WASHINGTON — The vice chairman of the Senate Intelligence Committee said Monday that Donald Trump Jr.’s acknowledgment of a meeting with a Russian lawyer last June is the first clear public evidence that senior Trump campaign officials met with Russians to try to discredit Hillary Clinton.
“This is the first time that the public has seen clear evidence of senior level members of the Trump campaign meeting Russians to try to obtain information that might hurt the campaign of Hillary Clinton,” Sen. Mark Warner told reporters.
Trump Jr. acknowledged Sunday that he met with a Russian lawyer who he had been told “might have information helpful to the campaign.” The President’s oldest son issued his statement in response to The New York Times’s reporting that he “was promised damaging information about Hillary Clinton” before agreeing to meet with Russian lawyer Natalia Veselnitskaya.
Trump’s son-in-law Jared Kushner and then-campaign chairman Paul Manafort also attended the meeting with Veselnitskaya, according to Trump Jr., but he said he told them “nothing of the substance” prior to the meeting. Trump Jr. said it quickly became clear during the meeting that Veselnitskaya had no information he deemed meaningful and that Veselnitskaya primarily wanted to secure the meeting to talk about a law pertaining to adoptions.
But Warner said Monday that Trump Jr.’s acknowledgment of the meeting reveals a “continuing pattern” of Trump campaign and administration officials having “conveniently forgotten” meetings they had with Russians.
“It’s also a continuing pattern that we’ve seen since the election of Trump campaign and Trump administration officials who have conveniently forgotten meetings with Russians, only when they are then presented with evidence they have to recant and acknowledge those kind of meetings,” the Virginia Democrat said.
Trump Jr. said in a tweet Monday afternoon that he is willing to “work with” the Senate Intelligence Committee “to pass on what I know.”
“I’m not going to get into the witness list and the individuals that we have talked to or plan on talking to, but rest assured Donald Trump Jr. will be someone that we want to talk to,” Warner said.
Sen. Ron Wyden, a Democratic member of the same committee, echoed Warner on CNN’s “Erin Burnett OutFront” later Monday.
“We’ve got to talk to all the parties,” Wyden said, while declining to speak about committee deliberations.
Wyden said he viewed Trump Jr.’s statement on Sunday as an “admission” of attempting to collude with a Russian person to bolster the Trump campaign.
“We don’t know what was said, but when I look at somebody’s own words, that was an admission,” Wyden said. “He was getting together with somebody who was going to give him information of value, a Russian giving him information of value that would help Donald Trump get elected.”