Trump: Son's Russia meeting 'standard campaign practice'

Friday, July 14, 2017

WASHINGTON -- President Donald Trump on Thursday defended his son's meeting with a Russian lawyer, characterizing it as standard campaign practice and maintaining "nothing happened" as a result of the June 2016 sit-down.

The remarks in Paris during a joint news conference with French President Emmanuel Macron came even though Trump's own pick for FBI director has said authorities should be advised of requests to meet with foreign individuals during a campaign and even after Donald Trump Jr. said he would rethink his own conduct in agreeing to the meeting in the first place.

"I think from a practical standpoint, most people would've taken that meeting. It's called opposition research, or even research into your opponent," Trump said.

Trump Jr. released emails this week from 2016 in which he appeared eager to accept information from the Russian government that could have damaged Hillary Clinton's presidential campaign. The emails were sent ahead of a Trump Tower meeting with a Russian lawyer that Trump's former campaign manager, Paul Manafort, and Trump's son-in-law, Jared Kushner, also attended.

Asked about the meeting Thursday, Trump said "politics is not the nicest business in the world," and it's standard for candidates to welcome negative information about an opponent. In this case, he added, "nothing happened from the meeting; zero happened from the meeting."

Trump's comments stood in contrast to the position of his nominee for FBI director, Christopher Wray, who at his confirmation hearing Wednesday was asked what candidates should do if they're told a foreign government wants to help by offering damaging information about an opponent.

"Any threat or effort to interfere with our elections from any nation-state or any non-state actor," Wray said, "is the kind of thing the FBI would want to know."

Trump Jr. himself said in a Fox News interview Tuesday night that "in retrospect, I probably would have done things a little differently."

Meanwhile, the Republican chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee said he would call on Trump Jr. to testify as part of an investigation into Russian meddling in last year's election and would subpoena him if necessary. Witnesses who refuse to comply with subpoenas risk being held in contempt.

Sen. Chuck Grassley, R-Iowa, said he wants Trump Jr. to testify "pretty soon," and it could be as early as next week.

He wouldn't say what he wants to hear from Trump Jr., but said members aren't restricted "from asking anything they want to ask."

The panel's top Democrat, California Sen. Dianne Feinstein, also had called on Trump Jr. to testify.

A lawyer for Donald Trump Jr. did not respond immediately to a message seeking comment. A spokesman for the Senate Judiciary Committee said the letter hasn't been sent.

The Judiciary Committee is one of several congressional panels investigating Russian meddling in the U.S. election, along with special counsel Robert Mueller. U.S. intelligence agencies have accused the Russian government of meddling through hacking in last year's election to benefit Trump and harm Clinton, and authorities are exploring potential coordination between Moscow and the Trump campaign.

Virginia Sen. Mark Warner, the top Democrat on the Senate intelligence committee, also has said he'd like to hear from Trump Jr. and said the panel has requested documents from him.

But committee chairman Sen. Richard Burr, R-N.C., hasn't said whether the secretive committee will call him in.

Trump Jr. tweeted Monday he was "happy to work with the committee to pass on what I know."

It's unclear whether Trump Jr. would be as eager to testify before the Judiciary panel, which generally conducts open hearings.

The Senate intelligence committee interviews many of its witnesses behind closed doors, though it has held an unusual number of open hearings as part of the Russia probe.

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