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'In retrospect I probably would have done things a little differently': Trump Jr under fire for meeting Russian lawyer

Trump Jr said yesterday the meeting “really went nowhere” and that he never told his father about it because there was “nothing to tell”.

File photo of Trump Jr
File photo of Trump Jr
Image: Darron Cummings/AP

US PRESIDENT DONALD Trump’s son has defended his meeting with a Russian lawyer during the 2016 presidential campaign as the news reverberated through the political world.

In an interview with Fox News, Trump Jr blamed the decision to meet a lawyer in order to obtain damaging information about Hillary Clinton from the Russian government on the “million miles per hour” pace of a presidential campaign.

He also said he thought the lawyer (Natalia Veselnitskaya) might have information about “underreported” scandals involving Clinton.

The president’s son yesterday posted an email exchange to Twitter which 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 Mr. 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.

Trump Jr posted the email exchange following reporting of the meeting over the weekend from the New York Times.

Trump Jr said yesterday the meeting “really went nowhere” and that 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 said.

Democrats in Congress voiced outrage and insisted the messages showed clear collusion, with California Representative Adam Schiff, the top Democrat on the House intelligence committee, declaring that “all of the campaign’s previous denials obviously now have to be viewed in a different context”.

Republicans stay silent

Yet Republicans – who stand the most to lose politically from Trump’s Russia ordeal – did not join in the condemnation.

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell said he was confident Senate investigators would “get to the bottom of whatever happened.”

And Senator Susan Collins, a Maine Republican on the intelligence committee, cautioned that the emails were “only part of the picture”.

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.” In fact, they had already been obtained by The New York Times.

Hours after the son posted the emails, 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 spokeswoman Sarah Huckabee Sanders.

Although Sanders declined to answer questions about the emails, she stood by the White House’s longstanding insistence that no one in Trump’s campaign colluded to influence the election.

Russian interference

The messages were the latest disclosure to roil the ongoing investigation 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.

As congressional committees and Special Counsel Robert Mueller investigate, the emails will almost certainly be reviewed for any signs of coordination with the Kremlin, which the White House and Trump Jr have repeatedly said did not take place. A spokesman for Mueller, the former FBI director, declined to comment, citing the ongoing investigation.

In the emails – dated early June 2016, soon after Trump secured the GOP 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 of the emails.

Days later, Veselnitskaya met with Trump Jr on 9 June at Trump Tower in New York. Veselnitskaya has denied ever working for the Russian government.

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 once also 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 United Kingdom.

In Russia, the top justice official is Prosecutor General Yury Chaika, the equivalent of the attorney general in the United States. Chaika is longtime confidant of Russian President Vladimir Putin and was directly appointed by him.

Representatives for the Agalarovs didn’t respond to requests for comment on Tuesday. Attempts to reach Chaika at his office were unsuccessful.

Read: Trump says Donald Jr is a ‘high quality person’ and applauds his ‘transparency’ on Russian meeting

Read: US general says he hopes ISIS leader is ‘deader than a doornail’ but cannot confirm death

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