Reporting by Kevin Corke
The story is either the most direct suggestions to date of a possible collusion between the Trump campaign and Russia OR it was simply a meeting set up under false pretenses to pitch an agenda item that had nothing to do with the campaign itself.
Like his father, Donald Trump Jr. took to Twitter today to fire back at suggestions that by taking a meeting with a Russian lawyer for the purpose of getting dirt on the Clinton campaign and the DNC during the 2016 race mean that his team had somehow colluded with the Kremlin.
“Obviously I’m the first person a campaign to ever take a meeting to hear info about an opponent…went nowhere but had to listen.”
White House officials say the president only learned about the meeting a few days ago.
Critics argue the fact that campaign operatives Jared Kushner and Paul Manafort were there is highly unethical—or worse.
“We do not get our opposition research from spies…this borders on treason if it is not itself treason,” said former Bush Administration ethics lawyer Richard Painter.
Democratic Congressman Adam Schiff said, “There’s no reason for this Russian government advocate to be meeting with Paul Manfort or with Mr. Kushner or the president’s son if it wasn’t about the campaign and Russia policy.”
In a statement, Mr. Trump Jr. discounted the meeting with Natalia Veselnitskya, writing ““After pleasantries were exchanged the woman stated that she had information that individuals connected to Russia were funding the Democratic National Committee and supporting Ms. Clinton. Her statements were vague, ambiguous and made no sense. No details or supporting information was provided or even offered. It quickly became clear that she had no meaningful information.”
When asked about the lawyer, Putin spokesman, Dmitiry Peskov, said “We don’t know who she is as we obviously cannot track all the Russian lawyers in the country and abroad.”
The latest Russia saga managed to momentarily knock the White House off message following a G20 that saw the president deliver a powerful speech in Poland, but steer clear of sanctions talk.
Trump Tweet: “Sanctions were not discussed at my meeting with President Putin. Nothing will be done until the Ukrainian and Syrian problems are solved!”
That appeared to contradict Secretary of Stae Rex Tillerson who said the president did tell Putin that Congress was pushing for more sanctions.
The president also lashed out at critics of his daughter Ivanka who momentarily filled the president’s seat while he conducted a meeting on the sidelines at the G20 Summit.
Trump Tweet: “If Chelsea Clinton were asked to hold the seat for her mother, as her mother gave our country away, the Fake News would say CHELSEA FOR PRES!”
The tweet drew this response from Chelsea Clinton on Twitter:” Good morning Mr. President. It would never have occurred to my mother or my father to ask me. Were you giving our country away? Hoping not.”
The Trump outside legal team says it believes Veselnitskya was associated with Fusion GPS—an opposition research firm backed by Democrats that also commissioned the widely debunked Steele dossier that claimed to have damaging information about the president.