Donald Trump Jr has played down a meeting with a Kremlin-linked lawyer who had promised him damaging information about Hillary Clinton during his father’s bid for the US presidency last year.
He was speaking to Fox News after releasing a 2016 email chain in which he appeared to welcome the help from the Russian government attorney after being promised by an intermediary “high level” information about Mrs Clinton, that was “part of Russia and its government’s support for Mr Trump.”
But the eldest Trump son dismissed the subsequent meeting as “a nothing” which failed to lead to anything fruitful.
He said he decided to meet with lawyer Natalia Veselnitskaya as a favour to Rob Goldstone, a friend and publicist for a Russian pop star, and for ‘research’ on an opponent.
“In retrospect I probably would have done things a little differently,” Trump Jr told Fox News.
“Again this is before Russia mania, this was before they were building it up in the press.
“For me this was opposition research – something you know, concrete evidence as to all the stories I’d been hearing about.
“I wanted to hear it out, but really, it went nowhere and it was apparent that wasn’t what the meeting was actually about.”
‘This is pre-Russia fever’
Speaking on the Sean Hannity program, Trump Jr said he was unsure if sirens went off when the email pointed to Russian government help.
But he wanted to hear out what would be said in the meeting.
“I mean this was her (Hillary Clinton), perhaps involvement with the Russian government,” Trump Jr said.
“Someone sent me an email; I can’t help what someone sends me.”
The eldest Trump son said he didn’t know who he was meeting and had “never heard” of Veselnitskaya.
“This is pre-Russia fever… the rest of the world was talking about that trying to build up this narrative about Russia,” he said.
“I don’t think my sirens went up, or the antennas went up… because it wasn’t the issue that it’s made out to be over the last nine months, ten months since it really became a thing so I think there is an element of context at the time.”
What eventuated in the meeting, he said, was “nonsensical” and quickly went on to a story about Russian adoption.
Ten minutes in, Jared Kushner, the president’s son-in-law who also attended, left the meeting, while the-then Trump campaign chairman Paul Manafort went on the phone.
“This was such a nothing,” Trump Jr said.
“There was nothing to tell. It was a wasted 20 minutes, it was such a shame.”
He also denied collusion with the Russian government.
“There was nothing I would do to endanger this country.”