President Donald Trump may indeed have previously heard about the meeting between Russian lawyer Natalia Veselnitskaya and Donald Trump Jr.
In a series of emails released by Trump Jr. after they were obtained by The New York Times, it was revealed that he was offered "some official documents and information that would incriminate [Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton]" and "would be very useful to your father."
The emails were between Trump Jr. and Rob Goldstone, a publicist friend of the Trump family.
Furthermore, Trump Jr. was explicitly told the documents were "part of Russia and its government’s support for Mr. Trump," referring to his father's presidential campaign. To which Trump Jr. replied: "If it’s what you say I love it especially later in the summer."
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Four days later, after several more email exchanges, Goldstone wrote back, proposing a meeting in New York with a "Russian government attorney."
Trump Jr. agreed, adding that he would most likely bring along "Paul Manafort (campaign boss)" and his "brother-in-law," Jared Kushner, now one of the president’s closest White House advisers.
On June 9, the Russian attorney mentioned in the emails, Veselnitskaya, met with Trump Jr. as planned at Trump Tower.
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When asked on June 13 about the revelations contained in the emails, the president said: "No. That I didn’t know. Until a couple of days ago, when I heard about this. No I didn’t know about that," Reuters quoted him at the time.
He contradicted that statement later in the day, however, reports Talking Points Memo, telling reporters on Air Force One: "In fact maybe it was mentioned at some point," referring to the meeting, though he said that he did not know what it was about.
During a July 14 joint press conference in France with French President Emmanuel Macron, the president referred to his son's meeting with Veselnitskaya "very standard," adding that "politics is not the nicest business in the world."
That comment recalls his pre-Super Bowl interview in February with Bill O'Reilly, in which the former Fox News host called Putin "a killer," and asked Trump Sr. why he respected the Russian leader, as quoted by The Washington Post. To which Trump Sr. frankly responded: "There are a lot of killers. We have a lot of killers. Well, you think our country is so innocent?"
As for his son's meeting with Veselnitskaya, the president elaborated on why the thought there was nothing unusual about it:
I think from a practical standpoint most people would have taken that meeting. It’s called opposition research, or even research into your opponent. I think the press made a very big deal over something that really a lot of people would do. He took a meeting with a Russian lawyer, not a government lawyer, but a Russian lawyer. It was a short meeting, it was a meeting that went very, very quickly, very fast, two other people in the room, I guess one of them left almost immediately and the other one was not really focused on the meeting.
Tracy Self, a communications consultant for the Democratic Party, disputed that notion in The Washington Post. "The prospect of responding the way Trump Jr. did is out of the realm of possibility, improbable, absurd," she wrote. "Meeting with a Kremlin-linked attorney for the purposes of receiving incriminating information about an opponent? Um, yes, that seems shady. It would never have happened in any campaign I’ve worked on, or any of the best ones I’ve worked against."
Self contends that Trump Jr. should have called the FBI.