Trump Jr. releases email chain on conversations with Russian sources

Donald Trump Jr. on Tuesday released a stunning chain of emails detailing his conversations about setting up a campaign meeting with a Russian lawyer who had offered compromising information on Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton.

The information “would incriminate Hillary and her dealings with Russia and would be very useful to your father,” reads one of the emails from Rob Goldstone, who acted as an intermediary to set up the meeting.

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

{mosads}In a June 3, 2016, email released on Twitter, referring to the information on Clinton, Trump Jr. told Goldstone: “If it’s what you say I love it especially later in the summer.”

In another email, Goldstone suggested the information about Clinton could be given to then-candidate Donald Trump through Rhona Graff, his longtime assistant.

“I can also send this info to your father via Rhona, but it is ultra sensitive so wanted to send to you first,” Goldstone wrote.

President Trump issued a brief statement defending his son through White House deputy press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders during an off-camera briefing with reporters.

“My son is a high-quality person and I applaud his transparency,” Trump said.

The revelation has shaken the White House, which for months has struggled to contain the fallout from a wide-ranging investigation into Russia’s meddling in the 2016 presidential election.

Sanders said the president was “frustrated with the process” and “the fact that this continues to be an issue.”

She swatted away the notion that Trump Jr. may have committed perjury or treason, calling it “ridiculous,” and insisted that the president’s eldest son did not collude with the Russians in any way.

In Trump Jr.’s emails, Democrats believe they may have the smoking gun that proves Trump campaign officials colluded with the Russians in that effort.

“This is black and white — Trump officials at the highest levels knew Russia was working to aid Donald Trump and welcomed Russia’s interference,” said Sen. Mark Warner (Va.), the ranking Democrat on the Senate Intelligence Committee that is probing Russia’s election meddling.

Warner said repeated denials from the White House and Trump’s campaign “are all patently false” and that the “investigation will move forward in a bipartisan way. We need to follow the facts wherever they lead.”

Lawmakers are ramping up pressure on Trump Jr. to testify on Capitol Hill, with Senate Minority Leader Charles Schumer (D-N.Y.) demanding he do so in public and under oath.

Trump Jr. tweeted Monday that he is “happy to work with the committee to pass on what I know,” but it’s unclear whether he would comply with such a request.

Lawyers representing Trump and his eldest son did not respond to requests for comment.

The emails undercut a central White House talking point that there were no contacts between Trump officials and the Russians about the campaign during the election season.

Goldstone, a music promoter who represents a Russian pop star named Emin Agalarov, has connections to both Trump and Russian President Vladimir Putin. Agalarov’s father was Trump’s partner in bringing the Miss Universe pageant to Russia in 2013.

Trump Jr.’s release of the emails comes after The New York Times reported that he was told beforehand that the lawyer promising dirt on Clinton was part of a Russian government effort to help his father’s presidential campaign.

The meeting took place on June 9, 2016. In addition to Trump Jr., Trump’s son-in-law, Jared Kushner, and his then-campaign chairman, Paul Manafort, attended. Trump Jr. forwarded the email chain to both Manafort and Kushner before the meeting.

Trump Jr. has said the Russian lawyer, Natalia Veselnitskaya, did not have the promised opposition research and instead arranged the meeting to press for changes on a policy that restricts American adoptions of Russian children.

But the emails reveal new details about how the meeting at Trump Tower in New York came to be and show that Trump Jr. appeared eager to receive damaging information on Clinton obtained by the Russian government.

The messages are likely to come under scrutiny from federal and congressional investigators probing Russia’s election meddling and whether any Trump associates colluded with the effort.

Trump Jr. has claimed that he did not know about Veselnitskaya’s ties to Moscow, though Goldstone explicitly stated in one of the emails that she was a “Russian government attorney who is flying over from Moscow.”

The subject line on the email chain between Trump Jr. and Goldstone was “Russia — Clinton — private and confidential.”

“The woman, as she has said publicly, was not a government official,” Trump Jr. said in a Tuesday statement. He said the lawyer had wanted to talk about adoption policy and a U.S. human rights law targeting Russians.

“To put this in context, this occurred before the current Russian fever was in vogue. As Rob Goldstone said just today in the press, the entire meeting was ‘the most inane nonsense I ever heard. And I was actually agitated by it.’ ”

In a Tuesday interview with NBC News, Veselnitskaya offered a different account of the meeting.

She said she never had any damaging information on Clinton and it was never her intention to secure the meeting under the impression that she did.

“It is quite possible that maybe they were longing for such an information. They wanted it so badly that they could only hear the thought that they wanted,” Veselnitskaya said.

Veselnitskaya also denied any connection to the Russian government. The Kremlin has said it does not know anything about the meeting.

But the Moscow lawyer has extensive ties to close allies of Putin. She came to the United States last year in connection with a $230 million tax fraud case initially exposed by Sergei Magnitsky — an accountant who died in a Russian prison after accusing prosecutors in that country of the fraud.

Veselnitskaya has represented a man alleged to have been involved in the fraud scheme and has lobbied against the Magnitsky Act, a U.S. law designed to punish Russians accused of human rights abuses.

Putin blocked Americans from adopting Russian children in response to the 2012 law.

Trump’s allies cast Trump Jr. as naive and a newcomer to politics. They said the Trump campaign was operating on a shoestring budget and didn’t have the kind of opposition research to keep up with the Clinton campaign.

But Republican lawmakers were rattled by the rapidly unfolding events and their proximity to the White House.

“That email is disturbing,” Sen. Lindsay Graham (R-S.C.) said. “I know Donald Trump Jr. is new to politics, I know that Jared Kushner is new to politics, but this is going to require a lot of questions to be asked and answered.”

This story was updated at 5:13 p.m. 

Tags Charles Schumer Donald Trump Hillary Clinton Mark Warner

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