WASHINGTON — Donald Trump Jr., the president’s eldest son, spoke to the Senate Intelligence Committee for about three hours Wednesday, following up on a 2017 interview with the same panel as part of its two-year-long Russia investigation.
Trump Jr. said after the interview that he is “glad this is finally over.” He said he was happy to clarify answers from the earlier interview with the panel’s staff, but told reporters, “I don’t think I changed any of what I said because there was nothing to change.”
Senators wanted to discuss the answers Trump Jr. gave in that 2017 interview, as well as the answers he gave to the Senate Judiciary Committee in a separate interview privately that year.
He appeared in response to a subpoena from the panel’s Republican chairman, North Carolina Sen. Richard Burr, as part of the Russia investigation.
The president’s former lawyer Michael Cohen told a House committee in February that before the presidential election he had briefed Trump Jr. approximately 10 times about a plan to build a Trump Tower in Moscow. But Trump Jr. told the Judiciary panel he was only “peripherally aware” of the real estate proposal.
The panel was also interested in talking to him about other topics, including a 2016 campaign meeting in Trump Tower in New York with a Russian lawyer that captured the interest of special counsel Robert Mueller. Emails leading up to the meeting promised dirt on Democrat Hillary Clinton, Trump’s opponent. Mueller’s report, released in April, examined the meeting but found insufficient evidence to charge anyone with a crime.
Trump Jr. contradicted Cohen’s claim to the senators, according to a person close to Trump Jr. and familiar with Wednesday’s interview. He claimed he did not pay special attention to Trump Tower Moscow because it was just one of many projects happening around that time, the person said. Trump Jr. also repeated his earlier claim that he had not told his father about the Trump Tower meeting.
The person requested anonymity because the person was not authorized to discuss the meeting publicly.
In an interview Wednesday with ABC’s George Stephanopoulos, President Trump dismissed the idea that his son should have contacted the FBI about the Trump Tower meeting.
“I don’t think in my whole life I’ve ever called the FBI. In my whole life,” Trump said. “You don’t call the FBI. You throw somebody out of your office, you do whatever you do.” He added, “Give me a break — life doesn’t work that way.”
The elder Trump also said he would consider accepting information about one of his 2020 political opponents from a foreign government, despite the concerns raised by the intelligence community over Russian election interference.
“I think you might want to listen; there isn’t anything wrong with listening,” Trump said. “If somebody called from a country, Norway, ‘We have information on your opponent,’ oh, I think I’d want to hear it.”
But, he said, he would go to the FBI “if I thought there was something wrong.”
Trump Jr.’s testimony comes as the Intelligence Committee continues its two-year investigation of Russian interference in the 2016 election. Burr received considerable blow-back from colleagues over the subpoena. But he told fellow senators that Trump Jr. had backed out of an interview twice, forcing the committee to act.
It’s uncertain when the intelligence panel will issue a final report. Burr said last month that he hopes to be finished with the investigation by the end of the year.
Information for this article was contributed by Mary Clare Jalonick, Jonathan Lemire and Padmananda Rama of The Associated Press; by Colby Itkowitz, Tom Hamburger, Matt Zapotosky and Rosalind S. Helderman of The Washington Post; and by Peter Baker of The New York Times.
A Section on 06/13/2019