President Donald Trump on Wednesday had a new line of defense over his eldest son’s decision to meet a Kremlin-connected lawyer during the 2016 campaign: Lots of people, according to Trump, would do the same.
“I think many people would have held that meeting,” Trump said in an interview with Reuters.
In June 2016, Trump Jr. — along with Trump son-in-law Jared Kushner and then-campaign manager Paul Manafort — meet a Russian lawyer to attain supposedly damaging information about Hillary Clinton as part of a Russian government effort to aid Trump’s campaign.
Trump said he “didn’t know” about his son’s meeting with Russian lawyer Natalia Veselnitskaya “until a couple of days ago.”
White House spokeswoman Sarah Huckabee Sanders on Tuesday relayed a terse statement by Trump after his son published emails laying out the circumstances of the Trump Jr. meeting: “My son is a high-quality person and I applaud his transparency.”
President Trump offered his most full-throated defense of Trump Jr. on Wednesday when he declared that his son was “open, transparent and innocent” during an interview the previous night with Fox News’ Sean Hannity.
My son Donald did a good job last night. He was open, transparent and innocent. This is the greatest Witch Hunt in political history. Sad!
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) July 12, 2017
Speaking to Reuters, Trump also claimed he spent the first 20 or 25 minutes of his meeting at the G20 summit with Russian President Vladimir Putin last Friday pressing the Russian leader on whether his state interfered in the 2016 election, as U.S. intelligence agencies have concluded it did.
“I said, did you do it? And he said no, I did not. Absolutely not,” Trump said. “I then asked him a second time in a totally different way. He said absolutely not.”