In an email sent before a June 2016 meeting with a “Russian government attorney,” President Donald Trump’s oldest son welcomed the possibility of getting opposition research on Hillary Clinton during the campaign for President, as he was offered “some official documents and information that would incriminate Hillary and her dealings with Russia and would be very useful to your father.”
Donald Trump Jr.’s response was one of clear interest – “if it’s what you say I love it,” he replied.
The emails were released by the President’s son, just as the New York Times was getting ready to publish them on Tuesday morning.
In a statement released via Twitter, Trump Jr. said the meeting was “inane nonsense” – but the emails show he was clearly interested at the time.
The email chain from June 2016 – including the offer of damaging information about Hillary Clinton – was forwarded to both Paul Manafort, the Trump Campaign Manager, and Jared Kushner, the President’s son-in-law, before they joined Trump Jr. at the meeting.
The attorney who was to offer the information, Natalia Veselnitskaya, was described in one email as a “Russian Government attorney who is flying over from Moscow.”
After months of allegations, the emails showed the first concrete evidence of contacts between members of the Trump inner circle and Russia, including the offer of help for Mr. Trump in his campaign against Clinton.
The release of the emails showed off the shifting explanations from Trump Jr. about the meeting and the reasons behind it. When the first stories from the New York Times surfaced over the weekend, the President’s oldest son said it was a meeting called to discuss adoption policies dealing with Russian children.
These emails include no mention of that subject – and the email chain is titled, “FW: Russia – Clinton – private and confidential.”
The email exchanges with publicist Rob Goldstone emphasized what was being offered: “This is obviously very high level and sensitive information but is part of Russia and its government’s support for Mr Trump.”
Democrats in Congress immediately seized on the details of the emails.
“This sure looks like an effort to communicate, cooperate, and collude with the Russian government,” said Sen. Jeff Merkley (D-OR).
“Collusion plain and simple,” said Rep. Norma Torres (D-CA).
“It’s now in black and white,” said Rep. Sheila Jackson Lee (D-TX).
“If this isn’t treasonous, I’m not sure what is,” said Rep. Seth Moulton (D-MA).
For the most part, Republicans in Congress stuck behind the President, saying this latest email release amounted to nothing, echoing talk in recent days that it was a “nothingburger.”
But for one Republican, Rep. Lee Zeldin (R-NY) – who had belittled the Trump Jr. story on Monday from the New York Times – it was something different.