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Trump Jr: Can't recall discussing Russian meeting with father

Xinhua | Updated: 2018-05-17 07:35
US President Donald Trump's son, Donald Trump Jr., speaks during a campaign event for Republican congressional candidate Rick Saccone at the Blaine Hill Volunteer Fire dept. in Elizabeth Township, Pennsylvania, US, March 12, 2018. [Photo/Agencies]

WASHINGTON - Donald Trump Jr., the president's 39-year-old son, told a US Senate panel that he didn't recall discussing a 2016 meeting with Russians at Trump Tower in New York with his father, according to testimony released Wednesday.

The Senate Judiciary Committee made public over 1,800 pages of transcripts of interview with Trump Jr. and several others who attended the meeting on June 9, 2016, at which they expected to receive damaging information about Trump's opponent, Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton.

During a closed-door interview with the Senate panel last September, Trump Jr. said that he couldn't recall whether he spoke with his father on the day the meeting was arranged.

"Obviously he's aware of it now because he's read it, it's been in the papers, but that's the extent of my knowledge of his knowledge of it," Trump Jr. told the committee, adding that then he did not think it would be a problem to take a meeting for "information relevant to the fitness and character of a presidential candidate."

But the meeting ultimately ended up being about the adoption of Russian children by American couples, which Moscow blocked in response to Washington's sanctions passed by US lawmakers in the Magnitsky Act.

"The meeting provided no meaningful information and turned out to be not about what was represented," Trump Jr. said in his testimony.

He also said that he did not know if his father was involved in the drafting of a controversial statement about the meeting, which was released in July, 2017. Critics have called the statement "misleading."

"I never spoke to my father about it," said Trump Jr., insisting that his statements were "all very consistent with each other."

Following the release of the testimony, Trump Jr. said Wednesday that the transcripts show that he cooperated with the committee's investigation, while the records indicate that he deflected multiple questions during the interview.

In addition to the president's son, the Senate panel also interviewed four others attending the infamous meeting -- publicist Rob Goldstone, who brokered the meeting; Rinat Akhmetshin, a Russian-American lobbyist; Ike Kaveladze, a business associate of a Moscow-based developer, and an interpreter.

The committee did not interview Natalia Veselnitskaya, Jared Kushner, Trump's son-in-law, or Paul Manafort, Trump's former campaign manager, who all attended the meeting, but it released Veselnitskaya's written statement to the panel's chair and one page of notes that Manafort took during the meeting.

The meeting is a focus of investigators, including special counsel Robert Mueller's team, who are probing alleged Russian meddling in the 2016 presidential election, possible links to the Trump campaign and other allegations.

Mueller, who was appointed a year ago, has brought several unrelated charges against Manafort, including false statements and money-laundering conspiracy. Over a dozen others were also charged.

The Senate Intelligence Committee said Wednesday that it agrees with the intelligence community's assessment in 2017 that Russia intervened in the 2016 presidential election to help Trump while hurting Clinton's candidacy.

Russia has denied any interference. Trump has repeatedly denied allegations of collusion between his campaign and the Russians, describing the Russia probe as a "hoax" or a "witch hunt."

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