Trump denies knowledge of son’s Russian meeting
President Trump denied Wednesday that he knew his son Donald Trump Jr. met with a Russian lawyer at the height of last year’s campaign, a bombshell revelation that stoked the Russia controversy consuming the White House.
“No, that I didn’t know until a couple of days ago when I heard about this,” Trump said in an interview with Reuters when asked if he knew his eldest son was meeting with attorney Natalia Veselnitskaya.
In a chain of emails made public this week, Trump Jr. appeared eager to meet with her in order to obtain damaging information about his father’s Democratic opponent, Hillary Clinton. An intermediary who set up the June 2016 encounter said the information came from Russian government sources.
The president defended his son, saying he did nothing wrong by agreeing to the sit-down at Trump Tower in New York.
“I think many people would have held that meeting,” Trump said.
The comments were Trump’s first extensive, in-person reaction to the meeting, which has sent shockwaves through the White House.
Trump Jr.’s emails were the clearest indication yet that members of Trump’s campaign were willing to accept help from Russia to defeat Clinton. They undercut months of denials from the White House that members of Trump’s team met with Russians during election season to discuss the campaign.
Federal and congressional investigators are probing Moscow’s election-meddling effort and whether any Trump associates colluded with Russians. Special counsel Robert Mueller’s team is likely to look into the emails and the meeting, and whether then-candidate Trump knew about it.
Trump Jr. said in a Tuesday interview with Fox News host Sean Hannity he might have handled the encounter differently but said he did nothing wrong. He offered to testify under oath before Congress to that effect.
The president praised his son’s performance in a Wednesday morning tweet.
“My son Donald did a good job last night. He was open, transparent and innocent. This is the greatest Witch Hunt in political history. Sad!” Trump tweeted.
—Updated at 6:05 p.m.