Trump Jr. un­apolo­getic about Rus­sia meet­ing

He de­flected queries about ses­sion with Rus­sian, docs show

Sun Sentinel Palm Beach Edition - - FRONT PAGE - By Eric Tucker, Mary Clare Jalonick and Chad Day

Son saw noth­ing wrong with meet­ing Rus­sian lawyer to get dirt on Clin­ton.

WASH­ING­TON — Ques­tioned in­tently by a Se­nate com­mit­tee, Pres­i­dent Don­ald Trump’s el­dest 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 Wed­nes­day.

Asked if he was trou­bled by the idea that the meet­ing in June 2016 was part of a Rus­sian gov­ern­ment ef­fort to help his fa­ther in the pres­i­den­tial race, Don­ald Trump Jr. said he didn’t give it much thought.

“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 Jr. told the Se­nate Ju­di­ciary Com­mit­tee in the closed-door in­ter­view last year.

The com­mit­tee re­leased more than 1,800 pages of tran­scripts of interviews with Trump Jr. and oth­ers who at­tended the New York meet­ing at which they ex­pected to re­ceive com­pro­mis­ing in­for­ma­tion about Trump’s Demo­cratic op­po­nent. The panel also re­leased more than 700 pages of ex­hibits in­clud­ing nu­mer­ous emails, heav­ily redacted phone logs and court de­po­si­tions.

The Trump Tower meet­ing is a key point of in­ter­est in spe­cial coun­sel Robert Mueller’s in­ves­ti­ga­tion into pos­si­ble elec­tion col­lu­sion be­tween Trump aides and the Krem­lin.

Mean­while on Wed­nes­day, the Se­nate in­tel­li­gence com­mit­tee said it stands be­hind a 2017 as­sess­ment by U.S. 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.

Both the House and Se­nate in­tel­li­gence pan­els have pro­duced re­ports on their own Rus­sia in­ves­ti­ga­tions. But Se­nate Ju­di­ciary Com­mit­tee Chair­man 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.”

Ac­cord­ing to the tran­scripts, Trump Jr. re­sponded to dozens of queries — in­clud­ing about emails and phone calls lead­ing up to the meet­ing — by say­ing he could not re­call or had “no idea.” He said he did not alert his fa­ther to the meet­ing be­fore­hand and he had never dis­cussed with him the FBI’s in­ves­ti­ga­tion into Rus­sian elec­tion in­ter­fer­ence.

The tran­scripts reveal some new de­tails about how the meet­ing came to be ar­ranged and efforts af­ter­ward to mit­i­gate the po­lit­i­cal dam­age aris­ing from its dis­clo­sure.

They also show the dis­sat­is­fac­tion of Trump Jr. and other campaign fig­ures, in­clud­ing brother-in-law Jared Kush­ner, 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.

Trump Jr. had had high hopes. Af­ter mu­sic pub­li­cist Rob Gold­stone promised him “very in­ter­est­ing” in­for­ma­tion, in­clud­ing doc­u­ments “that would in­crim­i­nate Hil­lary,” he re­sponded via email, “if it’s what you say I love it.”

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 get­to­gether that Novem­ber with a mem­ber of the tran­si­tion team. The fol­low-up never hap­pened.

Through­out the pri­vate Se­nate in­ter­view, Trump Jr. ap­peared un­apolo­getic about hav­ing taken the meet­ing, which Gold­stone had told him would be a way to re­ceive dam­ag­ing Clin­ton in­for­ma­tion from a well-con­nected Rus­sian gov­ern­ment lawyer.

“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,” said the pres­i­dent’s son.

Though the tran­scripts show he re­peat­edly an­swered ques­tions by say­ing he couldn’t re­call, Trump Jr. de­scribed him­self as “can­did and forth­right” in a state­ment Wed­nes­day,

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

He also said he did not re­call the at­ten­dance 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 Jr. also made sev­eral calls to blocked num­bers as he was set­ting up the meet­ing, but said he didn’t re­mem­ber who he had called. He also said he didn’t know if his fa­ther used a blocked num­ber.

Se­nate Ju­di­ciary Democrats said the tran­scripts do not tell the en­tire story be­cause some meet­ing par­tic­i­pants were not in­ter­viewed or sub­poe­naed.

Be­sides Trump Jr., the com­mit­tee in­ter­viewed four other peo­ple who at­tended the meet­ing — Gold­stone; Ri­nat Akhmetshin, a prominent Rus­sian-Amer­i­can lob­by­ist; Ike Kave­ladze, a busi­ness as­so­ciate of a Moscow-based de­vel­oper, and a trans­la­tor.

The com­mit­tee did not in­ter­view Natalia Ve­sel­nit­skaya, the Rus­sian lawyer at the cen­ter of the meet­ing. But the panel re­leased her writ­ten re­sponses to a let­ter the com­mit­tee sent her.

The panel also did not in­ter­view Kush­ner or Paul Manafort, Trump’s for­mer campaign chair­man, though both at­tended the meet­ing.

Some of the ques­tion­ing of Trump Jr. cen­tered on a state­ment drafted just as news of the meet­ing was about to break. The White House has said the pres­i­dent was in­volved in its draft­ing.

That state­ment said the meet­ing pri­mar­ily con­cerned a Rus­sian adop­tion pro­gram, though Trump Jr. later re­leased the emails show­ing he agreed to the sit-down af­ter he was promised in­for­ma­tion on Clin­ton.

Asked in the in­ter­view if his fa­ther was in­volved in draft­ing the state­ment, Trump said: “I don’t know. I never spoke to my fa­ther about it.”

ALBIN LOHR-JONES/BLOOMBERG NEWS

Don­ald Trump Jr., son of the pres­i­dent, re­sponded to dozens of queries about a meet­ing with a Rus­sian lawyer by say­ing he could not re­call, ac­cord­ing to Se­nate panel tran­scripts.

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