President Trump’s eldest son, Donald Trump Jr., was grilled Thursday morning in a private hearing over his June 9, 2016, meeting with Russian lawyer Natalia Veselnitskaya.
The Judiciary panel had called for Trump Jr. to testify publicly in July, but he promised to give a private interview instead.
On Thursday morning, at approximately 9:30 ET, Trump Jr. met with the Senate Judiciary Committee staff and several Democratic members. The president’s son reportedly entered a conference room in the basement of the Capitol, out of view from the media.
Trump Jr. reportedly told Senate investigators that he accepted the invitation to meet with the Russian lawyer who was promising to reveal “dirt” on Hillary Clinton in order to determine her “fitness for office.”
“To the extent they had information concerning the fitness, character or qualifications of a presidential candidate, I believed that I should at least hear them out,” he stated. “Depending on what, if any, information they had, I could then consult with counsel to make an informed decision as to whether to give it further consideration.”
Other people are confirmed to have attended the June 2016 meeting in Trump Tower, including Trump Jr. and the Russian lawyer. Those confirmed present were Trump Jr.’s brother-in-law, Jared Kushner; Trump’s then-campaign chairman, Paul Manafort; Veselnitskaya’s translator, Anatoli Samochornov; Ike Kaveladze, an American-based representative of a Russian real estate firm; Rob Goldstone, the intermediary who set up the meeting; and Rinat Akhmetshin, a Russian-American lobbyist.
In earlier explanations about the meeting, Trump Jr. had stated that the meeting turned out to be a complete waste of time, and all Veselnitskaya really wanted to talk about was a program about the adoption of Russian children.
Veselnitskaya was lobbying for the U.S. to remove sanctions against Russia. Russian President Vladimir Putin had retaliated to the sanctions by banning all American adoptions of Russian children.
The person who served as the intermediary and convinced Trump Jr. to attend the meeting told him that they had information that would “incriminate Hillary Clinton and her dealings with Russia and would be very useful to [his] father.”
According to the emails released by Trump Jr., the following exchange took place:
“This is obviously very high level and sensitive information but is part of Russia and its government’s support for Mr. Trump,” the intermediary wrote.
“If it’s what you say I love it especially later in the summer,” Trump Jr. responded.
The Judiciary panel leaders, Chairman Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa) and Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif), have said that they will want Trump Jr. to testify before the panel, publicly.
“The agreement that we had is that there will be a public hearing and if they don’t come, they’ll be subpoenaed,” Feinstein told CNN on Wednesday.
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