Donald Trump Jr. meets with House Intelligence panel in Russia probe

Billy House, Bloomberg News on

Published in Political News

The Trump campaign has dismissed the meeting as part of a bait-and-switch Russian lobbying effort to amend a 2012 law known as the Magnitsky Act that placed sanctions on Russians for human rights abuses.

Later this December, a British publicist, Rob Goldstone, who helped set up the meeting, will be interviewed by the House committee. He is likely to be asked about an email to Trump Jr. in which he offered "to provide the Trump campaign with some official documents and information that would incriminate Hillary and her dealings with Russia and would be very useful to your father."

Schiff said it was unclear whether the committee Republicans would agree to recall Trump Jr. again to answer their remaining questions.

"If they are serious about getting to the bottom of this and following the facts wherever they lead, they can't say in the face of a meritless claim of privilege that were going to effectively allow the witnesses to refuse to answer to answer any question they'd rather not answer," said Schiff.

Senate Intelligence Chairman Richard Burr of North Carolina said Tuesday he expects to have Trump Jr. talk with his committee's investigators but a date hasn't been set. Separately, Senate Democrat Richard Blumenthal on Tuesday wrote a letter to the chamber's Judiciary Chairman, Republican Chuck Grassley of Iowa, asking that Trump Jr. be subpoenaed to appear again before that panel.

"Recent revelations have shown beyond question that the American people can only feel certain that Mr. Trump Jr. has been fully forthcoming if he is subject to a subpoena," wrote Blumenthal of Connecticut.

Sen. Dianne Feinstein, the top Democrat on the Judiciary Committee, wrote a letter Tuesday requesting that White House deputy chief of staff Rick Dearborn produce documents and agree to an interview. One of the topics, she said, is reports of a private meeting Trump Jr. had in Kentucky with Alexander Torshin, a Russian official close to Putin.

Feinstein of California said in her letter that it has been reported that Dearborn shared with other Trump campaign officials a request from Torshin to arrange a meeting between Donald Trump and Putin. She added, "Mr. Torshin ultimately met Donald Trump Jr. at a private dinner the night before Donald Trump spoke" at a convention of the National Rifle Association.

During Wednesday's appearance by Trump Jr., House Democrats had also planned to focus on Trump Jr.'s private message exchanges with WikiLeaks during the campaign, at a time the web site was publishing hacked Democratic emails. And Feinstein has been seeking details of a reported meeting in Kentucky in 2016 between Trump Jr. and a Russian official close to President Vladimir Putin.

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"Certainly the emails, and texts and direct messages with Wikileaks will be a hot topic this morning," House Intelligence Committee member Jackie Speier, a California Democrat, said on CNN. "As will the company, the Trump Organization, and the inordinate number of Russians who have either purchased interests or condominiums, and the extent to which those individuals have criminal backgrounds."

Trump Jr.'s private message exchanges with WikiLeaks occurred in the weeks before the election. Schiff has described the exchanges as a known interaction with a Kremlin "cut-out," or proxy. Blumenthal said in his letter to Grassley that the exchange was "among the most stunning disclosures" involving Trump Jr.

Trump Jr. acknowledged the communications last month but sought to minimize their significance, releasing on Twitter copies of what he said was the full exchange. In the messages, he mostly answered contacts from WikiLeaks politely or not at all, though he didn't reject communications with the Julian Assange-fronted web site.

During his presidential campaign, Donald Trump praised WikiLeaks' release of stolen emails from the Democratic National Committee and Clinton campaign chairman John Podesta. But earlier this year, Trump's Central Intelligence Agency Director Mike Pompeo called WikiLeaks a "nonstate hostile intelligence service" and singled out Assange as the leader of a hostile force that threatens the U.S.

(Steven T. Dennis contributed to this report)

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