Trump Jr. Told Senate Judiciary Committee He Couldn't Remember Discussing Russia Investigation with His Father

May 16, 2018 - 7:58 am

(CBS NEWS) -- Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Chuck Grassley, R-Iowa, has released congressional testimony transcripts and other material related to the committee's inquiry into the circumstances surrounding the June 9, 2016, meeting in Trump Tower between Trump campaign officials and a Russian lawyer. 

President Trump's son Donald Trump Jr., former Trump campaign manager Paul Manafort, Mr. Trump's son-in-law and White House adviser Jared Kushner and Russian attorney Natalia Veselnitskaya were among those attending the meeting that raised questions about the role Russian interference played in the 2016 presidential election.

Trump Jr. told told Senate investigators in September 2017 that he had agreed to a meeting with Veselnitskaya who claimed to have damaging information about Hillary Clinton because he wanted to determine her "fitness" for office.

In total, the transcripts and related documents are approximately 2,500 pages. CBS News will be posting the highlights from the material, which was released just after 9 a.m. ET.

Donald Trump, Jr. 

Trump Jr. told the Senate Judiciary Committee that he couldn't remember whether he had discussed the Russia investigation with his father, according to transcripts released Wednesday of his interview with the panel.

Trump Jr. deflected multiple questions during the interview, including whether he discussed the Russia probe with his father. He also said he didn't think there was anything wrong with attending the Trump Tower meeting in which he was promised dirt on Hillary Clinton.

Natalia Veselnitskaya

Veselnitskaya said in written testimony that her meeting with Trump Jr. was "a very simple and short conversation." 

She told the committee that during the meeting, Trump Jr. "asked if I had any financial documents proving that what may have been illegally obtained funds were also being donated to Mrs. Clinton's foundation." She said that she replied that "I did not and that it was not my issue," and with that, "[t]he meeting, essentially, ended there."

At the meeting, she said she had introduced herself as a Russian lawyer who had investigated William Browder and found that he had misled Congress. Her goal was to convince Congress to investigate Browder's activities. She didn't remember referencing "anything but the Magnitsky Act," a U.S. law banning Russian adoptions, and the Russian sentencing of Browder for tax fraud, and much of her written testimony is consumed by this topic. 

Veselnitskaya denied the existence of any communications from or related to Trump campaign officials or family members. And she also denied having any documents or knowledge related to Russian influence in the 2016 presidential election.

She said that Trump Jr. concluded the meeting "politely," with "meaningless phrases about somewhat as follows: can do nothing about it, 'if' or 'when' we come to power, we may return to this strange and confusing story.'" 

"I personally regarded this as an elegant, but final farewell," she continued. 

In retrospect, she added, "Today, I understand why it took place and why it ended so quickly with a feeling of mutual disappointment and time wasted. The answer lies in the roguish letters of Mr. Goldstone." 

According to her testimony, she believed her meeting with Trump Jr. was to be private. She told the committee that on June 8, 2016, she received an email from Rob Goldstone, the music promoter who arranged the meeting. She said the note mentioned Aras Agalarov's colleague, Irakli Kaveladze.

Veselnitskaya also said that on the day of the meeting, she invited her interpreter, Anatoly Samochernov, and a colleague who had worked on the Prevezon case, Rinat Akhmetshin, to the meeting. 

She told the committee she only realized that Jared Kushner had attended the Trump Tower meeting later, when she recognized his photo on her cell phone. She said he just listened and said nothing during the meeting and did not stay for the entire meeting. She said that then-Trump campaign chairman Paul Manafort looked at his phone and "at some point it seemed to me that he closed his eyes and fell asleep."

This is a developing story.