Congressional investigators on Thursday questioned Donald Trump Jr. about Russian meddling in his father’s presidential campaign last year, including a meeting the younger Trump held with a Kremlin-linked lawyer who purportedly was going to hand them “damaging information” about Democratic opponent Hillary Clinton.
The younger Trump told the investigators that he set up the June 2016 meeting because he was intrigued that the lawyer might have “information concerning the fitness, character or qualifications” of Clinton, according to his opening statement, quoted by The New York Times.
But the newspaper said that the younger Trump, President Donald Trump’s eldest son, told investigators nothing came of the meeting and that he never colluded with the Russians to interfere in the U.S. election that his father ultimately won.
The younger Trump, who now helps run the president’s vast business empire, has emerged as a key figure in numerous Washington probes, with several being conducted by congressional committees along with a criminal investigation headed by Special Counsel Robert Mueller, a former director of the Federal Bureau of Investigation.
Investigators are focusing on the meeting the younger Trump held more than a year ago in the midst of the campaign at Trump Tower in New York, the president’s business and political campaign headquarters.
The younger Trump, along with his brother-in-law Jared Kushner, now a White House adviser to the president, and then campaign manager Paul Manafort, met with a woman described as a “Russian government attorney,” Natalia Veselnitskaya, after an intermediary had told the younger Trump that she would hand them information that would “incriminate Hillary” as “part of Russia and its government’s support for Mr. Trump” in the election.
“Love it,” the younger Trump responded in setting up the meeting.
Both Kushner and the younger Trump have subsequently said the Russian attorney had no such damaging information about Clinton and the conversation quickly evolved into a discussion about a program for adoption of Russian children that Moscow canceled in retaliation for a U.S. law targeting Russian human rights abusers.
Senate Judiciary Committee investigators questioned the younger Trump behind closed doors, but eventually he and Manafort could be questioned by senators in a public hearing. At some point, the younger Trump is also expected to testify before the Senate Intelligence Committee, which also is probing Russian meddling in the election.
Mueller is investigating whether President Trump obstructed justice in firing former FBI director James Comey at a time he was heading the Russia investigation before Mueller took over.
Shortly after ousting Comey, Trump told television anchor Lester Holt that despite earlier explanations to the contrary, he was thinking of “this Russia thing” when he decided to dismiss Comey.
Trump has denied colluding with Russian interests during the campaign. He had repeatedly said Russian connections to the U.S. election and the ensuing investigations are merely an excuse by Democrats to explain Trump’s upset win over Clinton.
The various investigations are expected to last for months and have cast a shadow over the first months of Trump’s presidency.