PARIS — President Donald Trump offered a staunch defense of his eldest son Thursday, saying Donald Trump Jr.’s meeting with a Russian lawyer was a standard session that any political operative would have taken.
“My son is a wonderful young man. He took a meeting with a Russian lawyer, not a government lawyer, but a Russian lawyer,” he said alongside French President Emmanuel Macron in Paris. “It was a short meeting. It was a meeting that went very, very quickly, very fast.”
According to the emails released by Trump Jr., the lawyer — Natalia Veselnitskaya — was described to Trump’s son in an email as a “Russian government lawyer” with information that was part of the country’s effort to help elect his father.
“I think from a practical standpoint most people would have taken that meeting,” Trump added. “Politics isn’t the nicest business in the world, but it’s very standard.”
Trump said “nothing happened from the meeting,” and insisted that Trump Jr. had committed no wrongdoing.
“Nothing happened from the meeting. Zero happened from the meeting. And honestly I think the press made a very big deal out of something really a lot of people would do,” Trump said.
Trump also praised the “tremendous progress” in Iraq as represented by the retaking of Mosul, but warned that gains must not be lost.
“We must work with the government of Iraq to consolidate the gains and ensure the victory stays a victory, unlike last time,” he said during the joint news conference.
Trump said the US and France face “grave threats from terrorist organizations that wage war on innocent lives,” but said the countries “stand united against these enemies of humanity.”
He made note of the one-year anniversary of the Nice terror attack, saying the US stands with France in its battle against extremism.
Trump and Macron took questions from reporters in Paris amid a swirl of controversy over his oldest son’s meeting with a Russian lawyer.
The two men have been sitting for extended talks on security matters, including the civil war in Syria and counterterrorism efforts. Earlier, they toured France’s national military museum and Napoleon’s tomb at Les Invalides.
Trump arrived in Paris earlier Thursday, escaping at least temporarily the darkening crisis at the White House. Advisers have described a sense of paralysis as the administration comes to grips with the latest development in the Russia controversy.
In an interview Wednesday, Trump defended his son’s decision to meet with a Russian lawyer who he was told may have damaging information about Hillary Clinton. The President told Reuters: “I think many people would have held that meeting.”
The President last held a news conference a week ago in Warsaw following talks with the country’s right-leaning leader. During that session, he cast doubts on Russia’s culpability in last year’s election meddling, despite the views of US intelligence agencies.