Donald Trump admits son met Russian to get information on Hillary Clinton
July 19, 2020
Donald Trump, the US president, on Sunday admitted that his son met a Russian lawyer in Trump Tower in 2016 to collect information on Hillary Clinton but said it was “totally legal”.
The Sunday morning tweet is Mr Trump’s most direct acknowledgement that the motive for the June 2016 meeting was to get dirt on Hillary Clinton, his Democratic rival for the presidency.
It follows reports in American news outlets that the president was becoming concerned that Robert Mueller’s investigation into Russian interference in the election was closing in on family members – particularly Donald Trump Jnr.
As he has in the past, Mr Trump insisted he did not know at the time about the meeting between his son Donald Jnr and Natalia Veselnitskaya, a lawyer with links to the Kremlin.
“This was a meeting to get information on an opponent, totally legal and done all the time in politics – and it went nowhere,” he wrote. “I did not know about it!”
Fake News reporting, a complete fabrication, that I am concerned about the meeting my wonderful son, Donald, had in Trump Tower. This was a meeting to get information on an opponent, totally legal and done all the time in politics – and it went nowhere. I did not know about it!
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) August 5, 2018
That meeting has come under intense scrutiny from Mr Mueller, the special counsel, as he probes whether the Trump campaign coordinated with a Russian effort to sway the election in his favour.
The Washington Post reported that Mr Trump has been brooding in private about whether his son unintentionally put himself in legal jeopardy by meeting with Ms Veselnitskaya.
Mr Trump called the report "a complete fabrication."
Donald Jr initially said in July 2017 that the meeting was “primarily” about US adoptions of Russian children. The Washington Post has reported that the statement was dictated by the president.
Donald Jr later admitted he accepted the meeting with Ms Veselnitskaya in hopes of obtaining damaging information on Ms Clinton, but said nothing came of it.
In brief | Donald Trump’s family
Mr Trump’s lawyers argue that the meeting violated no laws.
“The question is how will it be illegal? The real question here is, would… the meeting itself constitute a violation of the law,” the president’s lawyer Jay Sekulow said on ABC’s "This Week."
Mr Sekulow acknowledged that the public explanation for the meeting has changed but insisted that the White House has been very clear with the special counsel’s office. He said he was not aware of Mr Trump Jr. facing any legal exposure.
"I don’t represent Don Jr.," Sekulow said, "but I will tell you I have no knowledge at all of Don Jr. being told that he’s a target of any investigation, and I have no knowledge of him being interviewed by the special counsel."
Democrats hammered away at the president’s admission.
"The Russians offered damaging info on your opponent. Your campaign accepted. And the Russians delivered," tweeted Rep. Adam Schiff of California, top Democrat on the House Intelligence Committee. "You then misled the country about the purpose of the Trump Tower meeting when it became public. Now you say you didn’t know in advance. None of this is normal or credible."