Donald Trump Jr. said Tuesday he would be willing to testify under oath about his election-year meeting with a Russian lawyer who offered compromising information about Hillary Clinton.
“And you have nothing to hide,” Fox News host Sean Hannity told Trump Jr. during an interview that aired Tuesday night. “That means you’ll testify under oath, all of that?”
“All of it,” Trump Jr. responded.
Lawmakers investigating Russian election meddling are expected to ask President Trump’s eldest son to testify about his June 2016 meeting with lawyer Natalia Veselnitskaya, who has close ties to the Kremlin.
Trump Jr. has previously said he was willing to cooperate with the probe, but had not said whether he would offer hist account under penalty of perjury.
A stunning chain of emails Trump Jr. exchanged with an intermediary while setting up the meeting, which he disclosed Tuesday, clearly indicated he was eager to accept damaging information about this father’s campaign from Russia, a longtime U.S. adversary.
Trump Jr. insisted he acted appropriately and that the meeting did not yield any dirt on Clinton, while also admitting to Hannity he would have handled the encounter differently.
“They had something — maybe concrete evidence to all the stories that I’d been hearing about, but they were probably underreported for years, not just during the campaign. So I think I wanted to hear it out,” he said.
But President Trump’s eldest son said the meeting “went nowhere and it was apparent that that wasn’t what the meeting was actually about.”
“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,” he said.
“In retrospect, I probably would have done things a little differently,” Trump Jr. told Hannity.
The comments Tuesday night were Trump Jr.’s first in-person explanation for meeting with Veselnitskaya, which was made public Saturday by The New York Times.
In the interview, Trump Jr. sought to protect his father, saying he never told him about the meeting.
“There was nothing to tell,” he said.
White House officials say the president only learned of the meeting in the last few days.
Democrats believe the emails amount to a smoking gun that proves Trump campaign officials colluded with the Russians in that effort.
Trump Jr., however, dismissed the notion the emails amounted to proof of collusion.
He cast the meeting as an effort to obtain useful “opposition research” for a ramshackle campaign on the cusp of securing the Republican presidential nomination. He indicated the information was about “some DNC donors may have dome something in Russia and they didn’t pay taxes.”
“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. said of the emails.
“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,” he added. “Someone sent me an email. I can’t help what someone sends me. I read it, I responded accordingly.”
Trump Jr. said he was ultimately frustrated the meeting did not yield any useful information about Clinton, especially since he “probably did” press the lawyer for more.
He said campaign chairman Paul Manafort, who attended the meeting, spent almost the entire time working on his mobile phone and Trump’s son-in-law, Jared Kushner, left the meeting “after a few minutes.”
In one of the messages, music publicist Rob Goldstone, who acted as an intermediary in setting up the meeting, said Russian government sources were offering information and documents that “would incriminate Hillary and her dealings with Russia and would be very useful to your father.”
“This is obviously very high level and sensitive information but is part of Russia and its government’s support for Mr. Trump,” wrote Goldstone.
“If it’s what you say I love it especially later in the summer,” Trump Jr. told Goldstone in an email six days before the meeting occurred.
The emails undercut a key White House talking point that there were no contacts between Trump officials and Russians about the campaign during the 2016 election.
Trump Jr. did not rule out the possibility spoke about the campaign with other Russians.
“I don’t even know,” he said when asked by Hannity. “I’ve probably met with other people from Russia but certainly not in the context of actual formalized meetings or anything.”