First son Donald Trump Jr. dominated headlines on July 11 after he revealed emails that showed he expressed interest in meeting a Russian government-affiliated lawyer, Natalia Veselnitskaya, who purportedly had damaging information on Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton in 2016.
In the emails, Rob Goldstone, a friend of Donald Trump Jr., offered to set up a meeting between him and a "Russian government attorney" who could provide a "very high level and sensitive information" as "part of Russia and its government’s support for Mr. Trump."
One White House aide told The Daily Beast: "This is sum of all fears stuff. It’s what we’ve all been dreading."
A senior White House official and a Trump campaign aide separately referred to Trump Jr. as an "idiot."
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Mark Corallo, a spokesman for the president's outside legal team, tried to distance the president from Donald Trump Jr.'s June 9, 2016, meeting with Veselnitskaya: "The President was not aware of and did not attend the meeting."
White House deputy press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders released a brief statement from the president on Donald Trump Jr.: "My son is a high quality person and I applaud his transparency."
That "transparency" only came after The New York Times reported on July 10 about Donald Trump Jr. meeting Veselnitskaya.
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Marc Lotter, the press secretary for Vice President Mike Pence, also released a statement, which was tweeted by NBC News reporter Kasie Hunt:
The vice president is working every day to advance the president's agenda. He was not aware of the meeting. He is also not focusing on stories about the campaign -- especially those pertaining to the time before he joined the campaign.
Former Trump campaign staff members and current White House officials told The Daily Beast in a separate report that Donald Trump Jr. was seen as a consistent problem during his father's campaign. One official described him as the "opposite of political savvy."
Some in the president's inner circle have reportedly called Donald Trump Jr. "Fredo," a reference to the incompetent son in "The Godfather" movies who consistently put the mob family in trouble.
A former member of the campaign team told the news site that he "didn’t have any issues with [Trump Jr.], [but] he’s definitely got a 'you work for me' attitude."
MSNBC reporter Kristen Welker described the White House's reaction to Donald Trump Jr.'s emails on July 11:
This is a White House that is now in full damage control mode, there's no doubt about that. This complicates the narrative even further that we have heard consistently -- from the president, from the vice president, from his top officials on down -- saying that no one from his campaign met with or knew about Russia's efforts to try to intervene in the 2016 race, or to try to collude with them.