Donald Trump Jr. on Tuesday released a chain of emails offering "high level and sensitive information" that would incriminate Hillary Clinton 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 in June 2016.
The email exchange was with Rob Goldstone, a music publicist who worked with a Russian musician who has ties to President Donald Trump. It took place before the younger Trump met with a Russian lawyer who reports said was linked to the Kremlin.
Trump Jr. said he released the emails "in order to be totally transparent" about the June 9, 2016, meeting at Trump Tower with attorney Natalia Veselnitskaya. The New York Times, which first reported on the meeting, was set to report on details of the emails when Trump Jr. chose to release them.
"To put this in context, this occurred before the current Russian fever was in vogue," the younger Trump said. "As Rob Goldstone said just today in the press, the entire meeting was 'the most inane nonsense I ever heard. And I was actually agitated by it.'"
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 President Trump since he took office, and he has denied collusion with Russia.
In an exclusive interview with NBC News that aired Tuesday, Veselnitskaya denied she had Kremlin connections. However, in an email, Goldstone described his contact as a "Russian government attorney."
The email exchange starts on June 3, 2016, six days before the meeting. Jared Kushner, Trump Jr.'s brother-in-law and advisor to then-candidate Trump, as well as then-campaign manager Paul Manafort, attended the meeting.
The email chain Trump shared appears to have been forwarded to Kushner and Manafort. Trump Jr. previously said the pair was not aware of the substance of the meeting before it took place.
The president's legal team has said Trump did not attend the meeting and had no knowledge of it. White House spokeswoman Sarah Huckabee Sanders on Tuesday released a statement from the president regarding Trump Jr. and the emails: " My son is a high quality person and I applaud his transparency."
Goldstone first emailed Trump Jr. on the morning of June 3, saying that the musician, Emin Agalarov, "called and asked me to contact you with something very interesting." Goldstone went on to offer to send the information directly to the elder Trump, though it is unclear if he did so:
The Crown prosecutor of Russia met with his [Agalarov] father Aras this morning and in their meeting offered to provide the Trump campaign with some official documents and information 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 - helped along by Aras and Emin. What do you think is the best way to handle this information and would you be able to speak to Emin about it directly? I can also send this info to your father via Rhona, but it is ultrasensitive so wanted to send to you first.
Trump Jr. responded on June 3:
Thanks Rob I appreciate that. I am on the road at the moment but perhaps I just speak to Emin first. Seems we have some time and if it's what you say I love it especially later in the summer. Could we do a call first thing next week when I am back?
In a June 6 exchange, Goldstone and Trump discussed setting up a call between Emin Agalarov and Trump.
On June 7, Goldstone wrote that Emin "asked that I schedule a meeting with you and The Russian government attorney who is flying over from Moscow for this Thursday." Trump then discussed setting up the meeting "at our offices," Trump Tower in New York.
Perfect...I won't sit in on the meeting, but will bring them at 3pm and introduce you etc. I will send the names of the two people meeting with you for security when I have them later today.
Great. It will likely be Paul Manafort (campaign boss) my brother in law and me. 725 Fifth Ave 25th floor.
On June 8, Goldstone asked to move the meeting time "as the Russian attorney is in court."
Trump Jr. and the White House have repeatedly defended his conduct with the meeting. Earlier Tuesday, he tweeted, "If this nonsense meeting is all they have after a yr, I understand the desperation!"
Critics, however, have called the meeting improper, with some going as far as to call it potentially treasonous.
Trump Jr. has offered to speak to the Senate Intelligence Committee about the meeting.
The New York Times first reported on the meeting on Saturday. At the time, Trump Jr. said it was primarily about an adoption program.
He then acknowledged on Sunday that he was told the lawyer might have information "helpful" to his father's presidential campaign. He denied knowing her name going into the meeting.
He added that she offered information about Clinton, but the attorney's statements were "vague" and "made no sense." He said he determined that she had "no meaningful information," and he discovered that her "true agenda" was to discuss the Magnitsky Act, an American law meant to punish Russian human rights violators that Russian President Vladimir Putin has opposed.