Donald Trump Jr. denies telling his dad about meeting with Russian lawyer: 'There was nothing to tell'

Key Points
  • Donald Trump Jr. denies telling his father about a meeting with a Russian lawyer that was cast as an offer of dirt on Hillary Clinton and part of the Russian government's "support" for then-candidate Trump
  • Trump Jr. calls the meeting "a wasted 20 minutes"
  • He says he "probably would have done things a little differently"
Donald Trump Jr. (L) gives a thumbs up beside his father Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump (R) after Trump's debate against Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton at Hofstra University in Hempstead, New York, September 26, 2016.
Mike Segar | Reuters

Donald Trump Jr. said Tuesday that he did not tell his father about a meeting with a Russian lawyer that now appears to be a major part of questions about whether the Trump campaign coordinated with Russian efforts to influence the 2016 election.

In an interview on Fox News' "Hannity," Trump Jr. denied telling his father about the June 2016 meeting with attorney Natalia Veselnitskaya.

"No. It was just a nothing. There was nothing to tell," Trump said. "I mean, 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."

Trump Jr. on Tuesday released a chain of June 2016 emails offering "high level and sensitive information" that would "incriminate" his father's opponent Hillary Clinton. It was characterized as part of "Russia and its government's support" for his father's presidential campaign.

"If it's what you say I love it," Trump said in part of his response to the possible information.

The email exchange was with Rob Goldstone, a music publicist who worked with a Russian musician who has ties to President Donald Trump. The younger Trump said he released the emails "in order to be totally transparent," though The New York Times said it was about to report on details of the emails before Trump shared them.

The meeting matters because a special counsel and congressional committees are investigating Russian attempts to influence the 2016 election and whether the Trump campaign colluded with the Kremlin. The probe has dogged and frustrated the president since he took office, and he has denied colluding with Russia.

On Tuesday, Trump Jr. said that, "in retrospect, I probably would have done things a little differently." He added that he wanted to "hear" the offer but it "went nowhere and it was apparent that wasn't what the meeting was actually about."

"Honestly, my take away when all of this was going on, is that someone has information on our opponent," he said on "Hannity." "Things are going a million miles per hour. You know what it's like to be on a campaign. We just won Indiana, but we're talking about a contested convention. Things are going a million miles per hour again and hey, wait a minute, I've heard about all these things, but maybe this is something, I should hear him out."

Trump Jr. previously said that Veselnitskaya really wanted to discuss the Magnitsky Act, an American law meant to punish Russian human rights violators that Russian President Vladimir Putin has opposed. He added Tuesday that he "shut it down" when he realized she would not offer useful information on Clinton.

President Trump's legal team has denied that he knew about the meeting or attended it.

Trump's son-in-law Jared Kushner and then-campaign manager Paul Manafort also attended the meeting. The younger Trump has said they did not know anything about the "substance" of the meeting, but both were forwarded the email chain that Trump shared on Tuesday.

Trump Jr. said Tuesday that Kushner left the meeting "after a few minutes" and that Manafort was on his phone "pretty much" the entire time.

"In the end, there was probably some bait and switch" about the topic of the meeting, Trump said.

Trump added that there was no follow-up on the offer and added that he has said "everything" about the incident. He said that he has "probably" met with other people from Russia but not in a "formalized" setting.

Trump said he is "more than happy" to cooperate with investigators and aims to be transparent. His story has gradually evolved since the meeting was first reported, and he has acknowledged different parts of the story after they were revealed publicly.