Donald Trump Jr. acknowledged in an exclusive interview with Fox News’ “Hannity” Tuesday night that he “probably would have done things a little differently” when he met with a Russian attorney during his father’s presidential campaign in June 2016.
However, the president’s eldest son also described the meeting as “a nothing,” telling Fox News’ Sean Hannity, “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.”
The interview, which can be seen in full on Fox News Channel at 10 p.m. ET., constituted the first public statement by Donald Trump Jr. since he posted what he called “the entire email chain” of his conversations with music publicist Rod Goldstone setting up the June 2016 meeting with Natalia Veselnitskaya on Twitter.
In one of the messages, Goldstone told Trump Jr. that Russian officials were offering “some official documents and information that would incriminate Hillary [Clinton]” as part of “Russia and its government’s support for Mr. Trump.”
Trump Jr.’s response email read, in part, “if it’s what you say I love it.”
“I had been reading about scandals that people were probably underreporting for a long time, so maybe it was something that had to do with one of those things,” Trump Jr. told Hannity when asked about his reaction to Goldstone’s email. “I didn’t know if there was any credibility, I didn’t know if there was anything behind it, I can’t vouch for the information. Someone sent me an email. I can’t help what someone sends me. I read it, I responded accordingly.”
Trump Jr. posted the messages in the wake of a series of New York Times reports that revealed more details of the meeting with Veselnitskaya, which was also attended by Paul Manafort, Trump’s then-campaign manager, and Jared Kushner, Trump’s son-in-law and senior adviser.
“For me this was opposition research,” Trump Jr. said. “They had something, you know, maybe concrete evidence to all the stories I’d been hearing about … 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 Times claimed that Trump Jr. tweeted images of the emails after “he was told NYT was about to publish the contents of the emails.”
Veselnitskaya denied having “any damaging or sensitive information about Hillary Clinton” in an interview with NBC Tuesday, adding, “It was never my intention to have that.”
Trump Jr. has repeatedly denied that the meeting produced any “meaningful information” about any alleged wrongdoing by Clinton. In his statement earlier Tuesday, he backed up Goldstone’s claim that “the entire meeting was ‘the most insane nonsense I ever heard. And I was actually agitated by it.'”
The emails between Trump Jr. and Goldstone contain no evidence that the president’s son was informed of the larger alleged Russian effort to meddle in the U.S. presidential election.
On Tuesday afternoon, President Trump issued a statement supporting his son’s decision to make the email chain public, calling Trump Jr. “a high-quality person” and adding “I applaud his transparency.”
The president’s outside legal counsel has repeatedly denied that the elder Trump knew about or attended the meeting.
In his interview Tuesday evening, Trump Jr. also denied telling his father about the Veselnitskaya meeting, saying, “There was nothing to tell.”
A spokesman for Vice President Mike Pence released a statement saying the former Indiana governor “was not aware of the meeting.” The statement also pointed out that the meeting took place before Trump had nominated Pence to be his running mate.
The emails inflamed Democratic critics of the president, including at least one member of the Senate Intelligence Committee.
“These emails show there is no longer a question of whether this campaign sought to collude with a hostile foreign power to subvert America’s democracy,” said Sen. Ron Wyden , D-Ore.
Meanwhile, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., said he was confident Senate investigators would “get to the bottom of whatever happened,” while Sen. Susan Collins, R-Me., also a member of the intelligence committee, cautioned that the emails were “only part of the picture.”