Dad defends Trump jr over e-mails
Claims witch-hunt unfolding
PRESIDENT Donald Trump declared yesterday that his eldest son was “open, transparent and innocent”, a day after Donald Trump jr revealed his eagerness to hear damaging information about Hillary Clinton from the Russian government in a meeting last year with an attorney from Moscow.
Defending his son’s conduct, the president again dismissed the ongoing Russia investigation as the “greatest witch-hunt in political history.” Trump responded after his son disclosed a series of emails on Tuesday that marked the clearest sign to date that Trump’s campaign was willing to consider election help from a long-time US adversary.
The email exchange posted to Twitter by Trump jr showed him conversing with a music publicist who wanted him to meet with a “Russian government attorney” who supposedly had dirt on Clinton as “part of Russia and its government’s support for Trump.” The messages reveal that Trump jr was told the Russian government had information that could “incriminate” Clinton and her dealings with Russia.
“I love it,” Trump jr said in one email response.
The president’s attorney, Jay Sekulow, said Trump jr did not violate any laws by accepting the meeting. He said the president had not been aware of Trump jr’s June 2016 meeting and didn’t find out about his email exchange until “very recently.”
Sekulow said the president was not being investigated by former FBI director Robert Mueller, the special counsel investigating the Trump campaign and its interaction with Russia during the election.
As the emails reverberated across the political world, Trump jr defended his actions in an interview with Fox News, blaming the decision to take the meeting on the “million miles per hour” pace of a presidential campaign and his suspicion that the lawyer might have information about “under-reported” scandals involving Clinton. He said the meeting “went nowhere” and he never told his father about it because there was “nothing to tell”.
“In retrospect I probably would have done things a little differently.”
Trump jr, who was deeply involved in his father’s presidential campaign, portrayed his decision to release the emails as an effort “to be totally transparent”. They had already been obtained by The New York Times.
Hours afterwards, the father rose to his defence.
“My son is a high quality person and I applaud his transparency,” the president said in a statement read to reporters by White House spokesperson Sarah Huckabee Sanders.
Although she declined to answer questions, she stood by the White House’s long-standing insistence that no one in Trump’s campaign colluded to influence the election.
The messages were the latest disclosure to roil the multiple, ongoing investigations into Russia’s interference in the election and potential collusion with Trump’s campaign.
US intelligence agencies have said the Russian government meddled in the election through hacking to aid Trump.
The emails will be reviewed for any signs of co-ordination with the Kremlin, which the White House and Trump jr have repeatedly said did not take place.
A spokesperson for Mueller, the former FBI director, declined to comment.
In the emails – dated early June 2016, soon after Trump secured the Republican nomination – music publicist Rob Goldstone wrote to Trump jr to connect him to Russian attorney Natalia Veselnitskaya. Goldstone wrote that the information “would be very useful to your father”.
“If it’s what you say I love it especially later in the summer,” Trump jr replied in one email. Days later, Veselnitskaya met Trump jr at Trump Tower in New York. Veselnitskaya has denied working for the Russian government. The Kremlin has denied any link.
The emails show Goldstone telling Trump that singer Emin Agalarov and his father, Moscow-based developer Aras Agalarov, had “helped along” the Russian government’s support for Trump. The elder Agalarov was involved with Trump in hosting the 2013 Miss Universe pageant in Moscow. The two men had preliminary discussions about building a Trump Tower in Moscow, but they fell through. Trump also appeared in a music video with the younger Agalarov.
In his email, Goldstone said that the “Crown prosecutor of Russia” offered to provide the information on Clinton to the Trump campaign in a meeting with Aras Agalarov. There is no such royal title in the Russian Federation, but Goldstone – who is British – may have been referring to the title given to state prosecutors in the UK.
In his most recent description of what occurred, on Tuesday, Trump jr said he had believed the information about Clinton would be political opposition research.
Donald Trump jr is interviewed by host Sean Hannity on his Fox News Channel television program, in New York.