Donald Trump Jr, ex-campaign head given nod to testify in Congress: Senator

Paul Manafort, advisor to Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump's campaign, checks the teleprompters before Trump's speech at the Mayflower Hotel in Washington, DC on April 27, 2016.
Paul Manafort, advisor to Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump's campaign, checks the teleprompters before Trump's speech at the Mayflower Hotel in Washington, DC on April 27, 2016.PHOTO: AFP

WASHINGTON (REUTERS) - President Donald Trump's eldest son and his former campaign chairman have been given approval by a US special counsel to testify publicly to Congress as part of investigations into Russian meddling in the 2016 election, the top Democrat on the Senate Judiciary Committee said on Tuesday (July 18).

US Senator Dianne Feinstein told Reuters the special counsel, former FBI director Robert Mueller, said that Donald Trump Jr. and Paul Manafort could testify.

Mueller is looking into allegations by US intelligence agencies that Russia interfered to help Trump win and possible collusion between Moscow and the Republican's campaign.

Feinstein said the committee planned for the testimony to be part of a broader hearing that the committee had scheduled for Wednesday but has now been postponed. She could not confirm whether the hearing would take place next week.

If Trump Jr. were to appear before the judiciary committee, he would be the highest member of the Republican president's inner circle of relatives and White House aides to testify in Congress about the Russia allegations. Several congressional panels have investigations open.

The allegations have dominated Trump's first six months in office. Russia denies meddling in the campaign, and Trump says there was no collusion.

Trump Jr., who runs the Trump Organisation family business, released e-mails last week in which he eagerly agreed in June 2016 to meet the woman he was told was a Russian government lawyer who might have damaging information about Democratic election rival Hillary Clinton as part of Moscow's official support for his father's presidential campaign.

 

A man who works for a Moscow-based developer with ties to Trump was identified on Tuesday as the eighth person to attend the meeting.

Lawyer Scott Balber confirmed Ike Kaveladze's name to Reuters after CNN reported that his client had been identified by special counsel Mueller's prosecutors and was cooperating in their investigation.

The meeting appears to be the most tangible evidence of a connection between Trump's campaign and Russia, investigators in congress have said.

In addition to Trump Jr., lawyer Natalia Veselnitskaya, her translator, and Kaveladze, the meeting was attended by Trump son-in-law Jared Kushner, Trump's then-campaign manager, Manafort; publicist Rob Goldstone; and Russian-American lobbyist Rinat Akhmetshin.

In Moscow, Russia said it reserved the right to retaliate against the United States after a meeting in Washington ended without an agreement to return Russian diplomatic property the US had seized.

Trump's predecessor President Barack Obama ordered the seizure of two Russian diplomatic compounds in New York and Maryland and the expulsion of 35 Russian diplomats in December over what he said was their involvement in hacking the US election campaign.