Donald Trump Jr. on Monday defended his decision to meet with a Kremlin-linked lawyer offering damaging information about Hillary Clinton last year as normal campaign activity, arguing that the conversation “went nowhere” but that he “had to listen.”
“Obviously I’m the first person on a campaign to ever take a meeting to hear info about an opponent,” Trump, President Donald Trump’s eldest son, tweeted sarcastically. “Went nowhere but had to listen.”
In addition to Donald Trump Jr., Jared Kushner and campaign chairman Paul Manafort attended the June 2016 meeting with Natalia Veselnitskaya.
The New York Times first reported on the meeting on Saturday, and Donald Trump Jr. initially said it was a discussion about Russian adoption, then revised his statement on Sunday acknowledging that he had gone to the meeting under the impression it would provide the campaign with “helpful” information about Clinton.
“The woman stated that she had information that individuals connected to Russia were funding the Democratic National Committee and supporting Mrs. Clinton,” Trump told the Times in a statement on Sunday. “Her statements were vague, ambiguous and made no sense. No details or supporting information was provided or even offered. It quickly became clear that she had no meaningful information.”
According to Trump, Veselnitskaya instead wanted to discuss a law Russian President Vladimir Putin opposes that aims to retaliate against Russian human rights abuses, and he concluded that “the claims of potentially helpful information were a pretext for the meeting.”
The details of the meeting are now under scrutiny. A special prosecutor is currently investigating whether there was any collusion between the Trump campaign and the Russian government’s attempts to interfere in the election through cyberattacks on Democratic Party officials.