Trump unaware of son's meeting with Russian lawyer

Trump tells Reuters he was unaware of his son's meeting with a Russian lawyer who reportedly provided damaging information on Clinton.

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Ben Ariel,

Donald Trump and Donald Trump Jr.
Donald Trump and Donald Trump Jr.

U.S. President Donald Trump stressed on Wednesday he was unaware of his son Donald Trump Jr.'s meeting last year with a Russian lawyer who reportedly provided damaging information on Hillary Clinton.

Speaking to the Reuters news agency in an interview, Trump said he only learned of the meeting a couple of days ago.

Asked if he knew that his son was meeting with the Russian lawyer Natalia Veselnitskaya in June last year, shortly after he won the Republican presidential nomination, Trump replied, “No, that I didn’t know until a couple of days ago when I heard about this.”

The New York Times reported on the weekend about the meeting between Trump’s son and Veselnitskaya, a Kremlin-linked lawyer.

Trump’s then-campaign chairman Paul Manafort and President Trump’s son-in-law Jared Kushner also reportedly attended the meeting.

Trump Jr. on Tuesday released the entire email chain of the conversations which led to the meeting. The emails apparently showed he eagerly agreed to meet the woman.

In the interview with Reuters, Trump said he did not fault his son for holding the meeting, saying, "I think many people would have held that meeting."

The emails were the most concrete evidence that Trump campaign officials welcomed Russian help to win the 2016 election, a subject that has cast a cloud over Trump's presidency and prompted investigations by the U.S. Justice Department and Congress.

In Wednesday's interview, Trump told Reuters he directly asked Russian President Vladimir Putin if he was involved in what U.S. intelligence says was Russian meddling in the presidential campaign and that Putin had insisted he was not.

Trump said he spent the first 20 or 25 minutes of his more than two-hour meeting with Putin last Friday in Germany on the election meddling subject.

"I said, did you do it? And he said no, I did not. Absolutely not. I then asked him a second time in a totally different way. He said absolutely not," Trump told the news agency.

Trump initially rejected the CIA’s assessment that Russia carried out cyberattacks during the election campaign in order to sabotage Hillary Clinton's candidacy.

He later accepted the intelligence assessment but has rejected any direct involvement in the Russian hacking.

It remains unclear whether Veselnitskaya actually produced the promised compromising information about Clinton, but Trump Jr. told Fox News in an interview on Tuesday that the meeting with the lawyer was "a nothing".

"I wouldn’t have even remembered it until you started scouring through this stuff. It was literally just a wasted 20 minutes, which was a shame," he added.