After a New York Times report alleged that Donald Trump Jr. knowingly attended a meeting to garner information as part of a Russian government effort to assist his father’s election campaign, the president’s oldest son shared the correspondence on social media.
The New York Times reported that Trump Jr. met with Russian lawyer Natalia Veselnitskaya in June 2016 after learning that she had damaging information about President Donald Trump’s opponent, former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, from the Russian government.
However, Trump Jr. has maintained that Veselnitskaya didn’t have any information to share and instead wanted to focus on other matters during their meeting.
Days after the report, Trump Jr. released “the entire chain” of emails regarding the meeting in an effort to “be totally transparent.”
Here’s what to know about Trump Jr.’s meeting and what those emails contain.
What did the New York Times report allege?
Before Trump Jr. was set to meet with a Russian lawyer as his father campaigned for the presidency, Trump Jr. was told the lawyer’s potentially damning information about Clinton was from the Kremlin, the New York Times reported.
The Times reported that Trump Jr., who was a key campaign adviser to his father, was told the Russian government was behind the information on Clinton in an email from music publicist Rob Goldstone.
Trump’s son-in-law Jared Kushner and then-campaign chairman Paul Manafort also attended the meeting along with a translator.
The report was the first public word that Trump Jr. took the meeting with the understanding that he would be presented with damaging information about his father’s political opponent and that the material could have emanated from the Kremlin.
And it has set off new questions about whether the Trump campaign colluded with the Russian government in the election.
What did the emails show?
On July 11, Trump Jr. posted screenshots of multiple emails that say they are from Rob Goldstone.
In a June 3, 2016 email, Goldstone said Emin Agalarov – a Russian pop star who is reportedly friendly with the Trump family – had asked him “to contact you with something very interesting.”
“The Crown prosecutor of Russia met with his father Aras this morning and in their meeting offered to provide the Trump campaign with some official documents and information that would incriminate Hillary [Clinton] and her dealings with Russia and would be very useful to your father,” Goldstone said. “This is obviously very high level and sensitive information but is part of Russia and its government’s support for Mr. Trump – helped along by Aras and Emin.”
“I could also send this info to your father via Rhona, but it is ultra sensitive so wanted to send to you first,” he said.
Trump Jr. responded in less than 20 minutes and said that while he wanted to speak to Agalarov first, “if it’s what you say I love it especially later in summer.”
In another email Goldstone referred to Veselnitskaya as “the Russian government attorney.”
Along with the emails he published, Trump Jr. released a statement on Twitter. He said he released the emails “in order to be totally transparent.”
“The information they suggested they had about Hillary Clinton I thought was Political Opposition Research,” Trump Jr. said.
He added that the lawyer “was not a government official.”
At the time of the meeting, Trump Jr. was not under Secret Service protection. The Secret Service therefore did not screen anyone who attended the meeting.
What else has Trump Jr. said about the meeting?
After the New York Times’ report, Trump Jr. said he took the meeting with Veselnitskaya at the request of an acquaintance but wasn’t told the name of the lawyer prior to the encounter.
In one of the emails posted to Twitter, Goldstone said he would “send the names of the two people meeting with you for security when I have them later today.”
“After pleasantries were exchanged, the woman stated that she had information that individuals connected to Russia were funding the Democratic National Committee and supporting Ms. Clinton,” Trump Jr. said in an earlier statement.
“Her statements were vague, ambiguous and made no sense. No details or supporting information was provided or even offered,” Trump Jr. continued, adding that the lawyer really wanted to talk about the Magnitsky Act and the adoption of Russian children by U.S. citizens.
Trump Jr. also fired off a sarcastic tweet about the meeting on July 10.
“Obviously I’m the first person on a campaign to ever take a meeting to hear info about an opponent,” he said. “Went nowhere but had to listen.”
Trump Jr. has also tweeted articles from conservative publications and retweeted right-leaning journalists and pundits who have defended him.
Veselnitskaya has denied that she has any connection to the Kremlin or had any damaging information regarding Clinton.
What has the White House said?
A spokesperson for Trump’s outside legal team said Trump “was not aware of and did not attend the meeting.”
And on July 10, White House deputy press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders defended the president’s son at an off-camera briefing with reporters.
“Don Jr. did not collude with anybody to influence the election,” she said. “Bottom line is Democrats had a weak candidate.”
After Trump Jr. released the email thread, Trump said his son is a “high quality person” and praised his “transparency,” according to a statement Sanders read to reporters at an off-camera briefing.
He also reiterated his support for his son on Twitter.
Vice President Mike Pence wasn’t aware that Trump Jr. met with the lawyer, his spokesperson told CNN.
What has the Kremlin said?
Dmitry Peskov, a spokesman for Russian President Vladimir Putin, said Monday the Kremlin doesn’t know Veselnitskaya and “cannot keep track” of every Russian lawyer who holds meetings in Russia or abroad.
Although she has not been publicly linked with the Russian government itself, Veselnitskaya represented the son of a vice president of state-owned Russian Railways in a New York money-laundering case settled in May before a trial.
Did Trump Jr. break the law?
As Trump Jr. does not have a position in his father’s administration, he is not required to disclose foreign contacts, according to the Associated Press.
Foreign nationals are prohibited from providing “anything of value” to campaigns, and that same law also bars solicitation of such assistance. The law typically applies to monetary campaign contributions, but courts could consider information such as opposition research to be something of value.
Bradley A. Smith, a former Bill Clinton-appointed Republican Federal Election Commission member, said that based on what’s known about the meeting, Trump Jr.’s actions are unlikely to be considered illegal solicitation.
“It’s not illegal to meet with someone to find out what they have to offer,” Smith said.
But Larry Noble, a former general counsel at the FEC, said the situation “raises all sorts of red flags.”
“You do not want your campaign to be involved with foreign nationals, period,” said Noble, now senior director at the Campaign Legal Center.
Common Cause, a nonpartisan nonprofit that pushes for government accountability, has filed an official complaint against Trump Jr. with the Federal Election Commission and the Justice Department alleging that Trump Jr. “may have broken” election law.
Democratic National Committee spokeswoman Adrienne Watson said the New York Times report proved that “Donald Jr. was willing to accept the help of a hostile foreign government to sway the election.”
“In the ensuing months, the Trump family watched as news of the Kremlin’s hacking campaign developed and they did nothing but celebrate and encourage it to continue,” she said.
Sen. Susan Collins, R-Maine, has requested that the Senate intelligence committee interview Trump Jr. as well as “others who attended the meeting.”
Trump Jr. said on Twitter that he is “happy to work with the committee to pass on what I know.”
Lawyer Alan Futerfas, who represents Trump Jr., called the New York Times report “much ado about nothing” Monday.
“The meeting last about 20 to 30 minutes and nothing came of it,” he said. “His father knew nothing about it. The bottom line is that Don Jr. did nothing wrong.”
The Associated Press contributed to this report.