Senate intel panel seeks to question Donald Trump, Jr. over meeting with Russian lawyer
On Sunday, the New York Times reported that Donald Trump, Jr. met with Russian lawyer Natalia Veselnitskaya after she promised to provide damaging information on former Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton.
Paul Manafort, Trump’s campaign chairman, and Jared Kushner, the president’s senior advisor and son-in-law, also attended the meeting, which took place at Trump Tower in June 2016, according to the NYT.
Steven Dennis, a reporter for Bloomberg, tweeted on Monday that Senator Susan Collins (R-Maine), a member of the Senate Intelligence Committee, has called for the committee to question Donald Trump, Jr., Kushner, and Manafort about the meeting.
“Our intelligence committee needs to interview him and others who attended the meeting,” Collins said, according to The Hill.
In response, Donald Trump, Jr. tweeted on Monday that he would be “happy to work with the committee to pass on what I know,” adding that the meeting “went nowhere.”
Happy to work with the committee to pass on what I know. https://t.co/tL47NOoteM— Donald Trump Jr. (@DonaldJTrumpJr) July 10, 2017
Obviously I'm the first person on a campaign to ever take a meeting to hear info about an opponent... went nowhere but had to listen. https://t.co/ccUjL1KDEa— Donald Trump Jr. (@DonaldJTrumpJr) July 10, 2017
“After pleasantries were exchanged, the woman stated that she had information that individuals connected to Russia were funding the Democratic National Committee and supporting Ms. Clinton,” Trump Jr. said in a statement, according to The Hill. "Her statements were vague, ambiguous and made no sense. No details or supporting information was provided or even offered. It quickly became clear that she had no meaningful information.”
Rep. Adam Schiff (D-California), the ranking member of the House Intelligence Committee, also said that the meeting “certainly raises questions for a variety of reasons.”
“They claim that this meeting had nothing to do with the campaign, and yet the Trump campaign manager is invited to come to the meeting. And there's no reason for this Russian government advocate to be meeting with Paul Manafort or with Mr. Kushner or the president's son if it wasn't about the campaign and Russia policy,” Schiff said in an interview with CNN. “I think we're going to want to question everyone that was at that meeting about what was discussed.”
After the New York Times article came out, Senator Mark Warner (D-Virginia), the vice chairman of the Intel Committee, tweeted that he couldn’t “imagine taking a meeting with a foreign lawyer claiming to have dirt on an opponent.”
More importantly, this follows a constant and troubling pattern from the Trump campaign and administration.— Mark Warner (@MarkWarner) July 10, 2017
That’s why we have to continue this investigation. There’s a lot more work to do.— Mark Warner (@MarkWarner) July 10, 2017
Warner later told reporters that the meeting marks “the first time that the public has seen clear evidence of senior-level members of the Trump campaign meeting with Russians to try to obtain information that might hurt the campaign of Hillary Clinton,” according to the Daily Beast.
However, Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said on Monday that they “don’t know who [Natalya Veselnitskaya] is, and obviously we can’t track the meetings of all Russian lawyers at home or abroad.”
At Monday’s press briefing, White House Principal Deputy Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders told reporters that Trump only learned of the meeting “in the last couple of days.” She added that it was “a very short meeting” and said there was “absolutely no follow-up.”
“The only thing I see inappropriate about the meeting was the people that leaked the information on the meeting after it was voluntarily disclosed,” Huckabee Sanders said, adding that “no one within the Trump campaign colluded in order to influence the election.”
Senator James Lankford (R-Oklahoma), another member of the Senate Intelligence Committee, expressed a willingness to investigate, but didn’t offer any optimism that substance would come of it.
“Now, should we look into it? Absolutely, we should, as we are at this instance and multiple other instances,” Lankford said, according to NPR. “But just a meeting that had occurred and that the Russians were reaching out does not mean that we were reaching back.”
Donald Trump, Jr. has also recently hired a lawyer, Alan Futerfas, to represent him in connection with any investigations related to the Russia probe, according to Reuters. In the past, Futerfas has represented clients with alleged ties to organized crime, including members of the Gambino, Genovese, Bonanno, and Colombo crime families.