Donald Trump, Jr. was keen on receiving dirt on Hillary Clinton during a now infamous June 2016 Trump Tower meeting with Russian operatives and believed his father might have had a hand in the messaging on the meeting's purpose issued in the aftermath, congressional testimony released by the Senate Judiciary Committee showed.
The 2,500 pages of testimony revealed that British publicist Ron Goldstone, who helped arrange the rendezvous, believed Russian attorney Natalia Veselnitskaya, who wanted the meet-up in order to share damaging information on Clinton, was “well connected.”
Goldstone's email to Trump Jr. promising him access to the information, which he said was “part of Russia and its government's support for Mr. Trump,” set off a firestorm of speculation that members of the Trump campaign had worked with Russia during the election.
The June 2016 meeting occurred just a couple of months after former Trump campaign aide George Papadopoulos told an Australian diplomat in London that Russia had damaging information on Clinton.
After WikiLeaks began leaking emails pilfered from the Democratic National Committee (DNC) and others affiliated with Clinton, Australia Intelligence reported Papadopoulos's revelations to U.S. intelligence, prompting the FBI to open a probe into Russian meddling. Papadopoulos has since pleaded guilty to lying about his efforts to facilitate communications between the Trump campaign and the Kremlin.
The Trump Tower meeting between Veselnitskaya and the younger Trump, as well as Jared Kushner, the president's son-in-law, and former Trump Campaign Manager Paul J. Manafort, has been a target of scrutiny by investigators probing Russian interference and potential collusion.
Despite Veselnitskaya's claims that she acted independently when meeting with the president's inner circle to peddle dirt on Clinton, she reportedly discussed the potentially damaging information with Russia's prosecutor general Yuri Y. Chaika.
Testimony showed that when asked if the president edited or provided input to an issued statement characterizing the meeting as a discussion of Russian adoption, Trump, Jr. said, “He may have commented through [former White House Communications Director] Hope Hicks.” He also said that some of the president's comments might have been incorporated into the final statement, qualifying that it “was an effort through lots of people, mostly counsel.”
The younger Trump told lawmakers he couldn't remember the owner of a blocked number that he called shortly after arranging the Trump Tower meeting. The call lasted 11 minutes. Donald Trump reportedly had a blocked number at his primary residence. "This Trump Tower revelation is either coincidence number 1,739 in the Russia investigation, or something very, very bad happened in 2016," Rep. Ted Lieu, D-Calif., tweeted Wednesday.