WASHINGTON Presidential candidate Donald Trump’s eldest son eagerly agreed last year to meet a woman he was told was a Russian government lawyer who might have information incriminating Democratic rival Hillary Clinton as part of Russian government support for his father, according to an email chain released on Tuesday.
The email chain was between Donald Trump Jr., who posted it on Twitter, and Rob Goldstone, a publicist who helped to arrange the June 9, 2016 meeting with Natalia Veselnitskaya, who says she is a private lawyer and denies having Kremlin ties.
The disclosures in the email chain could provide ammunition for U.S. investigators probing whether there was collusion between the Kremlin and Trump’s Republican presidential campaign following a U.S. intelligence conclusion that Moscow sought to hurt Clinton and help Trump in the 2016 U.S. presidential election.
“The Crown prosecutor of Russia … 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,” said the June 3, 2016, email to Trump Jr. from publicist Rob Goldstone.
“This is obviously very high level and sensitive information but is part of Russia and its government’s support for Mr. Trump,” according to the email posted by Trump Jr. on Twitter.
“If it’s what you say I love it especially later in the summer,” Trump Jr. partly replied in the exchange, which he said represented the entire chain of his emails about the meeting. (bit.ly/2uapeCK and bit.ly/2ua9hwg)
The exchange includes at least one error. Russia, which ceased to be a monarchy with the Russian Revolution, has a prosecutor general rather than a “crown prosecutor.” A spokesman for the prosecutor general declined to comment immediately.
U.S. MARKETS WOBBLE ON NEWS
Financial markets appeared to have been jarred by the sudden disclosure from Trump Jr.
Following his tweets, the S&P 500 Index slid by about 0.6 percent in about 20 minutes, although it has since retraced about half that move. The dollar index, the broadest measure of the U.S. currency’s strength, weakened by about 0.25 percent and U.S. bond yields are at their lows of the day.
“This is going to be another obstacle for President Trump to make progress on his agenda,” said Alan Lancz, president of investment advisory firm Alan B. Lancz & Associates in Toledo, Ohio. “That’s why you’ve had such a severe and quick reaction.”
The New York Times, which broke news of the meeting with the lawyer, said Trump Jr. tweeted out the emails after he was told that the newspaper was about to publish their content, rather than responding to its request for comment.
In a statement accompanying the emails, Trump Jr. said he released them “in order to be totally transparent” and played down the meeting, saying the Russian lawyer “had no information to provide.”
Instead, he said she wanted to discuss adoptions and the Magnitsky Act, a 2012 U.S. law that sanctioned Russian officials linked to human rights abuses. After Congress passed the law in 2012, Putin banned U.S. adoption of Russian children.
Legal experts are divided on whether Trump Jr.’s participation in the meeting with the Russian lawyer could lead to criminal liability.
Collusion in and of itself is not a crime. But if the younger Trump conspired or aided and abetted a criminal action, such as hacking into American computer networks, that could be grounds for criminal charges.
Several lawyers also said the meeting could run afoul of federal election laws barring campaigns from accepting gifts or things of value from foreign nationals.
The emails do not at first glance appear to provide evidence of illegal activity.
SENATE PANEL SAID TO SEEK TRUMP JR. TESTIMONY, DOCUMENTS
However, Goldstone’s statement that the promise of incriminating information on Democratic presidential candidate Clinton was “part of Russia and its government’s support for Mr. Trump” provides new fodder for federal and congressional investigators who are probing Russia’s alleged interference in the 2016 U.S. presidential campaign in which Trump beat Clinton.
Moscow has denied any interference, and Trump says his campaign did not collude with Russia.
The disclosure of the emails seems certain to increase both public scrutiny and official inquiries into the question of Russian interference, creating greater political pressure on Trump, whose first six months have been dogged by the issue.
Special Counsel Robert Mueller is investigating the matter, as are U.S. congressional committees, including the Senate and House of Representatives intelligence panels.
A Senate source said the Senate Intelligence Committee did plan to call the president’s son to testify and that it was seeking documents from him.
The Republican chairman of the committee, Senators Richard Burr, declined to comment on its plans. “I don’t draw conclusions until the investigation is completed,” Burr told reporters.
(Reporting by Doina Chiacu, Susan Heavey, Arshad Mohammed and Warren Strobel; Additional reporting by Maria Tsvetkova, Denis Pinchuk and Svetlana Reiter in Moscow, by Mark Hosenball in London and by Lindsey Kortyka in New York; Editing by Tom Brown and Jonathan Oatis)