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Trump Jr welcomed Russian campaign help, emails show

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UPDATED: President Donald Trump's eldest son eagerly agreed to meet a woman he was told was a Russian lawyer who might have damaging information about White House rival Hillary Clinton as part of Moscow's official support for his father, according to newly released emails.

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The emails, released by Donald Trump Jr, are the most concrete evidence yet Trump campaign officials welcomed Russian help to win the election.

The messages show the younger Trump was open to the prospect of “very high-level and sensitive information” from a Russian lawyer that a go-between described as “part of Russia and its government’s support for Mr Trump” before a meeting on June 9, 2016.

“If it’s what you say I love it,” Trump Jr responded.

He released the messages on Twitter after the New York Times said it planned to write about them and sought comment from him.

The messages indicate Trump’s campaign manager at the time, Paul Manafort, and son-in-law Jared Kushner, now a top White House adviser, also planned to attend the meeting Russian lawyer Natalia Veselnitskaya, who denies having Kremlin ties.

Trump Jr said Veselnitskaya did not provide damaging information about Clinton and instead sought to discuss Russian sanctions.

“In retrospect, I probably would have done things a little differently,” Trump Jr said on Fox News.

“For me, this was opposition research.”

Nevertheless, the correspondence between Trump Jr and Rob Goldstone, a publicist who arranged the meeting, could provide fodder for investigators probing whether Trump’s campaign colluded with the Kremlin.

US intelligence agencies have concluded Moscow sought to help Trump win the election in part by releasing private emails from Democratic party officials.

Moscow has denied any interference and Trump says his campaign did not collude with Russia.

Trump Jr said he did not tell his father about the meeting.

“There was nothing to tell,” he said on Fox News.

Along with his younger brother Eric, Trump Jr oversees the Trump Organization, his father’s real-estate and business empire, and does not have a formal role in the White House.

The emails do not appear to provide evidence of illegal activity but legal experts say Trump Jr could run into trouble if investigators find he aided a criminal action, such as hacking into Democratic computer networks, or violated campaign-finance laws by accepting gifts from foreign entities.

The Senate intelligence committee plans to call on him to testify, while the House’s intelligence committee wants to interview him and everyone else in the meeting, said the panel’s top Democrat, Adam Schiff.

CNN reported Special Counsel Robert Mueller also plans to look into the meeting.

White House spokeswoman Sarah Sanders told reporters the president applauded his son’s transparency in releasing the emails and viewed him as a “high-quality person”.

Senator Lindsey Graham, a South Carolina Republican, told reporters: “This is very problematic. We cannot allow foreign governments to reach out to anybody’s campaign and say, ‘We’d like to help you’.”

– AP

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