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Trump’s son releases emails regarding meeting with Russian

Updated July 11, 2017 - 4:44 pm

WASHINGTON —Donald Trump Jr. on Tuesday released a chain of emails that led to a meeting with a Russian lawyer during the 2016 campaign and that suggested the president’s oldest son was willing to talk to Russians to help his father defeat Hillary Clinton.

Trump Jr. also released a statement in which he said he thought the meeting held at the Trump Tower would be about “Political Opposition Research,” but that it turned out to be focused on Russia’s adoption policy.

The emails and statement contradict what Trump Jr. told The New York Times before a Saturday story on the meeting with Russian lawyer Natalia Veselnitskaya, his brother-in-law Jared Kushner and then campaign chairman Paul Manafort.

Before the Times story, Trump Jr. had said he never met with any Russian officials to discuss his father’s campaign for the presidency. When Times reporters asked him about the June 2016 meeting, Trump Jr. first said that the primary topic was a program that facilitated the adoption of Russian children before Russian President Vladimir Putin stopped it.

After giving shifting accounts of the Trump Tower meeting, the president’s son released the email chain “in order to be totally transparent.”

According to the emails, a music publicist who set up the meeting told Trump Jr. that a Russian prosecutor wanted to “provide the Trump campaign with some official documents and information that would incriminate Hillary and her dealings with Russia and should be very useful to your father.”

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Publicist Rob Goldstone added, “This is obviously very high level and sensitive information but is part of Russia and its government’s support for Mr. Trump.”

“If it’s what you say I love it,” Trump Jr. wrote back to Goldstone, “especially later in the summer.”

Trump Jr. wanted to talk on the phone but agreed to meet with Veselnitskaya at Trump Tower. While the Times described Veselnitskaya as a “Kremlin-connected Russian lawyer,” she and the Kremlin deny that description.

On Tuesday, White House deputy press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders stood by her earlier assertion that there was no collusion between the Trump campaign and Russian officials. She also referred reporters to “Don Jr.’s counsel and outside counsel” and confirmed that President Donald Trump only learned about the meeting in “the last couple of days.”

Sanders read a brief statement from the president: “My son is a high quality person and I applaud his transparency.”

The emails and details of the Trump Tower meeting drew a swift reaction from Democrats.

Democratic Sen. Tim Kaine of Virginia, who was Hillary Clinton’s running mate in 2016, told CNN, “We’re now moving into perjury, false statements and even into potentially treason.”

Democratic National Committee spokeswoman Adrienne Watson said in a statement, “Donald Trump Jr. was told in explicit terms that the Russian government wanted to help his father win the election, and he knew the information was coming from a family with close ties to Vladimir Putin. Instead of reporting this to the FBI, the president’s son said ‘I love it’ and invited the Trump campaign’s most senior aides to participate.”

But George Washington University law professor Jonathan Turley saw the incident as more like a “classic bait-and-switch” tactic to gain access to Trump Tower than collusion.

“If the Russians were making such a play to influence the election in favor of Trump,” Turley wrote in The Hill, “this is a curious way of going about it. The most obvious question is why the Russians would call such a meeting but not actually produce any evidence or even substantive allegations.”

“I’m not sure there’s a crime here,” said former CIA spokesman and 15seconds.com blogger Bill Harlow. “You can’t go wrong in this town attributing missteps to stupidity. Part of you wants to say it’s evil, but I think it’s just dumb. They never gave a thought that it might be a bad thing to have a foreign government offering you dirt on another candidate.”

Marc Lotter, press secretary to Vice President Mike Pence, responded in a way that many perceived to represent Pence distancing himself from the Trump/Russia story.

“The vice president is working every day to advance the president’s agenda He was not aware of the meeting. He is also not focused on stories about the campaign, especially those pertaining to the time before he joined the campaign.”

Contact Debra J. Saunders at dsaunders@reviewjournal.com or at 202-662-7391. Follow @DebraJSaunders on Twitter.

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