Trump Jr. at center of Russian collusion controversy

Washington Post
Tuesday, July 11, 2017

Donald Trump Jr., the eldest of the president’s five children, played a familiar role on his father’s behalf last July, vociferously dismissing as “disgusting” and “phony” any suggestion that the Russians were attempting to aid his father’s campaign.

The month before that CNN interview, however, Trump Jr. himself had convened a meeting in Trump Tower with a Russian lawyer who promised to provide damaging information about Democrat Hillary Clinton.

Trump Jr.’s new acknowledgment that the meeting occurred – and his shifting explanations of what it entailed – have thrust the president’s 39-year-old son into the spotlight of the biggest controversy surrounding his father’s presidency: investigations of possible collusion during last year’s election between the Trump campaign and Russia.

The centrality of his role was underscored Monday afternoon with word that Trump Jr. had retained his own criminal defense lawyer, New York-based Alan Futerfas, whose past clients have included embattled politicians, computer hackers and alleged organized-crime associates.

Unlike his sister Ivanka Trump and her husband, Jared Kushner – both of whom took top White House jobs – Trump Jr. chose to stay behind in Manhattan after the election, taking control with his brother, Eric Trump, of the president’s business interests. He has been a relatively infrequent visitor to Washington, appearing only at selected events, including the nomination of Judge Neil Gorsuch to the Supreme Court and the White House Easter Egg Roll.

But that has hardly diminished Trump Jr.’s fierce loyalty and outspoken advocacy for his father’s political interests.

“He can say basically what everyone’s thinking but may feel constrained about saying because of their official positions,” said one adviser to President Trump who requested anonymity to speak more freely.

Trump Jr. took to Twitter several times Monday in his own defense.

He started the day on a sarcastic note, responding to the news, first reported by the New York Times, that he had arranged a meeting with a Russian lawyer with ties to the Kremlin claiming to have dirt on Clinton.

“Obviously I’m the first person on a campaign to ever take a meeting to hear info about an opponent,” Trump Jr. wrote, adding, “Went nowhere but had to listen.”

Later, he sought to refute the notion that his explanation for the meeting had changed.

Trump Jr. initially claimed Saturday that the meeting was about an adoption program that had been cut off by the Kremlin. But in a statement Sunday, Trump Jr. said an acquaintance asked him to meet with lawyer Natalia Veselnitskaya because she claimed to have information about Clinton.