Dad de­fends Trump jr over e-mails

Claims witch-hunt un­fold­ing

The Star Early Edition - - WORLD - WASHINGTON

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.

PIC­TURE: AP

Don­ald Trump jr is in­ter­viewed by host Sean Han­nity on his Fox News Chan­nel tele­vi­sion pro­gram, in New York.

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