President Trump says Don Jr. is ‘innocent’

Dylan Stableford
Senior Editor
Donald Trump Jr. (Yahoo News photo illustration; photos: Mark J. Terrill/AP, Donald J. Trump via Twitter)

President Trump says his son Donald Trump Jr. did “a good job” defending himself on Fox News on Tuesday amid the growing firestorm over emails showing he had sought incriminating information on Hillary Clinton from the Russian government.

“My son Donald did a good job last night,” Trump tweeted early Wednesday. “He was open, transparent and innocent. This is the greatest Witch Hunt in political history. Sad!”

Trump then complained that there is a double standard when it comes to his family and Clinton.

The president also retweeted a Fox News tweet quoting host Jesse Watters, who argued that Trump Jr. is being unfairly targeted.

“I believe Don Jr. is the victim here,” Watters said.

In an interview with Fox’s Sean Hannity, Trump Jr. said that in retrospect, he would have “probably done things a little differently” with regard to a June 2016 meeting with Natalia Veselnitskaya, a lawyer with alleged ties to the Kremlin and its spy agency. Trump Jr., Trump campaign chairman Paul Manafort, and top adviser and Trump son-in-law Jared Kushner also attended the meeting at Trump Tower.

The meeting was initiated by Bob Goldstone, a music publicist who had previously helped broker a business deal between Donald Trump and a Russian oligarch close to Vladimir Putin. Goldstone approached Trump Jr. last June offering to put him in touch with someone who could provide dirt on the Clinton campaign.

“Again this is before the Russia mania, this is before they were building this up in the press,” Trump Jr. told Hannity. “For me this was opposition research, they had something, you know, maybe concrete evidence to all the stories I’d been hearing about, probably underreported for years, not just during the campaign, so I think I wanted to hear it out. But really it went nowhere, and it was apparent that wasn’t what the meeting was about.”

The younger Trump said that the email did not raise concerns despite its mention of “Russia and its government’s support for Mr. Trump.” Trump Jr. also did not dispute Veselnitskaya’s account of the meeting, in which she described Trump campaign officials as wanting the information against Clinton “so badly.”

“I imagine I did,” said Trump Jr. when asked if he pressed for information.

Trump Jr. also said that he did not tell his father about the meeting because it did not rise to that level of importance.

“It was just a nothing,” Trump Jr. said. “There was nothing to tell. I mean, I wouldn’t have even remembered it until you started scouring through this stuff. It was literally just a wasted 20 minutes, which was a shame.”

Related: Trump Jr.’s meeting with Russian lawyer: A timeline

On ABC’s “Good Morning America,” Jay Sekulow, an attorney for President Trump, said his client “wasn’t aware of the meeting, did not participate in the meeting [and] did not attend the meeting.”

When pressed by anchor George Stephanopoulos about whether the elder Trump thought the meeting was appropriate, Sekulow said, “I haven’t had the conversation with the president whether he thought it was appropriate or not. Here’s what I will tell you: The meeting that took place is not illegal; these kind of meetings take place.”

In an interview with CNN’s “New Day” Monday, Sekulow said his client is certainly in the clear.

“Let’s focus on what the president was aware of: nothing,” Sekulow said.

In a separate interview on CNN, Rep. Steve King, R-Iowa, said that if he’d been offered a meeting like the one Don Jr. took, he would’ve given it to his own son to “delegate.”

Back at the White House, the fallout from Trump Jr.’s preelection meeting is reverberating throughout the West Wing.

Rancor at White House as Russia Story Refuses to Let the Page Turn,” read a headline in the New York Times.

‘Category 5 hurricane’: White House under siege by Trump Jr.’s Russia revelations,” said a banner in the Washington Post.

White House aides feeling ‘helpless’ as Trump Jr. scandal explodes,” a Politico headline read.

According to the Associated Press, “the snowballing revelations about Donald Trump Jr.’s meeting with a Russian lawyer during last year’s presidential campaign have broadsided the White House, distracting from its agenda as aides grapple with a crisis involving the president’s family.”

“In private, Trump has raged against the latest Russia development, with most of his ire directed at the media, not his son, according to people who have spoken to him in recent days,” the AP said.

On Twitter, Trump tried to shift attention away from Trump Jr., tweeting a claim about U.S. progress in the fight against ISIS and sharing a Washington Times article that claims “Democrats spread false Russian information on Trump” and his campaign aides.

The president, though, did not share a New York Post editorial that offered a scathing assessment of his son.

“We see one truly solid takeaway from the story of the day,” the paper concluded. “Donald Trump Jr. is an idiot.”

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