Trump Jr. tells investigators he can’t recall if he told father about Russians
WASHINGTON – After setting up a meeting with Russians to discuss what he thought would be incriminating information on Hillary Clinton in June 2016, Donald Trump Jr. made an 11minute phone call to a blocked phone number, according to a transcript of his interview with Senate investigators released Wednesday.
Trump Jr. said he couldn’t remember whom he spoke to that night. His father used a blocked phone number at his home at the time, according to former Trump campaign manager Corey Lewandowski.
At a rally the next day, candidate Donald Trump alluded to information his presidential campaign was gathering on Clinton. He said he planned to give a “major speech” the following week “discussing all of the things that have taken place with the Clintons.”
“I think you’re going to find it very informative and very, very interesting,” Trump said. “I wonder if the press will want to attend. Who knows?”
Whether Trump knew about his son’s meeting with Russians is one of the unanswered questions in a wide-ranging investigation into possible collusion between the Trump campaign and Russians suspected of meddling in the 2016 presidential election.
Interviews with the Senate Judiciary Committee could not answer that question conclusively. Trump Jr. said he couldn’t remember whether he talked to his father about the meeting.
The documents released Wednesday laid out in greater detail the information Russian attorney Natalia Veselnitskaya shopped to the Trump campaign.
Rinat Akhmetshin, a Russian lobbyist who attended the meeting, told the committee Veselnitskaya wanted to discuss an alleged $880 million tax scheme involving investors who contributed to the Democratic National Committee or the Clinton campaign.
The meeting offer came from Rob Goldstone, a music publicist who represented Russian singer Emin Agalarov.
Goldstone promised Trump Jr. “official documents and information that would incriminate Hillary and her dealings with Russia and would be very useful to your father,” according to emails obtained by the Senate Judiciary Committee.
“If it’s what you say I love it especially later in the summer,” Trump Jr. emailed back.
In his closed-door Senate testimony, Trump Jr. explained what he meant by that. “It was a colloquial term used to say, hey, great, thank you,” he said.
The meeting June 9, 2016, at Trump Tower ended up being about the adoption of Russian children by American couples, which the Russian government blocked in response to sanctions passed by Congress in the Magnitsky Act.
Trump Jr. and his brother-in-law — Jared Kushner, who became a senior adviser at the White House — were annoyed by the discussion of the Magnitsky Act, Goldstone told the committee. He said Kushner in particular was “agitated” and “infuriated.”
Trump Jr. told the committee he didn’t regret taking the meeting.
“To the extent that they had information concerning the fitness, character or qualifications of any presidential candidate, I believed that I should at least hear them out,” Trump Jr. said in his prepared testimony to the committee.
“The meeting provided no meaningful information and turned out to be not about what was represented. The meeting was instead primarily focused on Russian adoptions, which is exactly what I said over a year later in my statement of July 8, 2017,” he said.
The Senate Judiciary Committee interviewed 12 people in its investigation of the Trump Tower meeting, and Chairman Chuck Grassley, R-Iowa, ordered the release of six transcripts Wednesday. Two witnesses, Kushner and Trump campaign chairman Paul Manafort, declined to testify.
Trump Jr. said Wednesday that he cooperated fully.
Donald Trump Jr. says, “I answered every question asked and was candid and forthright with the committee.”