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Donald Trump Jr. acknowledged in an interview with Fox News Tuesday that “in retrospect, I probably would have done things a little differently” when meeting last year with a Kremlin-linked attorney in hopes of gaining damaging information on Hillary Clinton.
The interview with Fox News host Sean Hannity will air on his program at 10 p.m. ET, but in preview clips President Trump’s eldest son explained that he met with attorney Natalia Veselnitskaya at the urging of publicist Rob Goldstone because he “wanted to hear it out” to see what type of details they had.
“I had been reading about scandals that people were probably underreporting for a long time, so maybe it was something that had to do with one of those things,” Trump Jr. said.
The president’s son posted an email exchange about setting up the June 2016 meeting on Tuesday morning just before the New York Times, which initially broke the story of the meeting over the weekend, was about to publish the emails. The exchange appears to show Trump Jr. knew the Russian government was working to help elect his father, and there is the promise of material that would “incriminate [Clinton] and her dealings with Russia and would be very useful to your father.”
“I didn’t know if there was any credibility, I didn’t know if there was anything behind it, I can’t vouch for the information. Someone sent me an email. I can’t help what someone sends me. I read it, I responded accordingly,” Trump Jr. told Fox.
Ultimately, the meeting — which was also attended by Trump’s then-campaign chairman Paul Manafort and his son-in-law Jared Kushner, who now serves as a White House senior adviser — was a bust, Trump Jr. said.
“I wouldn’t have even remembered it until you started scouring through this stuff,” the president’s son said. “It was literally just a wasted 20 minutes, which was a shame.”
Trump Jr. also said he never told his father about the meeting, because “there was nothing to tell.”
In the June 2016 email to Trump Jr., Goldstone tells the Trump son that, “This is obviously very high level and sensitive information but is part of Russia and its government’s support for Mr. Trump.”
Trump Jr. wrote back, “if it’s what you say I love it especially later in the summer.”
As NPR’s Peter Overby and Marilyn Geewax note, the situation has put Trump Jr. in legal hot water because there is a federal law that “says foreign nationals cannot ‘directly or indirectly’ give a ‘thing of value’ to American political campaigns. Moreover, the law says no one is allowed to ‘solicit, accept, or receive’ any thing of value from a foreign national to help a candidate.”
The White House stood behind Trump Jr. on Tuesday as the controversy was unfolding, with White House spokeswoman Sarah Huckabee Sanders reading a statement from the president saying, “My son is a high-quality person and I applaud his transparency.” Ahead of the Hannity segment airing, Trump promoted the interview on his personal Twitter account, calling his son “a great person who loves our country!”