Donald Trump’s eldest son denied colluding with any foreign government but told Senate staffers that when he accepted a now infamous Russia meeting with a Russian lawyer last year, he was open to receiving information about Hillary Clinton’s “fitness, character or qualifications” for the presidency.
Donald Trump Jr made the comment in an opening statement delivered on Thursday to staff of the Senate judiciary committee, who were interviewing him privately as part of investigations into links between Trump aides and Russia.
Trump Jr and the committee negotiated the meeting. Senators were allowed to sit in but not ask questions.
Senator Richard Blumenthal, a Connecticut Democrat, attended part of the interview and said it was “cordial”. He would not discuss details but said there were “a lot of areas that need to be pursued for more information”. Trump mostly spoke for himself, Blumenthal said, instead of his lawyers speaking for him.
The statement focused on the June 2016 Russia meeting at Trump Tower involving Trump Jr, then Trump campaign manager Paul Manafort, senior Trump adviser Jared Kushner, the lawyer Natalia Veselnitskaya and others including other Russians.
The meeting is also of interest to special counsel Robert Mueller. The appearance before the Senate staffers was the first known instance of Trump Jr giving his version of the meeting in a setting that could expose him to legal jeopardy. It is a crime to lie to Congress.
Trump Jr said he only remembered seven people attending the meeting. Eight have been publicly reported. The seven Trump Jr identified were himself, British music publicist Rob Goldstone, Manafort, Kushner, Veselnitskaya, a translator and Irakli Kaveladze, who worked for the Agalarov family, which has done business with the Trump Organization.
Trump Jr did not mention Russian American lobbyist Rinat Akhmetshin, a former Soviet counterintelligence officer who has said he attended the meeting at Veselnitskaya’s invitation and who has testified about his recollection of it before a Washington grand jury used by Mueller.