WASHINGTON - US President Donald Trump's eldest son eagerly agreed last year to meet a woman he was told was a Russian government lawyer who might have damaging information about Mrs Hillary Clinton as part of Moscow's official support for his father, according to e-mails released on Tuesday (July 11).
Mr Donald Trump Jr released the messages on Twitter after the New York Times said it planned to write about them and sought comment from him.
They are the most concrete evidence yet that Trump campaign officials welcomed Russian help to win the election, a subject that has cast a cloud over Mr Trump's presidency and spurred investigations by the Justice Department and Congress.
Mr Trump Jr has said he did not tell his father about the meeting.
"There was nothing to tell," he said on Fox News on Tuesday.
Some excerpts from the e-mail chain between him and Rob Goldstone, a music publicist who represented Emin Agalarov, whose father, Aras Agalarov, is a major real estate developer close to Russian president Vladimir Putin:
1. "The Crown prosecutor of Russia met with his (Emin's) father Aras this morning and in their meeting offered to provide the Trump campaign with some official documents and information that would incriminate Hillary and her dealings with Russia." - Rob Goldstone
- It is not clear who the "Crown prosecutor of Russia" is. The position does not exist in Russian government. There is a British "Crown Prosecution Service" - and Mr Goldstone, the music publicist who arranged the meeting between a Russian lawyer and Mr Trump Jr, is British. In Russia, the technical equivalent is "Prosecutor General".
The White House has denied contacts with Russians and collusion with the Russian government, yet here is supposed Russian government information being offered and Mr Trump Jr accepting it.
2. "This is obviously very high level and sensitive information but is part of Russia and its government's support for Mr Trump." - Rob Goldstone
- The Trumps and the White House denied for months after this e-mail dated June 3, 2016, that Russia aided their campaign. Mr Trump called it a "hoax". Yet, here is Mr Goldstone in e-mails with the younger Mr Trump, saying that is exactly what Russia was doing.
3. "If it's what you say I love it especially later in the summer." - Donald Trump Jr
- The "especially later in the summer" line suggests the opposition research would have been held on to and used at a later date. At this point in the 2016 campaign, Mr Trump
and his Democratic rival Mrs Clinton were the presumptive nominees but had not been officially nominated. Mr Trump had recently started talking about attacking his former political ally, Mrs Clinton.
4. "Emin asked that I schedule a meeting with you and The Russian government attorney who is flying over from Moscow for this Thursday." - Rob Goldstone
- Again, this information is presented as coming from the Russian government - a "Russian government attorney". This is the third time it is cited as such.
The Russian lawyer, Ms Natalia Veselnitskaya, has denied she works for the Kremlin, and the Kremlin has said it does not even know her.
President Vladimir Putin's spokesman, Mr Dmitry Peskov, told reporters this weekend that the Kremlin "cannot keep track of every Russian lawyer and their meetings domestically or abroad". He added of Ms Veselnitskaya: "We do not know who that is."
Mr Trump Jr has said Ms Veselnitskaya did not provide any damaging information about Mrs Clinton at the meeting and instead sought to discuss Russian sanctions.
5. "Meeting got moved to 4 tomorrow at my offices." - Donald Trump Jr
- Mr Trump Jr told the New York Times he did not tell his father's campaign manager at the time, Paul Manafort, and son-in-law Jared Kushner, now a top White House adviser, what was to be discussed at the meeting.
However, this e-mail dated June 8, 2016, shows that both men may have had access to the full e-mail chain.
Their inclusion in the meeting also shows that it must have been taken very seriously.
SOURCES: Washington Post, Reuters, BBC