US President Donald Trump has defended Donald Trump Jr as “innocent” following emails that showed his eldest son welcomed Russian help against his father’s rival Hillary Clinton in last year’s presidential election.
“My son Donald did a good job last night,” Trump wrote on Twitter, referring to a television interview by his son on Tuesday.
“He was open, transparent and innocent. This is the greatest Witch Hunt in political history. Sad!”
The emails, released by Trump Jr, are the most concrete evidence yet that campaign officials welcomed Russian help to win the election.
The messages show the younger Trump was open to the prospect of “very high-level and sensitive information” from a Russian lawyer that a go-between described as “part of Russia and its government’s support for Mr Trump” before a meeting on June 9, 2016.
“If it’s what you say I love it,” Trump Jr responded.
He released the messages on Twitter after the New York Times said it planned to write about them and sought comment from him.
The messages indicate Trump’s campaign manager at the time, Paul Manafort, and son-in-law Jared Kushner, now a top White House adviser, also planned to attend the meeting Russian lawyer Natalia Veselnitskaya, who denies having Kremlin ties.
Trump Jr said Veselnitskaya did not provide damaging information about Clinton and instead sought to discuss Russian sanctions.
“In retrospect, I probably would have done things a little differently,” Trump Jr said on Fox News.
“For me, this was opposition research.”
Meanwhile, Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said it was “wild” that Trump Jr was being blamed for meeting the Russian lawyer.
“I learned with surprise that a Russian lawyer, a women, is being blamed and Trump’s son is being blamed for meeting. For me, this is wild,” Lavrov said during a visit to Brussels.
“Because when any person speaks to a lawyer, what problem or threat could be there? I didn’t know about this, I learned about it from television.”