President Donald Trump is continuing to defend his eldest son’s meeting last year with a Russian lawyer he expected was going to hand him incriminating material about Trump’s election challenger, Democrat Hillary Clinton.
“Most politicians would have gone to a meeting like the one Don jr attended in order to get info on an opponent. That’s politics!” Trump said Monday on his Twitter account.
Trump has tried several times now to defuse the controversy over Donald Trump Jr.’s June 2016 meeting with Natalia Veselnitskaya. The younger Trump agreed to the meeting after being told by an intermediary in an email chain she was a Russian government attorney who would give him material damaging Clinton to support Moscow’s effort to help Trump win the election.
The younger Trump said the lawyer had no information about Clinton and the meeting quickly ended.
President Trump has said he only learned of the meeting in the last week, a gathering at Trump Tower in New York that also was attended by Trump’s son-in-law Jared Kushner, Trump’s then-campaign manager, Paul Manafort, and a long-time Russian-American lobbyist in Washington who was a one-time Soviet military officer.
But Senator Mark Warner, the leading Democrat on the Senate Intelligence Committee, says that he finds it “unbelievable” that Trump was not told about the meeting a year ago.
The meeting is now one focus of several Washington investigations into Russian meddling in the election, with numerous congressional panels interviewing witnesses and scheduling hearings.
Special Counsel Robert Mueller, a former director of the Federal Bureau of Investigation, is now heading a criminal investigation. He is probing contacts between Trump’s campaign and Russian interests and whether Trump obstructed justice by firing James Comey, then the FBI director who was leading the agency’s Russia investigation before Mueller took over.
A new Washington Post-ABC News poll said that 60 percent of those it surveyed believe the younger Trump’s meeting with the Russian lawyer was inappropriate.
President Trump on Sunday fumed at the American news media for its reporting on the meeting, accusing reporters of “distorting democracy.”
“Hillary Clinton can illegally get the questions to the debate and delete 33,000 emails, but my son Don is being scorned by the Fake News Media?” Trump wrote on Twitter.
“With all of its phony unnamed sources and highly slanted and even fraudulent reporting, Fake News is DISTORTING DEMOCRACY in our country,” he said in a separate tweet.
The White House Correspondents Association rejected the president’s assertions.
“A free and independent press is actually critical to democracy,” it said.