigation has already heard testimony about the meeting, which besides Trump Jr, included the president's son-in-law, Jared Kushner, and his then-campaign chairman, Paul Manafort.

Trump Jr spoke to the Senate Judiciary Committee for about five hours, leaving in the midafternoon, out of view of reporters. In a statement released afterward, he appeared to suggest he would not testify publicly before the committee, saying he trusted that "this interview fully satisfied" the panel's inquiry.

'I believed I should hear them out'

In July, the committee's chairman, Republican Chuck Grassley of Iowa, said he wanted Trump Jr to appear at a public hearing, though in recent days he's declined to say whether that will still happen.

California Senator Dianne Feinstein, the top Democrat on the panel, said on Wednesday that she and Grassley had agreed in July to subpoena Trump Jr if he wouldn't appear willingly in public.

Trump Jr and the Judiciary Committee had negotiated for him to appear privately on Thursday and to be interviewed only by committee staff. Senators were allowed to sit in but not ask questions.

According to one person with knowledge of what was said, Trump Jr told committee staff that he didn't inform his father about the June 2016 meeting.

He also said he didn't know or didn't recall the details of any White House involvement in his response to the first reports of that meeting, the person said. The White House has said the president was involved in drafting a statement saying the meeting primarily concerned a Russian adoption programme.

The person declined to be identified because the meeting was private.

In prepared remarks obtained by The Associated Press, Trump Jr did not address the drafting of the statement. Instead, he sought to explain the emails that showed him agreeing to the meeting, which had been described as part of a Russian government effort to help his father's campaign.

He said he was sceptical of the outreach by music publicist Goldstone but thought he "should listen to what Rob and his colleagues had to say".

"To the extent they had information concerning the fitness, character or qualifications of a presidential candidate, I believed that I should at least hear them out," Trump Jr said.

'More questions than answers'

He said the Russian lawyer, Natalia Veselnitskaya, gave vague information about possible foreign donations to the Democratic Party but then quickly changed the subject to a sanctions law, known as the Magnitsky Act, which the Russian government opposes.

On the day of the meeting, Trump Jr said he didn't know who would be attending because Goldstone didn't give him a list ahead of time. He said Trump Tower security also didn't keep a record. Goldstone was able to bring the "entire group up" by only giving his name to a guard in the lobby, he said.

"There is no attendance log to refer back to and I did not take notes," Trump Jr said.

He said he remembers seven people in the meeting, though eight have been publicly reported.

The attendees Trump Jr identified were himself, Goldstone, Manafort, Kushner, Veselnitskaya, a translator and Irakli Kaveladze, who worked for a Russian development company headed by Aras Agalarov and his son, Emin, who partnered with Trump to bring the Miss Universe pageant to Moscow in 2013.

He did not mention Russian-American lobbyist Rinat Akhmetshin, who has told multiple news outlets, including the AP, that he attended the meeting at Veselnitskaya's invitation. In recent weeks, Akhmetshin has testified about his recollection of the meeting before a Washington grand jury used by Mueller.

The top Democrat on the House Intelligence Committee, California Rep. Adam Schiff, released a statement responding to reports of the meeting and said Trump Jr's statement "raises more questions than it answers" and "highlights how significant the campaign viewed the promise of dirt on their opponent from the Russian government".

Senator Chris Coons, D-Del., who briefly sat in on the interview, released a statement later containing the federal statute barring lying to Congress. The statement was addressed to "Interested parties" regarding "Donald Trump Jr testimony today".

Read more on:    donald trump  |  donald trump jr  |  us

Join the conversation! encourages commentary submitted via MyNews24. Contributions of 200 words or more will be considered for publication.

We reserve editorial discretion to decide what will be published.
Read our comments policy for guidelines on contributions.

Inside News24

Traffic Alerts
There are new stories on the homepage. Click here to see them.


Create Profile

Creating your profile will enable you to submit photos and stories to get published on News24.

Please provide a username for your profile page:

This username must be unique, cannot be edited and will be used in the URL to your profile page across the entire network.


Location Settings

News24 allows you to edit the display of certain components based on a location. If you wish to personalise the page based on your preferences, please select a location for each component and click "Submit" in order for the changes to take affect.

Facebook Sign-In

Hi News addict,

Join the News24 Community to be involved in breaking the news.

Log in with Facebook to comment and personalise news, weather and listings.