Political News

Trump: Son's Russia meeting 'standard campaign practice'

Posted July 13

President Donald Trump pauses during a joint news conference with French President Emmanuel Macron at the Elysee Palace in Paris, Thursday, July 13, 2017. (AP Photo/Carolyn Kaster)

— President Donald Trump on Thursday defended his son's meeting with a Russian lawyer, characterizing it as standard campaign practice and maintaining that "nothing happened" as a result of the June 2016 sit-down.

The remarks in Paris during a joint news conference with French President Emmanuel Macron came even though Trump's own FBI pick has said the authorities should be alerted to requests for such meetings during a campaign and even after Donald Trump Jr. said he would rethink his own conduct in agreeing to the gathering in the first place.

"I think from a practical standpoint most people would've taken that meeting. It's called opposition research, or even research into your opponent," Trump said.

Trump Jr. released emails this week from 2016 in which he appeared eager to accept information from the Russian government that could have damaged Hillary Clinton's campaign. The emails were sent ahead of a Trump Tower meeting with a Russian lawyer that Trump's former campaign manager, Paul Manafort, and Trump's son-in-law, Jared Kushner, also attended.

Asked about the meeting Thursday, Trump said "politics is not the nicest business in the world" and that it's standard for candidates to welcome negative information about an opponent. In this case, he added, "nothing happened from the meeting, zero happened from the meeting."

Trump's comments stood in contrast to the position of his nominee for FBI director, Christopher Wray, who at his confirmation hearing Wednesday was asked what candidates should do if they're told a foreign government wants to help by offering damaging information about an opponent.

"Any threat or effort to interfere with our elections from any nation-state or any non-state actor," Wray said, "is the kind of thing the FBI would want to know."

Trump Jr. himself said in a Fox News interview Tuesday night that "in retrospect I probably would have done things a little differently."

Meanwhile, the Republican chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee said he would call on Trump Jr. to testify as part of an investigation into Russian meddling in last year's election and would subpoena him if necessary. Witnesses who refuse to comply with subpoenas risk being held in contempt.

Sen. Chuck Grassley, R-Iowa, said he wants Trump Jr. to testify "pretty soon," perhaps as early as next week. He wouldn't say what he wants to hear from Trump Jr., but said members aren't restricted "from asking anything they want to ask." The panel's top Democrat, California Sen. Dianne Feinstein, had also called on Trump Jr. to testify.

A lawyer for Donald Trump Jr. did not immediately respond to a message seeking comment. A spokesman for the Senate Judiciary Committee said the letter hasn't been sent.

The Judiciary Committee is one of several congressional panels investigating Russian meddling in the U.S. election, along with Special Counsel Robert Mueller. U.S. intelligence agencies have accused the Russian government of meddling through hacking in last year's election to benefit Trump and harm Clinton, and authorities are exploring potential coordination between Moscow and the Trump campaign.

Virginia Sen. Mark Warner, the top Democrat on the Senate intelligence committee, has also said he'd like to hear from Trump Jr. and said the panel has requested documents from him. But committee chairman, Republican Sen. Richard Burr of North Carolina, hasn't said whether the secretive committee will call him in. Trump Jr. tweeted Monday that he was "happy to work with the committee to pass on what I know."

It's unclear whether Trump Jr. would be as eager to testify before the Judiciary panel, which generally conducts open hearings. The Senate intelligence committee interviews many of its witnesses behind closed doors, though it has held an unusual number of open hearings as part of the Russia probe.

The June 9 meeting involved a lawyer, Natalia Veselnitskaya, who was described to Trump Jr. in emails as a "Russian government attorney" who had damaging information on Clinton.

Trump, apparently referencing an article in The Hill newspaper that said the Justice Department had enabled the attorney to be in the country, suggested Thursday "she was here" because of former Attorney General Loretta Lynch.

As an attorney, Veselnitskaya was involved in a Justice Department lawsuit against a Russian investment law firm where her access to the U.S. became an issue.

In a January court hearing in New York, an assistant United States attorney said the federal government had bypassed the normal visa process and granted a "type of extraordinary permission" so that her client could be in the U.S. to testify in the case. The government, the lawyer said, "made the further accommodation of allowing his Russian lawyer into the country to assist."

In a statement, Lynch said she had no knowledge of Veselnitskaya's travel. "The State Department issues visas, and the Department of Homeland Security oversees entry to the United States at airports," the statement said.

Also Thursday, the Justice Department released a heavily redacted page from Attorney General Jeff Sessions' security clearance application in response to a government watchdog group's lawsuit.

The application page asks whether Sessions, a senator before joining the Trump administration, or anyone in his immediate family had contact within the past seven years with a foreign government or its representatives. There's a "no" box checked. The rest of the answer is redacted.

The department had already acknowledged that Sessions omitted from his form meetings he had with foreign dignitaries, including the Russian ambassador. A department spokesman said Sessions had been told that routine encounters as part of Sessions' Senate duties didn't have to be included on the form.

___

Associated Press writers Jessica Gresko and Richard Lardner in Washington contributed to this report.

8 Comments

Please with your WRAL.com account to comment on this story. You also will need a Facebook account to comment.

Oldest First
View all
  • Brenda Lawrence Jul 14, 12:55 p.m.
    user avatar

    Michael Bawden...because Trump will not accept blame for anything!! You really need to ask??

  • John Archer Jul 14, 9:39 a.m.
    user avatar

    View quoted thread


    So Lynch allowed a Russian lawyer into the country to work on a case they were involved in, and all of a sudden all the Trump dealings with the Russians are the Democrats fault? I still encourage everyone to read Bannon's essays on destroying the US government, along with Aleksandr Dugan. Russia is not our ally.

  • Michael Bawden Jul 14, 6:13 a.m.
    user avatar

    Why does all this Russia stuff keep circling back to the actions of the Obama administration and the Hillary campaign?

  • Jeffrey Derry Jul 13, 11:25 p.m.
    user avatar

    More #yawn

  • Amy Whaley Jul 13, 8:02 p.m.
    user avatar

    “In October the government bypassed 
the normal visa process and gave a type of extraordinary 
permission to enter the country called immigration parole,” Assistant U.S. Attorney Paul Monteleoni explained to the judge during a hearing on Jan. 6, 2016.

    “That's a discretionary act that the statute allows the attorney general to do in extraordinary circumstances. ...
    The prosecutor said the Justice Department was willing to allow the Russian lawyer to enter the United States again as the trial in the case approached so she could help prepare and attend the proceedings.
    http://thehill.com/homenews/administration/341788-exclusive-doj-let-russian-lawyer-into-us-before-she-met-with-trump

    looks like maybe the dems were behind this

  • Amy Whaley Jul 13, 7:58 p.m.
    user avatar

    "The Moscow lawyer had been turned down for a visa to enter the U.S. lawfully but then was granted special immigration parole by then-Attorney General Loretta Lynch for the limited purpose of helping a company owned by Russian businessman Denis Katsyv, her client, defend itself against a Justice Department asset forfeiture case in federal court in New York City.

    During a court hearing in early January 2016, as Veselnitskaya’s permission to stay in the country was about to expire, federal prosecutors described how rare the grant of parole immigration was as Veselnitskaya pleaded for more time to remain in the United States." http://thehill.com/homenews/administration/341788-exclusive-doj-let-russian-lawyer-into-us-before-she-met-with-trump

    I think Lynch knows more ... something stinks

  • Clarence Drumgoole Jul 13, 6:40 p.m.
    user avatar

    Remind of the story of the dog holding a bone and see his reflection in the water, decides to grab that bone in the reflection. You know what happened? Greed!

  • Brenda Lawrence Jul 13, 4:24 p.m.
    user avatar

    Sorry, Trump, but only unscrupulous, unpatriotic, and money-driven people involved with your campaign would have taken this meeting!! You know...people like YOU! And denied it 20 times!!