WASHINGTON (AP) - Donald Trump Jr. told the Senate Judiciary Committee last year he did not recall ever discussing the Russia investigation with his father and said he didn’t think there was anything wrong with meeting a Russian lawyer at Trump Tower ahead of the 2016 presidential election, according to transcripts released Wednesday of his interview with the panel.
The committee released more than 1,800 pages of transcripts of interviews with Trump’s son and others who attended a June 9, 2016, meeting at which they expected to receive dirt about Trump’s opponent, Democrat Hillary Clinton.
Meanwhile, the Senate intelligence committee said it stands behind a 2017 assessment by U.S. intelligence agencies that Russia intervened in the election to hurt Clinton and help Trump. Republican chairman Richard Burr of North Carolina said in a statement that his staff had spent 14 months “reviewing the sources, tradecraft and analytic work, and we see no reason to dispute the conclusions.”
The Judiciary Committee transcripts released Wednesday reveal new details about how the meeting - central to special counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation into potential collusion between Trump aides and the Kremlin - came to be arranged and efforts afterward to mitigate the public relations damage arising from its disclosure.
The transcripts show the dissatisfaction of Trump Jr. and other campaign aides, including brother-in-law Jared Kushner, when the meeting failed to yield the harmful Clinton information they thought they’d get - as well as the increasing panic of one of the meeting participants who feared his reputation would be ruined for his role in having set it up.
In addition, the transcripts reflect an aggressive Russian outreach to Trump both before and after the June 2016 meeting, including an effort to arrange a follow-up get-together that November with members of his transition team. One year earlier, Trump was invited to the 60th birthday party of a friend in Moscow at which the opportunity to meet Russian President Vladimir Putin was dangled.
Trump Jr. deflected multiple questions during the interview, saying “No, not that I recall” when asked if he discussed the Russia probe with his father. He said he could not recall the day the Trump meeting was arranged but insisted that he had never discussed the meeting with him.
Asked if he thought it would be a problem to take a meeting described to him as part of a Russian government effort to aid his father, Trump Jr. said no.
I didn’t think that listening to someone with information relevant to the fitness and character of a presidential candidate would be an issue, no.”
Senate Judiciary Democrats said the transcripts are just “one piece of a much larger puzzle” and do not tell the entire story because some participants were not interviewed and Republican chairman, Sen. Chuck Grassley, did not subpoena them.