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Trump: 'Most people would have taken' meeting with Russian lawyer

  • President Donald Trump says he sees nothing wrong with his son's decision to meet with a Russian lawyer last year.
  • Donald Trump Jr. accepted the meeting after he was offered "high level and sensitive information" that would "incriminate" Hillary Clinton as part of "Russia and its government's support" for his father's campaign.
  • President Trump has denied that he knew about the meeting at the time.

President Donald Trump on Thursday defended his son's decision to meet with a Russian lawyer who offered dirt on then-candidate Hillary Clinton last year.

"I think from a practical standpoint most people would have taken that meeting," Trump said at a joint news conference in Paris with French President Emmanuel Macron. "It's called opposition research."

The revelations that the younger Trump went to the meeting seeking damaging information on Clinton have put fresh scrutiny on the investigation into Russian attempts to influence the 2016 election and whether the Trump campaign coordinated with the Kremlin. The president's son-in-law and current White House advisor Jared Kushner and then-campaign manager Paul Manafort also attended the meeting and were forwarded an email chain setting it up, according to the messages released by Trump Jr.

Taking so-called opposition research from people outside a political campaign is common. However, doing so under the pretext that the information comes from a foreign national is not a common practice.

Emails released this week by the younger Trump showed he accepted the meeting after he was offered "high level and sensitive information" that would "incriminate" Clinton as part of "Russia and its government's support" for his father's campaign. The lawyer he met, Natalia Veselnitskaya, was characterized as a "Russian government attorney," though she has denied connections to the Kremlin.

"If it's what you say I love it," Trump Jr. said in response to the offer, according to the email exchange with an intermediary.

The president repeatedly defended his son's conduct Thursday, saying he got calls from "many people" floating information during the campaign. The elder Trump did not specify who offered that information.

"Politics is not the nicest business in the world, but it's very standard where they have the information and you take the information," Trump said.

Trump was asked about a comment from Wednesday, when his nominee to lead the FBI, Christopher Wray, said campaigns that receive an offer of information from a foreign government should notify the FBI. The president did not respond to Wray's comment specifically, but said Wray will make Americans "very proud."

Both the elder and younger Trump have denied that the president knew about the meeting and said he only heard about it recently. Trump Jr. said he determined the meeting was a waste of time when the lawyer turned the topic to a U.S. policy aiming to punish Russian human rights abusers.

They have also defended Kushner and Manafort's conduct. Trump Jr. said the Kushner left the meeting shortly after it started while Manafort appeared disinterested.

Fresh criticism has fallen on Kushner, in particular, because by law he was supposed to list all meetings with foreign officials when he applied for security clearance and had to update his contacts.

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