President Donald Trump has released a statement praising his son, Donald Trump Jr., after he released an email chain containing promises that a contact could provide the Trump campaign with Russian intelligence about former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton during the 2016 presidential race.
On June 3, 2016, Trump Jr. was emailed by entertainment publicist Rob Goldstone, who represented a Russian pop star with ties to the Trump family. Goldstone said this his client's father, Aras Agalarov, had been tipped off that the Russian government had compromising information about Clinton, The New York Times reports.
On July 11, Trump Jr. took to social media to release a copy of the email chain after The Times informed him that a story about his conversation with Goldstone was imminent. The president's son stated that he published the emails "in order to be totally transparent."
Later that day, White House deputy press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders shared a statement from the president on the matter, Politico reports.
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Sanders relayed that Trump said: "My son is a high quality person and I applaud his transparency."
In their email chain, Goldstone told Trump Jr. that a Russian official had met with Agalarov and "offered to provide the Trump campaign with some official documents and information that would incriminate Hillary and her dealings with Russia and would be very useful to your father."
"This is obviously very high level and sensitive information but is part of Russia and its government's support for Mr. Trump," Goldstone added.
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Trump Jr. responded "If it's what you say I love it especially later in the summer."
The subject line of the email chain was: "Russia - Clinton - private and confidential."
On June 9, 2016, Goldstone brought Russian lawyer Natalia Veselnitskaya to meet with Trump Jr., former Trump campaign chairman Paul Manafort, and future White House special adviser Jared Kushner at Trump Tower, Manhattan.
Both Trump Jr. and Goldstone have stated that they ended their meeting with Veselnitskaya after it became clear that she did not have damaging information about Clinton.
The U.S. intelligence community has concluded that the Russian government mounted an influence campaign to undermine Clinton and help Trump during the 2016 presidential race by stealing and disseminating emails from the Democratic National Committee (DNC) and the Clinton campaign. Currently, the Department of Justice (DOJ) and Congress are investigating whether members of the Trump campaign colluded with Russian officials.
While the president's statement praised Trump Jr.'s disclosure of the emails, White House officials are allegedly panicking after the revelation. Sources within the Trump administration told Axios that officials were "scrambling to find ways to deflect it and to turn this back against Hillary Clinton or the media."
The Senate Minority Leader, Democratic Sen. Chuck Schumer of New York, has urged Congress to request Trump Jr. as a witness in their investigation into the Trump campaign.
"We need public testimony under oath of Donald Trump Jr., who has changed his story repeatedly," Schumer said, according to The Hill. "The emails are the end of the idea pushed by the administration and the president that there is absolutely no evidence of intent to coordinate or collude."