The Donald Trump Jr. Transcript About The Russia Meeting Has Been Released & He's Glad
On Wednesday morning, the Senate Judiciary Committee released new inside accounts and transcripts from the June 2016 meeting between between top Trump aides and Russian emissaries. At the meeting, which took place in Donald Trump Jr.'s offices, Russian officials infamously promised political "dirt" on Hillary Clinton prior to the 2016 election. Upon the release of Donald Trump Jr.'s Russia transcript, which contains his full testimony before the Senate Judiciary committee, Trump Jr. said he "appreciated the opportunity" to have the public review his account of what happened that day.
According to the Associated Press, Trump Jr. told the committee during his testimony that he couldn't remember whether or not he had discussed the Russia probe with his father. CNN reported that the release of Trump Jr.'s transcript — alongside more than 2,000 pages of other Senate interviews — provides the most comprehensive look thus far of the controversial meeting, which lasted roughly 20 minutes. You can read the full Trump Jr. transcript on the Senate Judiciary Committee's website.
The president's son-in-law, Jared Kushner, was also present at the meeting, as was then-Trump campaign chairman Paul Manafort. According to Bloomberg, the meeting was arranged by music publicist Rob Goldstone between Trump Jr. and a Russian lawyer, Natalia Veselnitskaya, on the premise that Trump Jr. would walk away with some damaging information about the Clinton campaign. However, Trump Jr. has since said that nothing came of that meeting — a claim on which the Senate Judiciary Committee questioned him in detail during his testimony.
The transcript of Trump Jr.'s testimony also indicates that the committee asked him if he was aware of possible ties between Trump campaign figures and Russia. They specifically asked Trump Jr. about Manafort, Carter Page, Sergei Millian, Boris Epshteyn, Konstantin Kilimnik, George Papadopoulos, and others who have come under scrutiny during Special Counsel Robert Mueller's Russia probe. Trump Jr. admitted to knowing a few of these men — namely Manafort and Papadopoulos — but denied having ever met the others.
In addition to releasing the Trump Jr. testimony, the Senate Judiciary Committee also released transcripts of its interviews with four other people who attended the meeting: Goldstone, Russian-American lobbyist Rinat Akhmetshin, translator Anatoli Samochornov, and Georgian-American businessman Ike Kaveladze. Kushner and Manafort reportedly declined to be interviewed, but Kushner provided a prepared statement to the committee, and Manafort gave the committee his very brief notes from the meeting. Veselnitskaya, meanwhile, provided the committee with written answers to its questions.
In a statement released by his spokesman on Wednesday, Trump Jr. said that he was glad his testimony had been released to the public.
“I appreciate the opportunity to have assisted the Judiciary Committee in its inquiry," Trump Jr. said in the statement. "The public can now see that for over five hours I answered every question asked and was candid and forthright with the committee."
During his testimony, Trump Jr. insisted that he "did not collude with any foreign government and do not know of anyone who did." However, according to Bloomberg, both Democrats and Republicans on the Judiciary Committee nonetheless characterized Trump Jr.'s decision to meet with a Russian lawyer as poor judgment.
Moreover, Akhmetshin alleged to the committee in his own testimony that Trump Jr. was "definitely in charge" of the meeting, and made an intentional effort to seek out information about Clinton. If true, this would contradict Trump Jr.'s claim that the meeting primarily focused on a Russian adoption program. But Trump Jr.'s testimony, now that it has been released to the public, has sparked further questions on what role — if any — the president had in that meeting, as well as in the drafting of any statements after the fact.