US President Donald Trump has lauded the “transparency” of his eldest son over the release of a chain of emails showing a Russian source offering “sensitive information” about his White House rival Hillary Clinton in the run-up to the presidential election.
In an email to 39-year-old Donald Trump Jr, who is in the middle of a political storm over his meetings with a Russian source, his music publicist Rob Goldstone said the information “would incriminate Hillary (Clinton) and her dealings with Russia and would be very useful to your father”.
“My son is a high-quality person and I applaud his transparency,” Trump said in a statement which was read out by the White House Deputy Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders during her daily news conference.
While Trump Jr said he hopes that by releasing these emails would bring an end to the controversy, the opposition political leaders called for investigation and claimed that this is yet another indication of the connection between the Trump campaign and the Russians.
“Donald Trump Jr has admitted and documented that he, Jared Kushner, and former Trump campaign chairman Paul Manafort met with a Kremlin-connected lawyer with the understanding that she was a Russian government lawyer providing damaging information on Hillary Clinton as part of Moscow’s effort to help President Trump’s campaign,” said Indian-American Congressman Raja Krishnamoorthi.
“The attempt by these top Trump advisors - to solicit the support of a hostile foreign power to win the American presidency - is unprecedented in our history,” he said.
“The need for Special Counsel Mueller’s investigation and our Congressional inquiries to continue has never been more clear.
“Pending any investigation, no one who participated in the Trump Tower meeting with Russian lawyer Natalia Veselnitskaya should have access to any classified information, especially material relevant to our national security,” Krishnamoorthi said.
Senator Ben Cardin, Ranking Member of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, said the email shows that Trump Jr clearly understood the intent of the meeting with Natalia Veselnitskaya.
“Instead of welcoming information from the Russian government, the Trump team should have immediately notified the Federal Bureau of Investigation.
“I’m not a prosecutor, but I think this is an extremely serious issue and needs to be followed up on by Robert Mueller’s investigation and the Congressional Intelligence Committees immediately,” Cardin demanded.
Senate Judiciary Committee Ranking Member Dianne Feinstein said these emails are deeply disturbing.
“They appear to show direct coordination between the Trump campaign and possibly the Russian government itself,” she said.
“There’s no escaping it: the Trump Campaign’s inner circle met with an agent of a hostile foreign power to influence the outcome of an American election.
The American people face a White House riddled with shadowy Russian connections and desperate to hide the truth,” said Democratic Leader Nancy Pelosi.
“One after another, senior Trump officials have been caught hiding secret meetings with Russian agents. The incendiary news of the meeting arranged by Donald Trump Jr is a grave development in the investigation of Trump officials’ possible collusion with Moscow,” she said.
The New York Times, which first broke the story, said the emails show just how eager Trump Jr was to accept what he was explicitly told was the Russian government’s help in his father’s campaign against Hillary Clinton.
“The Justice Department, as well as the House and Senate Intelligence Committees, is examining whether any of President Trump’s associates colluded with the Russian government to disrupt last year’s election. American intelligence agencies have determined that the Russian government tried to sway the election in favour of Trump,” the report said.
The daily claimed that Trump Jr released the entire chain of emails on Twitter after it told him that they were publishing the emails that they had in their possession.
Several Congressional committees were reportedly considering to question Trump Jr about his meeting with a Russian offer of providing compromising information about Hillary Clinton.
Congresswoman Grace Meng sent a letter to the US Federal Election Commission urging that it perform an official investigation into the actions of the Trump campaign to determine whether they violated federal election and criminal law.
Congressman Elijah E Cummings, Ranking Member of the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform, said the email chain confirms that the president’s son was both aware of and supported the Russian government’s efforts to help the president get elected.
“Our country has a fundamental principle that a foreign adversary should not and cannot interfere with our sacred elections, period. The soul of our very democracy depends on it. I remind my colleagues from both parties the Constitution does not give Congress the right to remain silent in the face of this threat. We must investigate. And we must act on our findings,” he said.
The Washington Post said these emails clearly showed that Trump Jr understood he was taking the meeting as a way of channeling information directly from the government of a nation hostile to the United States to his father’s campaign.
“It is the most concrete public evidence to date suggesting that top Trump campaign aides were eager for Russia’s assistance in the campaign,” the daily reported.
Sanders told reporters that President Trump is frustrated that Russia continues to be an issue.
“I think that the President is, I would say, frustrated with the process of the fact that this continues to be an issue,” she said in response to a question.
“And he would love for us to be focused on things, like the economy, on healthcare, on tax reform, on infrastructure. And that’s the place that his mind is, and that’s what he’d like to be discussing,” Sanders said.