According to The New York Times, Donald Trump Jr. on Thursday morning told Senate investigators that he accepted a meeting with a Russian lawyer promising dirt on Hillary Clinton to determine Clinton’s “fitness” for office. [LINK]
“To the extent they had information concerning the fitness, character or qualifications of a presidential candidate, I believed that I should at least hear them out,” he said. “Depending on what, if any, information they had, I could then consult with counsel to make an informed decision as to whether to give it further consideration.”
Trump Jr.’s acknowledgment that he always intended to seek advice from his lawyers before he used any of the information he got from the Russian lawyer is the first clear indication that Trump, Jr. was aware that accepting damaging information on a political rival from a foreign source could run afoul of U.S. law.
Key admission by Trump Jr. to Congress: I planned to consult lawyers before using info from Russian. Means he knew it was problematic. pic.twitter.com/TB4admphbf
— Renato Mariotti (@renato_mariotti) September 7, 2017
Trump Jr. and the White House have offered evolving explanations of the 2016 meeting, which first came to public light in July.
Donald Trump reportedly personally dictated the White House’s original statement, which claimed that Trump Jr. and the Russian lawyer had “primarily discussed a program about the adoption of Russian children.”
The lawyer, Natalia Veselnitskaya, was at the time lobbying for the removal of U.S. sanctions on Russia; those sanctions had prompted Russian President Vladimir Putin to ban all American adoptions of Russian children in retaliation.
In an interview when news of the meeting first emerged, Trump Jr. echoed the White House’s official statement and claimed that talk with Veselnitskaya had been a waste of time.
But according to emails released by Trump Jr. days later, an intermediary offered to set up a meeting between the president’s eldest son and a “Russian government lawyer” offering information that “would incriminate Hillary [Clinton] and her dealings with Russia and would be very useful to your father.”
“This is obviously very high level and sensitive information but is part of Russia and its government’s support for Mr. Trump,” the intermediary wrote.
“If it’s what you say I love it especially later in the summer,” Trump Jr. responded.