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Trump: I didn't know about son's Russian meeting

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US President Donald Trump insists he was unaware of his son Donald Trump Jr's meeting with a Russian lawyer at the heart of a White House controversy, telling Reuters he learnt of it only a couple of days ago.

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Asked if he knew his son was meeting Russian lawyer Natalia Veselnitskaya in June 2016, Trump said in a White House interview: “No, that I didn’t know until a couple of days ago when I heard about this.”

Trump Jr eagerly agreed to meet the woman he was told was a Russian government lawyer who might have damaging information about Democratic rival Hillary Clinton as part of Moscow’s official support for his father’s presidential election campaign, according to emails the son released on Tuesday.

In the interview on Wednesday, Trump said he did not fault his son for holding the meeting.

“I think many people would have held that meeting,” he said.

His comments came after Trump Jr, in a Fox News interview on Tuesday, said: “In retrospect, I probably would have done things a little differently.”

Tweeted about his son’s interview earlier on Wednesday, Trump said: “He was open, transparent and innocent. This is the greatest Witch Hunt in political history. Sad!”

Christopher Wray, Trump’s nominee to lead the FBI, told a US Senate confirmation hearing on Wednesday he did not consider the investigation into Russian meddling to be a “witch hunt”.

The emails are the most concrete evidence Trump campaign officials welcomed Russian help to win the 2016 election, a subject that has prompted investigations by the US Justice Department and Congress.

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.

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

Trump has said his campaign did not collude with Russia and Moscow has denied meddling.

In Wednesday’s interview, Trump also said he directly asked Russian President Vladimir Putin if he was involved in what US intelligence says was Russian meddling in the presidential campaign and Putin had insisted he was not.

Trump said he spent the first 20 or 25 minutes of his more than two-hour meeting with Putin last Friday in Germany on the subject.

“I said, did you do it? And he said no, I did not. Absolutely not. I then asked him a second time in a totally different way. He said absolutely not,” Trump said.

– Reuters

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