Donald Trump Jr. told Senate judiciary committee staffers Thursday that he did not recall the details of White House involvement in the public response to his 2016 meeting with a Russian lawyer and did not know much about the Air Force One meeting that allegedly led to the production of the statement, sources told CNN.
Trump Jr. was explicitly asked whether he either took any of the Russian participants in the June 2016 Trump Tower meeting to see his father — now President Donald Trump — or whether he told his father about the meeting after, sources said. He insisted he did neither.
Asked why his father promised the next day that dirt was coming on Hillary Clinton, Trump Jr. told Senate staffers that’s just the way his father talks.
The President’s eldest son is meeting with congressional investigators Thursday, but at least one member of the Senate judiciary committee is saying Trump Jr.’s interview is doing little to ease their concerns.
Democratic Sen. Richard Blumenthal, who sat in on the meeting with committee staff, told CNN Trump Jr. has not put concerns to rest and is opening up new lines of inquiry.
Trump Jr. reportedly told investigators that he set up a 2016 meeting with a Russian lawyer after being promised damaging information about Hillary Clinton because it was important to learn about her “fitness” to be President, according to a New York Times report about the conversation.
The eldest son of President Donald Trump said in a prepared statement that nothing came of the meeting at Trump Tower and that he did not collude with the Russian government campaign meddling operation, according to the Times, which obtained a copy of Trump Jr.’s statement.
Trump Jr.’s Thursday interview with the Senate judiciary committee staff could be the prelude for other full-scale public hearings focusing on his role as an unofficial campaign aide to his father.
Trump Jr. became a central figure in the Russia drama after it emerged that he had attended a meeting in June 2016 with a Russian lawyer with connections to the Kremlin after being promised information damaging to Hillary Clinton.
Trump Jr. initially said the lawyer, Natalia Veselnitskaya offered no meaningful information and had simply wanted to discuss a suspended Russia-US adoption program. But following more revelations about the meeting, he released emails that show he was told by a facilitator, publicist Rob Goldstone, that the encounter was part of “Russia and its government’s support for Mr Trump.”
The Senate intelligence committee has been the main panel in the chamber looking into the Russia matter, though the judiciary committee under GOP Chairman Chuck Grassley has intensified its focus in recent months.
Grassley told CNN on Thursday that no final decision has been made on a public hearing for Trump Jr.
The Iowa Republican said he will make a decision after Thursday’s meeting and after discussing it with ranking member Sen. Dianne Feinstein.
Feinstein told CNN Wednesday there would be a public hearing with the President’s son “at an appropriate time” and that he would be subpoenaed if necessary.
Senate intelligence committee chairman Richard Burr, and the panel’s top Democrat, Mark Warner, privately met Wednesday and said that they’d like to talk to other attendees of the Trump Tower meeting before meeting with Trump Jr., which could push back the panel’s plans to hear from the President’s son this month.
Investigators are also likely to be interested in reports by The Washington Post that the President was involved in May in drafting a statement about the meeting on behalf of his son about the meeting, while flying home from the G20 summit in Germany.
The White House has said that Trump was involved in the drafting of an initial statement, but only in his capacity as a father and that there were no inaccuracies in the document.
But the reports immediately tweaked suspicions among Trump critics who believe the President has consistently sought to shut down investigations into the Russia drama, including with his firing of FBI Director James Comey.