Lawmakers call for questioning Donald Trump Jr. over Russia meeting

Andrew Bahl

Members of both parties are calling on Donald Trump Jr. to cooperate with congressional investigations into Russian interference in the 2016 election, after the latest round of revelations about his meeting with a Russian lawyer.

The New York Times reported Monday night that Trump Jr. had been informed in advance that his meeting with a Russian lawyer in June 2016 was part of a broader effort by the Russian government to boost his father’s candidacy.

The younger Trump then released emails Tuesday showing potentially incriminating information about the encounter. The messages show Trump Jr. took the meeting with what he thought was a Russian government lawyer “as part of Russia and its government’s support for Mr. Trump.”

“Seems we have some time and if it’s what you say I love it especially later in the summer,” Trump Jr. responded.

The younger Trump was joined at the meeting by top campaign officials Jared Kushner and Paul Manafort, the Times reported, and the emails were apparently forwarded to both men.

Trump Jr. initially said on Saturday that the meeting concerned the adoption of Russian children by Americans, before modifying his account the next day to acknowledge that he was told lawyer Natalia Veselnitskaya may have “helpful” information for the campaign, reportedly about the Democratic candidate Hillary Clinton.

But in his account of the meeting, Veselnitskaya did not provide information about Clinton.

‘No details or supporting information was provided or even offered,” he said in a statement Monday. “It quickly became clear that she had no meaningful information.”

Rep. Adam Schiff, D-Calif., the top Democrat on the House Intelligence Committee, said on CNN’s “New Day” that the latest revelation is “stunning” and that those involved in the meeting need to work with the committee’s investigation.

“All of these participants will have to come before the committee,” Schiff said Tuesday.

Trump Jr.’s explanation for the meeting has evolved since news of the meeting was first reported, which Schiff said raised concerns.

“The explanations continue to shift, of course not just for Donald Jr. but for many in the Trump orbit, and all of it raises a lot of alarm bells,” he said, although he declined to label the incident as “collusion.”

Schiff’s Senate counterparts echoed his concerns, and members of both parties said Trump Jr. should also be interviewed as part of their separate investigation into Russian meddling in the 2016 election.

Sen. Mark Warner, D-Va., at a hearing in June 2017 where the Senate Select Intelligence Committee listened to testimony on Russian intervention in U.S. and European elections. (Photo: Win McNamee/Getty Images)

Sen. Mark Warner, D-Va., vice chair of the Intelligence Committee, said Monday afternoon he would “absolutely” want to speak with Trump Jr., a position a spokesperson said was unchanged after the most recent development.

“This is the first time that the public has seen clear evidence of senior level members of the Trump campaign meeting Russians to try to obtain information that might hurt the campaign of Hillary Clinton,” Warner told reporters.

Others echoed Warner’s remarks, including Sen. Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif, who said that Trump Jr. should publicly testify before the Senate Judiciary Committee.

“It’s a dead bang case that should be before the Judiciary Committee right now,” she said, adding, “This is aired front page in the newspapers. It should be aired front page in the U.S. Senate.”

Senate Majority Whip John Cornyn, R-Texas, said Tuesday Trump Jr. will testify before the Senate Intelligence Committee but gave no timetable for that process. The top member of that committee, Sen. Richard Burr, R-N.C., told reporters he had read the emails but would not say if he planned on calling Trump Jr. to answer questions.

One of the Democrats on the Intelligence Committee, Sen. Ron Wyden, D-Oregon, said in a statement “there was no question” after reading the emails that there was collusion between the Trump campaign and Russia.

“It is now up to elected officials of both parties to stand up and do their duty: protect and defend the Constitution,” Wyden said.

Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., told reporters that the emails were “disturbing” and that Trump Jr. “definitely” should testify.

“Any time you’re in a campaign and you get an offer from a foreign government to help your campaign, the answer is ‘no,’” he said.

The Senate Intelligence Committee is beginning to privately interview lower-ranking members of the Trump campaign this week as part of its investigation. The House committee is also in the process of setting up meetings with former campaign staffers.

Trump Jr. has indicated in recent days that he would be open to meeting with the committees, tweeting Monday that he was “happy to work with the committee to pass on what I know.”

 

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