WASHINGTON — Donald J. Trump’s eldest son on Tuesday released e-mails showing he embraced Russia’s efforts to support his father’s presidential campaign, admitting he would “love” to get dirt from Moscow on Hillary R. Clinton.
Donald Trump, Jr. was told by an interlocutor that he could get “very high level and sensitive information” that was “part of Russia and its government’s support for Mr. Trump.”
The 39-year-old Donald Jr. — who now runs the family real estate business in his father’s stead — responded “if it’s what you say I love it” and set up a meeting with a “Russian government attorney,” according to the e-mails.
The e-mail chain, released in its entirety by Donald Jr. on his Twitter account, added fuel to the political firestorm swirling over allegations that Mr. Trump’s campaign team colluded with Moscow to influence the 2016 election.
US intelligence agencies have concluded that Russian President Vladimir Putin approved a mass effort to tilt the election in Mr. Trump’s favor, including hacking and leaking embarrassing e-mails from Democrats.
The e-mail disclosure now thrusts the president’s son to the center of multiple US investigations by Congress and by the FBI as to whether Mr. Trump’s team was in the know.
In a statement accompanying the e-mails, Donald Jr. said he believed he was going to receive “political opposition research” on Ms. Clinton, and added that the Russian lawyer, “as she has said publicly, was not a government official.”
Mr. Trump jumped to his son’s defense, saying in a statement: “My son is a high-quality person and I applaud his transparency.”
INFO TO ‘INCRIMINATE HILLARY’
Donald Jr. had initially dismissed the meeting he arranged with the Russian lawyer, Natalia Veselnitskaya, as having to do with adoptions, but then offered shifting explanations as more details emerged.
In the e-mails released Tuesday, Rob Goldstone — a publicist close to the Trumps — tells Donald Jr. that he has learned of a Russian offer of compromising material on Ms. Clinton from a pop singer he represented, Emin Agalarov.
“The Crown Prosecutor of Russia met with his 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,” Mr. Goldstone wrote in a June 3, 2016 e-mail.
“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,” he added.
Donald Jr. responded less than 20 minutes later, according to the chain of e-mails entitled “Russia-Clinton — private and confidential.”
“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.”
Ms. Veselnitskaya is referred to in the exchange as “the Russian government attorney.”
The e-mail exchange took place as Ms. Clinton had all but secured the Democratic nomination and Mr. Trump was casting one eye toward the general election campaign that would begin that summer.
In an interview with NBC News, Ms. Veselnitskaya said: “It’s possible that maybe they were looking for such information” about the Clinton campaign.
“They wanted it so badly,” she added.
Ms. Clinton’s vice presidential running mate Tim Kaine described the revelations as moving toward more serious charges of perjury and “potentially treason.”
“This should have set off alarm bells and red lights and instead, what it seemed to do is it activated their salivary glands,” Mr. Kaine said in a separate interview with MSNBC.
“They should have turned this over to law enforcement immediately.”
Democratic Senator Ron Wyden went even farther, saying the e-mails “show there is no longer a question of whether this campaign sought to collude with a hostile foreign power to subvert America’s democracy.”
“The question is how far the coordination goes,” Mr. Wyden added.
Vice-President Mike Pence’s office issued a statement saying he was unaware of the meeting, in what appeared to be a bid to distance himself from the matter.
The New York Times reported that Paul Manafort and Jared Kushner, two of Mr. Trump’s most trusted campaign officials, also attended the meeting with Ms. Veselnitskaya and Donald Jr. last year.
The Kremlin has said it “did not know who” Ms. Veselnitskaya was.
“We can’t be aware of all the meetings Russian lawyers have abroad,” said spokesman Dmitry Peskov.
A spokesman for Mr. Kushner did not respond to request for comment.
A senior White House official denied that there was anything inappropriate about the meeting with Ms. Veselnitskaya — and said Mr. Trump was under no obligation to have disclosed it earlier.
“He’s not a member of the administration,” Sebastian Gorka told CNN. — AFP