Vice chairman Intelligence committee member Sen. Mark Warner, (D-VA.), said on Monday that he “absolutely” wants to meet with Donald Trump, Jr. about a June 2016 meeting he had during the campaign last year with a Russian attorney with ties to the Russian government.
“It shows a constant pattern of convenient forgetfulness on the part of Trump campaign associates and meetings with Russia, he added.”
The Senate panel, a Department of Justice appointed special counsel, and other congressional committees are investigating Russian attempts to influence the 2016 election to determine whether the Trump campaign and the Kremlin coordinated.
In a Monday tweet, Donald Trump Jr. wrote, “Happy to work with the committee to pass on what I know.” Events leading up to his tweet come on the heels of a New York Times exclusive about a meeting last year with a Russian lawyer who allegedly offered dirt on presidential candidate Hillary Clinton.
On Monday, intelligence committee member Sen. Susan Collins, (R-ME), called on the panel to interview Trump and “others who attended” the June 2016 meeting, according to Politico reports.
Further review of the allegations surrounding the June 2016 meeting would include then-campaign manager, Paul Manafort and President Donald Trump’s son-in-law and advisor Jared Kushner, both of whom the younger Trump, Jr. invited to the meeting.
Amid investigations surrounding possible collusion between Russia and the Trump campaign, the persisting probes have often triggered President Trump—prompting him to send off a flurry of tweets attacking the media as “fake news!” Trump continues to deny collusion with Russia.
The top House Intelligence Committee, Rep. Adam Schiff (D-CA), also expressed interest in interviewing Trump Jr. about the meeting.
The New York Times, which first reported the meeting, described the lawyer, Natalia Veselnitskaya, as “Kremlin-connected.” However, Trump, Jr., said he did not know her name when he agreed to the meeting.
“If he knew her links to the Kremlin, that would give a clearer signal that the Trump campaign was willing to accept help from the Russians,” according to Jeffrey Cramer, a former assistant U.S. attorney for the Northern District of Illinois and managing director at Berkeley Research Group.
President Trump’s legal team was adamant about saying that he did not attend the meeting and neither did he have knowledge of it. Trump Jr. also said that Kushner and Manafort knew “nothing of the substance” about the meeting.
The White House defended Trump Jr.’s actions on Monday. In an off-camera White House briefing, Sarah Huckabee Sanders contended that he did nothing. Taking a few questions about Donald Trump Jr.’s meeting with a Russian lawyer, she said it was a “very short meeting” with “no follow-up.”
“The only thing I see inappropriate about the meeting,” she added, “was the people that leaked the information on the meeting after it was voluntarily disclosed.”
Debunking Huckabee defense of Donald Trump, Jr. the New York Times reported on late Monday—the Russian government sought to aid Trump’s candidacy, which was received by Trump, Jr., in an email.
According to the New York Times report, before arranging a meeting with a Kremlin-connected Russian lawyer, Donald Trump, Jr. believed he would receive compromising information about Hillary Clinton. More damaging to the Trump camp is that Trump Jr. was informed in the email that the material was part of a Russian government effort to aid his father’s candidacy, according to three people with knowledge of the email.
Rob Goldstone, publicist and former tabloid reporter who helped broker the June 2016 meeting sent the email to Donald Trump, Jr.
In a statement on Sunday, Donald Trump, Jr. acknowledged that he was interested in receiving damaging information about Hillary Clinton, but gave no indication that he thought the lawyer might have been a Kremlin proxy.
Mr. Goldstone’s message, as relayed to The New York Times by the three unnamed sources, indicates that the Russian government was the source of the potentially damaging information. A broader effort by Moscow to help the Trump campaign was not elaborated. There is no evidence, at the time of the New York Times exclusive to suggest that the damaging information was related to Russian government computer hacking that led to the release of thousands of Democratic National Committee emails.
While Donald Trump, Jr. continues to change his story about the June 16 meeting with the Russia Lawyer, and President Trump sends out a flurry of Tweets to address media reports that he’s labeled ‘fake news’ Intelligence Committee staffers will begin conducting their first interviews with Trump campaign officials this week.
The interviews are part of the committee’s investigation into Russian interference in the 2016 presidential election and possible collusion with the Trump campaign. The committee, chaired by Richard Burr, (R-NC)., and vice-chaired by Mark Warner, (D-Va.), previously heard testimony from Attorney General Jeff Sessions and former FBI Director James Comey as a part of its inquiry.