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  • Associated Press Sen. Mark Warner, D-Va., emerges Wednesday from a Senate Intelligence Committee session with former national security chiefs in their probe of Moscow’s meddling in the 2016 presidential campaign.

Thursday, May 17, 2018 1:00 am

Trump Jr. stands by meeting

Russia's motives in 2016 huddle didn't worry him

Associated Press

WASHINGTON – Questioned intently by a Senate committee, President Donald Trump's son struck a firmly unapologetic tone, deflected many queries and said he didn't think there was anything wrong with meeting a Russian lawyer at Trump Tower in hopes of election-season dirt on Hillary Clinton, according to transcripts released Wednesday.

Asked whether he was troubled by the idea that the meeting in June 2016 was part of a Russian government effort to help his father in the presidential race, Donald Trump Jr. said he didn't give it much thought.

“I don't know that it alarmed me, but ... I don't know that I was all that focused on it at the time,” Trump Jr. told the Senate Judiciary Committee in the closed-door interview last year. “I didn't think that listening to someone with information relevant to the fitness and character of a presidential candidate would be an issue.”

The committee released more than 1,800 pages of transcripts of interviews with Trump Jr. and others who attended the New York meeting at which they expected to receive compromising information about Trump's Democratic opponent.

The Trump Tower meeting is a key point of interest in special counsel Robert Mueller's investigation into possible election collusion between Trump aides and the Kremlin.

Meanwhile on Wednesday, the Senate Intelligence Committee said it stands behind a 2017 assessment by U.S. intelligence agencies that Russia intervened in the election to hurt Clinton and help Trump. That conclusion differs from a House intelligence committee report released last month.

Music publicist Rob Goldstone arranged the meeting at the request of pop singer Emin Agalarov, who had bonded with the Trumps during the 2013 Miss Universe pageant in Moscow.

According to the transcripts, Trump Jr. responded to dozens of queries – including about emails and phone calls leading up to the meeting – by saying he could not recall or had “no idea.” He said he did not alert his father to the meeting beforehand and he had never discussed with him the FBI's investigation into Russian election interference.

The committee did not interview Natalia Veselnitskaya, the Russian lawyer at the center of the meeting. But the panel released her written responses to a letter the committee sent her. The panel did not interview brother-in-law Jared Kushner or Paul Manafort, Trump's former campaign chairman, though both attended the meeting.

The transcripts show the dissatisfaction of Trump Jr. and other campaign figures, including Kushner, when the meeting failed to yield the harmful Clinton information they thought they'd get. They also reflect an aggressive Russian outreach to Trump before and after the New York meeting, including an effort to arrange a follow-up get-together that never happened.