UPDATED with video: “In retrospect I probably would have done things differently,” Donald Trump Jr. said tonight in a master stroke of understatement, during his pre-taped interview with Fox News Channel’s Sean Hannity. Watch the video below.
But, immediately after making that remark, Trump Jr. told Hannity it’s the press’s fault that his meeting with a Kremlin-attached lawyer promising dirt on Hillary Clinton has become a big story and perked up the ears of House and Senate Intel Committee members. “Again, this is before the Russia mania; this is before they were building this up in the press.”
“For me this was opposition research, they had something, you know, maybe concrete evidence to all the stories I’d been hearing about, probably under-reported for years not just during the campaign,” he said about the Russian-government surrogate lawyer’s promised Clinton intel. “So I think I wanted to hear it out,” he said. “But really it went nowhere, and it was apparent that wasn’t what the meeting was about.”
Donald Jr.’s meeting with Natalia Veselnitskaya came to light last weekend owing to reporting in The New York Times. It was set up by a publicist for a Russian pop star whose father is a real estate magnate who sponsored the 2013 Miss Universe Pageant held in Moscow and who had talked to Donald Trump Sr. about a Trump Tower in Moscow.
Trump Jr. explained on Hannity tonight that he did not stop to think of a still-Kremlin-attached lawyer as someone working on behalf of the government of an aggressor nation. “Honestly, my takeaway when all of this was going on is that someone has information on our opponent. Things are going a million miles per hour. You know what it’s like to be on a campaign. We just won Indiana, but we’re talking about a contested convention. Things are going a million miles per hour again.”
Donald Jr. told Hannity he thought maybe the emails were about her “involvement” with the Russian government. “So, you know, again, 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.”
Asked whether he told Dad about the meeting, also attended by First Son-in-Law Jared Kushner and then-campaign chair Paul Manafort, held at Trump Tower around 4 PM on June 9, 2016 – when, according to some press accounts of that afternoon, Donald Trump was in the building – Donald Jr. responds: “No. It was just a nothing. 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.”