Donald Trump Jr. is in hot water following revelations that during the 2016 presidential campaign, he met with Russian attorney Natalia Veselnitskaya in hopes of obtaining incriminating information about Hillary Clinton. But at a news conference Thursday, President Trump blamed the Obama administration for his son's meeting with Veselnitskaya, noting that it was President Obama's attorney general who approved Veselnitskaya's entry into the United States in 2015.
"Somebody said that her visa or her passport to come into the country was approved by Attorney General [Loretta] Lynch," Trump said. "Now, maybe that's wrong. I just heard that a little while ago. But I was a little surprised to hear that she was here because of Lynch."
Trump was referring to a Wednesday article in the Hill, in which it was reported that Lynch approved Veselnitskaya's entry in 2015. According to the Hill , Veselnitskaya had initially been denied a visa, but Lynch gave her something called "immigration parole" so that she could work with a client testifying in an asset forfeiture case in New York City. Her parole was supposed to expire in January 2016, months before she met with Trump Jr., and it's unclear how or why she remained in the country beyond that.
Trump on Don Jr. meeting with Russian lawyer: “Most people would’ve taken that meeting. It’s called opposition research.” pic.twitter.com/4RbxZaY9sy— Bradd Jaffy (@BraddJaffy) July 13, 2017
If the Hill report is accurate, Trump is correct that Lynch, an appointee of Obama, allowed Veselnitskaya into the country when she otherwise wouldn't have been granted entry. However, the significance of the Trump Jr.- Veselnitskaya meeting has nothing to do with how Veselnitskaya was able to enter the country. The meeting is important because of what Trump Jr. knew when he agreed to have it.
On Monday, Trump Jr. released an email chain of his conversations leading up to the meeting with Veselnitskaya. He was told that the meeting was part of an effort by the Russian government to aide his father's presidential campaign, and that Veselnitskaya was offering to provide damaging information about Clinton to that effect. In response, Trump Jr. said, "I love it," though he later told the press that he never received any helpful information about Clinton from Veselnitskaya.
There's no consensus yet among experts as to which laws, if any, Trump Jr. broke in doing this, though some are of the mind that he could be in legal trouble. Trump Jr. denies any wrongdoing, but he's certainly in trouble politically: In an interview with Fox News, conservative commentator and Trump supporter Charles Krauthammer called the meeting the "first empirical evidence" of collusion between the Russian government and the Trump campaign.
"The damage done by this story is enormous and the reason is that for six months, the administration touted the line that there's no collusion, that's a democratic exaggeration, it's a delusion on their part," Krauthammer said. "I supported that line because there was no evidence for it. But now you see the evidence, loud and clear."
He added Trump Jr.'s "I love it" response amounted to "deadly words," and that "attempted collusion is still collusion."
Republican Sen. Charles Grassley has written a letter to Secretary of State Rex Tillerson and Director of Homeland Security John Kelly demanding all records regarding Veselnitskaya's legal status in the country.