WASHINGTON (Reuters) – US President Donald Trump acknowledged on Sunday that his son met with Russians in 2016 at Trump Tower to get information on his election opponent Hillary Clinton, saying it was “totally legal” and “done all the time in politics.”
The Republican president had previously said the meeting was about the adoption of Russian children by Americans. Trump’s morning Twitter post was his most direct statement on the purpose of the meeting, though his son and others have said it was to gather damaging information on the Democratic candidate.
In a post on Twitter here, Trump also denied reports in the Washington Post and CNN that he was concerned his eldest son, Donald Trump Jr., could be in legal trouble because of the meeting with the Russians, including a lawyer with Kremlin ties.
Fake News reporting, a complete fabrication, that I am concerned about the meeting my wonderful son, Donald, had in Trump Tower. This was a meeting to get information on an opponent, totally legal and done all the time in politics – and it went nowhere. I did not know about it!
He repeated that he had not known about the meeting in advance.
“Fake News reporting, a complete fabrication, that I am concerned about the meeting my wonderful son, Donald, had in Trump Tower. This was a meeting to get information on an opponent, totally legal and done all the time in politics – and it went nowhere. I did not know about it!” Trump said.
Political campaigns routinely pursue opposition research on their opponents, but not with foreign representatives from a country viewed as an adversary. Russian officials were under US sanctions at the time.
Special Counsel Robert Mueller is examining whether Trump campaign members coordinated with Russia to sway the White House race in his favor. Russian President Vladimir Putin has denied his government interfered.
One part of the inquiry has focused on a June 9, 2016, meeting at Trump Tower in New York between Donald Jr., other campaign aides and a group of Russians.
Email released by Donald Jr. himself showed he had been keen on the meeting because his father’s campaign was being offered potentially damaging information on Clinton.
Donald Jr. said later he realized the meeting was primarily aimed at lobbying against the 2012 Magnitsky sanctions law, which led to Moscow denying Americans the right to adopt Russian orphans.
President Trump has repeatedly denied that his campaign worked with Moscow, saying “No Collusion!” Last week, however, he adopted his lawyers’ tactics and insisted “collusion is not a crime.”
While collusion is not a technical legal charge, Mueller could bring conspiracy charges if he finds that any campaign member worked with Russia to break US law. Working with a foreign national with the intent of influencing a US election could violate multiple laws, according to legal experts.