Not troubled that I met with Russian - unapologetic Trump jnr

2018-05-17 10:33
Donald Trump jnr arrives in India. (Manish Swarup, AP, file)

Donald Trump jnr arrives in India. (Manish Swarup, AP, file)

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Questioned intently by a Senate committee, US President Donald Trump's son struck a firmly unapologetic tone, deflected many queries and said he didn't think there was anything wrong with meeting a Russian lawyer at Trump Tower in hopes of election-season dirt on Hillary Clinton, according to transcripts released on Wednesday.

Donald Trump jnr, speaking in a closed-door interview last year with the Senate Judiciary Committee, said he did not give much thought to the idea that the June 9, 2016 meeting was part of a Russian government effort to help his father in the presidential race.

"I don't know that it alarmed me, but I like I said, I don't know and I don't know that I was all that focused on it at the time," Trump jnr said in response to a question about whether he was troubled by the prospect of Russian support, the transcripts show.

The committee on Wednesday released about 2 500 pages of interview transcripts and other documents tied to the New York meeting, which Trump jnr attended with the expectation of receiving compromising information after his father's Democratic opponent.

The transcripts reveal some new details about how the meeting - a key point of interest in special counsel Robert Mueller's investigation into potential co-ordination between Russia and the Trump campaign - came to be arranged and efforts afterward to mitigate the political damage arising from its disclosure.

Harmful Clinton information

They also show the disappointment of Trump jnr and other campaign figures, including brother-in-law Jared Kushner and campaign chair Paul Manafort, when the meeting failed to yield the harmful Clinton information they thought they'd get - as well as the increasing panic of one of the meeting participants who feared his reputation would be ruined by his role in setting it up.

The transcripts also reflect an aggressive Russian outreach to Trump before and after the New York meeting, including an effort to arrange a follow-up get-together that November with a member of the transition team. The follow-up never happened.

Throughout the private Senate interview, Trump jnr appeared unapologetic about having taken the meeting, saying at one point: "I didn't think that listening to someone with information relevant to the fitness and character of a presidential candidate would be an issue, no."

Trump jnr issued a statement on Wednesday pronouncing himself candid and forthright with the committee, but the transcripts show that he responded time and again to queries by saying he could not recall or had no idea.

He answered "No, I don't recall" when asked if he had spoken with his father about the Russia investigation.

He also did not remember the attendance at the meeting of a Russian-American lobbyist who - in a quirky sartorial detail revealed in the transcripts - was wearing pink jeans and a pink T-shirt that day.

Trump jnr spoke by phone on the day the meeting was arranged with a caller with a blocked number, but said he didn't recall who the person was and didn't know if his father used a blocked number.

Meanwhile on Wednesday, the Senate intelligence committee said it stands behind a 2017 assessment by US intelligence agencies that Russia intervened in the election to hurt Clinton and help Trump.

That conclusion differs from a House intelligence committee report released last month, which found no collusion between Russia and the Trump campaign.

Both the House and Senate intelligence panels have produced reports on their own Russia investigations. But Senate Judiciary Committee Chair Chuck Grassley announced in January that he wanted to release transcripts from his committee's interviews because people "deserve to have all the facts, not just one side of this story".

Senate Judiciary Democrats said the transcripts are just "one piece of a much larger puzzle" and do not tell the entire story because some meeting participants were not interviewed or subpoenaed.

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