Behind closed doors on Thursday, Donald Trump Jr. met with members of the Senate Judiciary Committee to answer questions regarding a meeting he took with a Russian lawyer during the summer of 2016. Trump Jr.'s statement to the committee was tweeted out in full by Christina Wilkie of CNBC.
After details of the meeting initially leaked, Trump Jr. first released a statement (with input from his father) that described it as having been focused on adoption policy. He later published an email chain on Twitter that showed he took the meeting with the express purpose of obtaining opposition research on Hillary Clinton, though it ended up focusing mostly on adoption policy. The meeting was set up by entertainment publicist Rob Goldstone, who informed Trump Jr. that Natalia Veselnitskaya, a Russian lawyer, could provide evidence that would "incriminate" Clinton. News of the meeting has fueled accusations that President Trump's campaign colluded improperly with the Russian government.
Trump Jr.'s statement to the Judiciary Committee, which is more than 1,800 words long, provides a more detailed account of what happened.
Rather than formally or deliberately colluding with Russian government officials, Trump Jr.'s defense is that he simply took a meeting at the request of a business acquaintance who said a "Russian government lawyer" would be able to provide the campaign with what amounted to opposition research sourced from that country's government. (In his initial email to Trump Jr., Goldstone said the information was "part of Russia and its government's support for Mr. Trump.")
"To the extent they had information concerning the fitness, character or qualifications of a presidential candidate, I believed that I should at least hear them out," Trump Jr.'s statement to the committee read. "Depending on what, if any, information they had, I could then consult with counsel to make an informed decision as to whether to give it further consideration."
Trump Jr. says that no such information was provided, and therefore he quickly decided the promise of incriminating information was a pretext to get the campaign's ear on adoption policies. He did not further contact Veselnitskaya or any Russian actor for the research.
Per his statement, Trump Jr.'s contention is essentially that, in the heat of a campaign, he entertained an intriguing offer for incriminating information on his father's opponent from a distant business acquaintance, but received nothing and consequently did not engage further, stopping short of substantive collusion.
The entire story is layered and convoluted, but Trump Jr.'s new statement provides more insight into his mindset before, during, and after the meeting. He has agreed to testify before the committee publicly as well, though Chairman Chuck Grassely says he has not yet decided whether to call him for public testimony.
After his meeting with the Judiciary Committee on Thursday, which reportedly lasted five hours, Trump Jr. released a statement saying he answered "every question" members asked and hoped the interivew "fully satisfied their inquiry."
Emily Jashinsky is a commentary writer for the Washington Examiner.