Donald Trump Jr. declined to tell lawmakers about conversations he had with his father regarding a June 2016 meeting with a Russian lawyer after emails detailing the meeting were made public, according to the top Democrat on the House Intelligence committee.
Trump Jr., the eldest son of President Donald Trump, met for more than 10 hours Wednesday with the committee, which is one of three government panels investigating whether Russia meddled in the 2016 presidential race. Trump Jr. left without speaking to reporters about what was discussed.
“I don’t think you can shield conversations by only having an attorney present.”
Trump Jr. has claimed he didn’t tell the president about the meeting between Trump campaign officials and Russians when it happened and he declined to elaborate on what he ultimately told him after the meeting became public.
Rep. Adam Schiff, D-Calif., said that Trump Jr. said he couldn’t speak about the conversations with his father because of attorney-client privilege, telling the committee a lawyer was present when he spoke to his father about the meeting and the emails that led up to it.
“I don’t think you can shield conversations by only having an attorney present,” the California lawmaker said.
The Trump Tower meeting is a matter of keen interest to special counsel Robert Mueller, who is also investigating the meddling and whether there was any obstruction of justice. Trump Jr. and Jared Kushner, Trump’s son-in-law, attended the meeting with several Russian operatives under the impression that they might receive damaging information about the Democratic presidential candidate, Hillary Clinton.
Mueller is also interested in the White House response to the meeting once it became public. The White House has said the president was involved in drafting an early statement saying the meeting primarily concerned a Russian adoption program, but emails later released by Trump Jr. showed that he enthusiastically agreed to the sit-down with Russian lawyer Natalia Veselnitskaya and others after he was promised dirt on his father’s rival. Trump Jr. later said the promised material never materialized.
Trump Jr. said during Wednesday’s interview that he spoke with President Trump’s communications aide Hope Hicks as early reports of the meeting emerged, according to one person familiar with the interview. The New York Times was first to report the existence of the meeting, and Trump Jr. eventually released the emails detailing the planning for it.
Hicks was with the president on Air Force One while they were writing the statement that said the meeting primarily concerned the adoption program.
Trump Jr. also told the intelligence panel that he didn’t tell his father about the 2016 meeting at the time that it happened, according to the person familiar with his interview. The person was not authorized to speak about the testimony and asked not to be identified.
Trump Jr. also voluntarily testified in September before a closed session of the Senate Judiciary Committee about the meeting, which he cast as simply an opportunity to learn about Clinton’s “fitness, character or qualifications,” insisting to investigators that he did not collude with Russia to hurt Clinton’s campaign.
The Senate intelligence committee also hopes to interview Trump Jr. before the end of the year.
British publicist Rob Goldstone, who is believed to have arranged that meeting, will reportedly talk to members of the House and Senate intelligence committees as early as next week.
Kushner has spoken to both intelligence committees. The panels have also interviewed Ike Kaveladze, who was at the meeting as a representative of a Russian developer who once partnered with Trump to bring the Miss Universe pageant to Moscow, and Rinat Akhmetshin, a Russian-American lobbyist. A translator who was in attendance has also spoken to congressional investigators.
Lawmakers were also expected to ask Trump Jr. about his communications with WikiLeaks during and after the campaign. Last month, Trump Jr. released a series of private Twitter exchanges with WikiLeaks dating to the period during and after the 2016 election.
In the exchanges — including some around the time WikiLeaks was releasing stolen emails from Clinton’s campaign chairman — Trump Jr. is asked to release his father’s tax returns to the site.
The private messages also show Trump Jr. responding to the WikiLeaks account three times.
He also asked the site about a rumor about an upcoming leak. The messages began in September 2016 and ran through the following July.
Trump Jr. played down the exchanges as he released them.
“Here is the entire chain of messages with @wikileaks (with my whopping 3 responses) which one of the congressional committees has chosen to selectively leak,” he tweeted. “How ironic!”
Trump Jr.’s lawyers had already released the exchanges to the congressional committees investigating Russian intervention.
In an Oct. 3, 2016, message, the WikiLeaks Twitter account sent Trump Jr. an article that included critical comments Clinton had made about site editor Julian Assange and said, “It’d be great if you guys could comment on/push this story.”
Trump Jr. replied: “Already did that earlier today. It’s amazing what she can get away with.”
Two minutes later, Trump Jr. sent another message: “What’s behind this Wednesday leak I keep reading about?”
Longtime Trump associate Roger Stone had tweeted the day that“Hillary Clinton is done,” referencing WikiLeaks.
The WikiLeaks Twitter account never responded, but days later WikiLeaks started rolling out emails from Clinton campaign Chairman John Podesta’s account. After the release, WikiLeaks sent Trump Jr. a searchable link of the emails. Trump Jr. tweeted that link two days later, on Oct. 14, 2016, according to The Atlantic magazine.
Fox News’ Joseph Weber and The Associated Press contributed to this report.
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