Donald Trump Jr. to face questions about Russia contacts on Capitol Hill
(WASHINGTON) — The House Intelligence Committee will interview Donald Trump Jr. on Wednesday, the first time lawmakers on Capitol Hill will have an opportunity to question President Donald Trump’s eldest son about any Russian contacts during the presidential campaign.
Trump Jr. is of interest to investigators for his controversial June 2016 Trump Tower meeting with a Russian lawyer who was said to have dirt on Hillary Clinton.
“If it’s what you say, I love it,” Trump Jr. said in an email responding to the offer of dirt from publicist Rob Goldstone, who set up Trump Jr.’s meeting with Russian lawyer Natalia Veselnitskaya.
In September, Trump Jr. denied collusion with Russia to interfere in the election in a closed-door interview with Senate Judiciary Committee staff, according to his statement to the committee obtained by ABC News at the time.
He told the panel that Veselnitskaya spoke “very generally” about potential foreign donors to the Democratic Party before bringing up American adoption of Russian children and the Magnitsky Act, a sanctions law passed by Congress in 2012 preventing certain Russian officials from traveling to the United States. Russia retaliated to the passage of the sanctions package by prohibiting Americans from adopting Russian children.
“After perfunctory greetings, the lawyer began telling the group very generally something about individuals connected to Russia supporting or funding Democratic Presidential Candidate Hillary Clinton or the Democratic National Committee. It was quite difficult for me to understand what she was saying or why,” Trump Jr. said in his written statement. “Given our busy schedules, we politely asked if she could be more specific and provide more clarity about her objective for the meeting. At that point, Ms. Veselnitskaya pivoted and began talking about the adoption of Russian children by U.S. citizens and something called the Magnitsky Act.”
Congressional investigators have already questioned four other participants in that controversial meeting, including Jared Kushner; Ike Kavelzade, a representative of a Russian developer; Russian-American lobbyist Rinat Akkmetshin; and translator Anatoli Samochornov.
Trump Jr. is also expected to be questioned Wednesday about his relationship with WikiLeaks, after admitting last month that he communicated with representatives of the site through direct messages on Twitter from September 2016 through the first half of 2017. He confirmed the conversations after they were reported by The Atlantic.
He could also appear before the Senate Intelligence Committee later this month, and Democrats on the Senate Judiciary Committee also want him to return for a public hearing.
On Tuesday, Sen. Richard Blumenthal, D-Conn., called on Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Chuck Grassley, R-Iowa, to issue a subpoena to compel Trump Jr.’s cooperation, claiming he didn’t reveal his Twitter exchanges with WikiLeaks to the panel in September.
Alan Futerfas, a lawyer for Trump Jr., declined to comment on Trump Jr.’s Wednesday appearance on Capitol Hill.
On Friday, Michael Flynn, Trump’s former national security adviser, pleaded guilty to lying to the FBI about contacts with Russian ambassador Sergey Kislyak, and said he is cooperating with special counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation into Russian efforts to influence the election and potential coordination between Russia and the Trump campaign.
In October, former Trump campaign foreign policy adviser George Papadopoulos pleaded guilty to lying to the FBI about interactions with Russian nationals and efforts to arrange a meeting between campaign and Russian officials. He is cooperating with Mueller’s investigation as well.
Former Trump campaign manager Paul Manafort and his deputy Rick Gates were indicted in October on charges including conspiracy against the United States, money laundering and working as unregistered foreign agents. Both pleaded not guilty and await a trial next year.
On Monday, special prosecutors alleged in a court filing that Manafort was working with an individual connected to Russian intelligence on an editorial regarding his work for Ukraine.
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