Meeting with Russian lawyer was innocent: Trump Jr

Mr Donald Trump Jr (far right) was grilled on a range of issues including the Trump Organisation's plans to build a skyscraper in Moscow.
Mr Donald Trump Jr (right) was grilled on a range of issues including the Trump Organisation's plans to build a skyscraper in Moscow.PHOTO: REUTERS

There was no collusion, he tells senators in probe about last year's election campaign

WASHINGTON • Mr Donald Trump Jr took questions from US Senate investigators about his meeting with a Russian lawyer and other topics central to inquiries into Russian influence in last year's US presidential election, but he frequently said he could not provide important details, according to people who attended the hearing.

US President Donald Trump's eldest son appeared for five hours on Thursday before Senate Judiciary Committee members and staffers, a sign of the wide-ranging interest on Capitol Hill in the Trump campaign and its business interactions with the Russians.

Mr Trump Jr was grilled about issues including Russian influence on campaign-related social media communications and the Trump Organisation's plans to build a luxury skyscraper in Moscow. But, for the most part, the closed-door session focused on his June 9, 2016, meeting with a Russian lawyer who reportedly promised negative information about Mrs Hillary Clinton, his father's Democratic opponent. That conversation has become central to inquiries into possible collusion between the campaign and Russia.

Mr Trump Jr said he was not aware of what role, if any, his father might have played in drafting an early explanation of the meeting that was widely criticised as misleading. Instead, observers said, he promoted his view that the meeting last year was inconsequential.

"The meeting provided no meaningful information and turned out not to be about what had been represented," Mr Trump Jr said in a prepared statement that was first reported by the New York Times.

After the session, the President's son tweeted: "I answered every question posed by the Committee... until both sides had exhausted their lines of questioning. I trust this interview fully satisfied their inquiry."

INCONSEQUENTIAL

The meeting provided no meaningful information and turned out not to be about what had been represented.

MR DONALD TRUMP JR, on his meeting last year with a Russian lawyer.

But that is not likely. Said Democrat Senator Richard Blumenthal: "He's supposed to come back and testify under oath at a public hearing - that is my expectation. There certainly are a lot of areas that have been opened for future witnesses and questioning."

Another Democrat in attendance, Senator Christopher Coons, did not reply to a request for comments, but his office distributed a memorandum of federal statutes prohibiting lying to Congress, suggesting them as something "to keep in mind regarding Donald Trump Jr's testimony today".

Mr Trump Jr's lawyer rejected suggestions from those present that his client had repeatedly failed to recall key details.

"That is a ridiculous assertion," said the lawyer, Mr Alan Futerfas, noting that "there were many historical or esoteric questions and questions far afield from the committee's mandate". Nonetheless, he said, the President's son "truthfully answered every single one".

Mr Trump Jr told the congressional investigators he was sceptical of the June 2016 meeting before attending, but "to the extent they had information concerning the fitness, character, or qualifications of the presidential candidate I believed I should at least hear them out", according to his prepared statement.

He also told the panel he would have consulted with lawyers if any useful information had been provided about Mrs Clinton by the visiting Russian. He said that nothing remotely interesting emerged.

Overall, Mr Trump Jr described the meeting as an innocent one, set up on a chaotic day in the heat of the campaign. And he took the opportunity to reject suggestions of collusion with the Russians.

"I did not collude with any foreign government and do not know of anyone who did," he said in his statement. "I am grateful for the opportunity to help resolve any lingering concerns that may exist."

WASHINGTON POST

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on September 09, 2017, with the headline 'Meeting with Russian lawyer was innocent: Trump Jr'. Print Edition | Subscribe