During a five-hour meeting with Senate Judiciary Committee staffers today, Donald Trump Jr. denied any wrongdoing in his meeting with a Russian lawyer during his father’s presidential campaign, according to his prepared remarks, which were obtained by ABC News.
In his statement, Trump Jr. said he took the meeting with the lawyer, Natalia Veselnitskaya — on June 9, 2016, more than a month after Donald Trump Sr. became the presumptive Republican nominee — because he wanted to determine Hillary Clinton’s “fitness” as a candidate. He said that he was skeptical about taking the meeting and that “as it later turned out, my skepticism was justified.”
“Nonetheless, at the time, I thought I should listen to what Rob [Goldstone] and his colleagues had to say. 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. said in his statement, which was first obtained by The New York Times. Goldstone, a music publicist Trump met
through the 2013 Miss Universe pageant in Russia, set up the meeting, which was held in Trump Tower in New York.
The meeting quickly turned from a confusing allegation about Russian-connected individuals funding the Democratic National Committee to the Magnitsky Act, which Trump had never heard of before that day, he said.
“It was clear to me that her real purpose in asking for the meeting all along was to discuss Russian adoptions and the Magnitsky Act,” he said of the law, which imposes sanctions on Russian government officials.
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“The meeting lasted 20 to 30 minutes, and Rob, Emin and I never discussed the meeting again. I do not recall ever discussing it with Jared, Paul or anyone else,” Trump said, referring to Emin Agalarov, a Russian billionaire’s son who is a singer and an acquaintance of Goldstone’s and Trump’s; Jared Kushner, a campaign adviser and Donald Trump Sr.’s son-in-law; and Paul Manafort, the campaign’s chairman at the time. “In short, I gave it no further thought,”
Trump Jr.’s written statement concludes, “As is clear from the above, I did not collude with any foreign government and do not know of anyone who did. I am grateful for the opportunity to help resolve any lingering concerns that may exist regarding these events. I am very proud of the campaign my father ran and was honored to be a part of it.”
The president’s eldest son arrived at the Capitol sometime before 9:40 a.m. and was not pictured entering the committee room. He was still in the room answering questions from Senate staffers as of 12:30 p.m.
Trump Jr., 39, released a statement via Twitter saying that he met with the committee for “more than five hours.”
“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,” Trump Jr. said in the statement.
“I very much appreciate the opportunity to assist the Committee in its efforts,” he wrote.
In an email sent to Trump Jr. to arrange the meeting, Goldstone wrote that a client of his “offered to provide the Trump campaign with some official documents and information that would incriminate Hillary and her dealings with Russia and would be very useful to your father.”
During his prepared remarks today, Trump Jr. described his reaction to the email, saying, “I was somewhat skeptical of his outreach, as I had only known Rob as Emin’s somewhat colorful music promoter who had worked with famous pop singers such as Michael Jackson. Since I had no additional information to validate what Rob was saying, I did not quite know what to make of his email. I had no way to gauge the reliability, credibility or accuracy of any of the things he was saying.”
Trump said in his statement that he asked Kushner and Manafort to attend the meeting. He added that he asked Goldstone to send a list of other attendees but “he never did. As a result, I had no advance knowledge of who would attend.”
According to media reports, there were eight people at the meeting, but today Trump said, “I only recall seven.”
The meeting was publicly disclosed in early July 2017, and Trump released several differing statements about the meeting before releasing copies of the emails that show the scheduling of the meeting.