Donald Trump Jr. now has his talking points straight.
After days in which he gave misleading and incomplete accounts of his June 2016 meeting with a Russian lawyer to get information on Hillary Clinton — a meeting he was told was “part of Russia and its government’s support for Mr. Trump” — the president’s son laid out what is for now his full defense Tuesday night, in a friendly interview with Sean Hannity of Fox News.
And that is: “It was such a nothing.”
Trump Jr. used that phrase at least three times in discussing what he characterized as a boring and uneventful meeting with lawyer Natalia Veselnitskaya.
“It was such a nothing, there was nothing to tell [my father].”
“It was such a nothing, I literally wouldn’t have remembered the meeting [without the recent news reports].”
“It was such a nothing, there was no reason to follow up.”
Asked why Goldstone’s message that the information would come “as part of Russia and its government’s support for Mr. Trump” didn’t seem to come as a surprise to him, Trump Jr. said that his “antennas” didn’t go up because it was “pre-like Russia fever.”
“My takeaway,” he said, was “someone has information on our opponent. … I wanted to hear it out and play it out and see what happens.” (His emailed response at the time was, “If it’s what you say I love it especially later in the summer”.)
However, when he, Jared Kushner, and Paul Manafort did sit down with Russian lawyer Natalia Veselnitskaya on June 9, Trump Jr. says, it quickly became clear that she had nothing interesting to say, because she quickly changed the subject away from Clinton dirt to talk about other topics.
“Jared left after a few minutes. Paul got on the phone,” the president’s son said. “In the end, there was probably some bait and switch about what it was really supposed to be about. So there is nothing there.”
If things truly were so innocuous, it’s unclear why Trump Jr. was so stingy on disclosing details of the meeting over the past few days.
Indeed, as his interview with Hannity was airing, the New York Times’ Peter Baker and Maggie Haberman published a report with dueling accounts of the president’s son’s preferred communications strategy.
“Three people familiar with his son’s account said he pushed to offer a full explanation on Saturday when first contacted by The Times about the meeting, and said he agitated to be allowed to defend himself publicly,” they wrote.
“But three other people involved in the discussions offered a completely contrary version of events, insisting that the younger Mr. Trump adamantly resisted an expansive disclosure.”