Donald Trump Jr. met behind closed doors with Senate investigators on Thursday, where he told them that he met with Russian government officials in 2016 to seek damaging information on Hillary Clinton because he was concerned she might not be fit for the office of the presidency.
“To the extent they had information concerning the fitness, character or qualifications of a presidential candidate, I believed that I should at least hear them out,” said Trump Jr., whose statement was leaked to the New York Times. “Depending on what, if any, information they had, I could then consult with counsel to make an informed decision as to whether to give it further consideration.”
Trump Jr. said that nothing came out of his June 2016 meeting with Russian officials, and he denied that he colluded with the Russian government to undermine Clinton’s candidacy. He also argued that he was too overwhelmed and inexperienced to show better judgement about meeting with a officials from a rival government whose goal was to meddle in the American political process.
“I had never worked on a campaign before and it was an exhausting, all-encompassing, life-changing experience,” he said. “Every single day I fielded dozens, if not hundreds, of emails and phone calls.”
Trump Jr. took the meeting with Russian government officials after being contacted by Rob Goldstone, a publicist for the Kremlin-linked Agalarov family that has worked with Trump for years. Goldstone billed the meeting as involving a “Russian government lawyer” who wanted to give him damaging information on Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton as part of the Russian government’s efforts to help his father’s campaign.
Trump Jr. responded enthusiastically to Goldstone’s meeting proposal by saying, “I love it!”
During his testimony, Trump Jr. defended saying that he “loved” the idea of Russia helping his father’s campaign spread dirt on Hillary Clinton.
“As much as some have made of my using the phrase ‘I love it,’ it was simply a colloquial way of saying that I appreciated Rob’s gesture,” he said.