White House

‘No Evidence’ Trump Was Aware of Don Jr.’s Meeting With Russian Lawyer

Donald Trump Jr. arrives at Trump Tower in New York City, January 18, 2017. (Stephanie Keith/Reuters)

Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s 22-month investigation failed to produce evidence that then-candidate Trump was aware son Donald Trump Jr. and other high-ranking campaign officials met with a Russian lawyer offering damaging information on Hillary Clinton in June 2016, according to the special counsel’s report released Thursday.

Trump Jr., campaign chairman Paul Manafort, Jared Kushner, and at least five other people met with Kremlin-linked attorney Natalia Veselnitskaya at Trump Tower in Manhattan in order to obtain damaging information on Hillary Clinton. After news of the meeting broke a year later, in July 2017, Trump dictated a statement to be released on Trump Jr.’s behalf in which he falsely claimed the meeting was held to discuss sanctions that restricted Americans’ adoption of Russian children.

“The president then dictated a statement to [then-White House Director of Strategic Communications Hope] Hicks that said the meeting was about Russian adoption (which the president had twice been told was discussed at the meeting). The statement dictated by the president did not mention the offer of derogatory information about Clinton,” the report reads.

After learning that his emails related to the meeting had been obtained by the New York Times, Trump Jr. admitted that the meeting was held to gain dirt on Clinton but said that it quickly concluded after it became clear that Veselnitskaya did not have any such information and instead wanted to voice her opposition to sanctions leveled against corrupt Russian businessmen.

Trump Jr. has also maintained that his father was unaware of the meeting at the time it took place. The special counsel’s investigation, which relied on 2,800 subpoenas, 500 witness interviews, and millions of pages of documents, failed to produce evidence that Trump Jr.’s claims regarding his father’s lack of knowledge and Veselnitskaya’s failure to produce the damaging information were false.

“[There is] no documentary evidence showing that [Donald Trump] was aware of the [June 2016 Trump Tower] meeting–or its Russian connection–before it occurred,” reads the 400-page report.

Mueller ultimately decided not to charge Trump Jr. and the other attendees with campaign-finance violations related to the meeting because prosecutors would likely be unable “to prove beyond a reasonable doubt that the June 9 meeting participants had general knowledge that their conduct was unlawful.”

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