The US President’s son, Donald Trump Jr testified in front of the Senate investigators regarding his meeting with a Russian lawyer in 2016.
In June 2016, Trump Jr met with Russian lawyer Veselnitskaya and music promoter Rob Goldstone. Veselnitskaya has deep ties to Kremlin. Goldstone arranged for the meeting, noting that this was “part of Russia and its government’s support for Mr Trump.” The Trump campaign was promised information that would be harmful to the Hillary Clinton’s presidential bid. Trump Jr replied that he “loved it.” The meeting was also attended by Jared Kushner, Senior Advisor at the White House and then chairman of the Trump campaign, Paul Manafort.
Details of the meeting were published in a New York Times article in 2017. Michael Hayden, former CIA Director has publicly made statements noting that this meeting pointed to “soft collusion”. He elaborated, “The kind of soft collusion I'm referring to here was the line in the email that simply suggested 'if you got bad stuff, August or September, late summer is the time we'll really need it.”
Initially Trump Jr said that the meeting had been about Russian adoptions but changed his statement as more details began to emerge in the media. Former head of the FBI, Robert Mueller, has now been appointed by the US Department of Justice (DoJ) to investigate this matter.
Donald Trump Jr presented himself to be questioned by Senate investigators regarding the meeting. According to media reports, he affirmed that he did not collude with any foreign government.
He said that the meeting was uneventful and did not yield any meaningful information. He was asked about the “I love it” response he had mailed Goldstone. Trump Jr said that it was merely a colloquial response “of saying that I appreciated Rob’s gesture”.
Trump Jr is also reported to have said that he was skeptical of what was promised in the email. However, at the time he had thought he “should listen to what Rob and his colleagues had to say”. He has also admitted that he did not take the meeting to discuss Russian adoptions. He said he was interested in information about Hillary Clinton’s fitness. He said, “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.”
Trump Jr at the end of the meeting tweeted a response noting, “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.”
However, some Senate lawmakers have opined that they found the responses less than satisfactory. Democratic Senator Richard Blumenthal said, “There are a lot of gaps that will need to be filled. My being there gives me a sense of his demeanor, his willingness to answer questions, his pauses and reluctance on some questions and eagerness on others.”
Paul Manafort, the campaign chairman, and Jared Kushner, the President’s son-in-law both testified before congressional committees in July.
Our assessment is that Trump Jr’s testimony could provide ammunition for Mueller to begin the process of indictment for criminal conspiracy.