Senate Judiciary to meet with Trump Jr. on Thursday

Senate Judiciary to meet with Trump Jr. on Thursday
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President TrumpDonald John TrumpTrump rips Dems' demands, impeachment talk: 'Witch Hunt continues!' Nevada Senate passes bill that would give Electoral College votes to winner of national popular vote The Hill's Morning Report - Pelosi remains firm despite new impeachment push MORE’s eldest son will reportedly meet with Senate investigators behind closed doors on Thursday as lawmakers intensify their review of the Trump campaign’s possible ties to Russia.

Donald Trump Jr. has become a central figure in the various Russia investigations —including the federal probe led by special counsel Robert Mueller — due to his participation in a 2016 meeting with a woman described as a Russian government lawyer who was offering dirt on then-Democratic presidential nominee Hillary ClintonHillary Diane Rodham ClintonNevada Senate passes bill that would give Electoral College votes to winner of national popular vote 2020 Dems break political taboos by endorsing litmus tests Iowa Democrats brace for caucus turnout surge MORE.

The meeting, held at Trump Tower in June of 2016, touches on one of the questions at the heart of the federal investigation into Moscow’s election meddling: whether any Trump associates colluded with Russian officials or representatives.

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The administration’s conflicting explanations of the meeting have stoked the interest of federal investigators, who are reportedly keenly interested in the president’s role in drafting the White House’s initial statement about it.

According to emails released by Trump Jr. in July, an intermediary offered to set up a meeting between Trump Jr. and a “Russian government lawyer” offering information that “would incriminate Hillary 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 what’s you say I love it especially later in the summer,” Trump Jr. responded.

The administration’s account of the meeting evolved as more details emerged. Trump reportedly personally dictated the White House’s original statement, in which Trump Jr. claimed that he 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 the release of Trump Jr.’s emails several days later showed that explanation to be misleading. The disparity reportedly sparked the interest of Mueller, who is also probing whether there has been any attempt by the Trump team to obstruct the federal investigation.

Trump has characterized the Russia investigation as “the greatest witch hunt in political history.”

Senate investigators from both the Intelligence and Judiciary committees have been vying to have first the crack at interviewing the president’s son, who is now running Trump’s real estate empire with his brother, Eric Trump.

Trump Jr. was called to testify publicly before the Senate Judiciary Committee in July, but offered to give a private transcribed interview and provide documents instead. The panel’s leaders — Chairman Chuck GrassleyCharles (Chuck) Ernest GrassleyTrump mulling visit to ethanol refinery later this month: report Nursing home care: A growing crisis for an aging America  Senate chairman says bipartisan health care package coming Thursday MORE (R-Iowa) and ranking member Dianne FeinsteinDianne Emiel FeinsteinThis week: Democrats, White House set for infrastructure, budget talks Senate confirms Rosen for No. 2 spot at DOJ Senate confirms controversial 9th Circuit pick without blue slips MORE (D-Calif.) — said in July that they still intend for Trump Jr. to appear before the panel publicly and would subpoena him if necessary.

Grassley’s panel is investigating a number of issues linked to the Russian interference campaign, including “attempts to influence U.S. elections” and whether there have been any violations of foreign lobbying laws.

Eight attendees at the meeting in Trump Tower have been publicly identified, including Trump Jr. and Veselnitskaya: then-campaign chairman Paul Manafort; the president’s son-in-law, Jared Kushner; Veselnitskaya’s translator, Anatoli Samochornov; Ike Kaveladze, an American-based representative of a Russian real estate firm; Rob Goldstone, the intermediary who set up the meeting; and Rinat Akhmetshin, a Russian-American lobbyist.

Manafort and Kushner have already testified behind closed doors with Senate Intelligence Committee investigators.

Congressional investigators returned from the August recess on Tuesday with a full calendar. Trump’s longtime lawyer Michael Cohen is expected to appear before the House Intelligence Committee behind closed doors in the coming weeks. The committee’s Senate counterpart may also seek his testimony. 

Other associates who may appear before Congress this fall include Trump’s longtime informal advisor Roger Stone, as well as Felix Sater, a Russia-born real estate broker that Cohen worked with on an aborted deal for a Trump Tower in Moscow.

—Updated at 10:04 a.m.