President Trump’s eldest son denied to a congressional panel that he communicated with his father directly about what to say about a controversial June 2016 Trump Tower meeting he held with a Kremlin-connected lawyer as part of the probe into Russian meddling in the presidential election.
Details were limited from Donald Trump Jr.’s closed-door testimony before the House Intelligence Committee on Wednesday, but sources said the younger Mr. Trump tried to draw clear lines between himself and his father concerning the meeting with Natalia Veselnitskaya, who was said to have “dirt” from the Russian government on Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton.
President Trump has repeatedly denied knowing about the meeting, which included his son, Mr. Trump’s son-in-law Jared Kushner, and former Trump campaign chairman Paul Manafort, until it was reported last summer.
But the White House has admitted that President Trump was involved in drafting a public statement reacting to the news when it broke. The statement, which was sent out through the Trump Organization under Mr. Trump Jr.’s name, claimed that the meeting primarily concerned a Russian adoption program.
On Wednesday, Mr. Trump Jr., reportedly told House Intelligence Committee members that he spoke with top Trump aide Hope Hicks but not with his father directly when the news broke.
At the time, Ms. Hicks was returning with the president from a G-20 Summit in Germany on Air Force One.
After she spoke with Mr. Trump Jr., she then spoke with the president, according to sources CNN quoted, and they discussed the length of the statement.
In August, White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders said the president weighed in on the statement “as any father would.”
Despite the White House denials, Russia probe investigators have pushed hard to learn all possible details about exactly what Mr. Trump knew about the Veselnitskaya meeting. Special counsel Robert Mueller has interviewed key White House staff about the specific writing of the statement, raising the prospect it could be part of an obstruction of justice investigation.
Separately, both the House or Senate intelligence committees have heard testimony from several of the meeting attendees — including Mr. Kushner, Ike Kaveladze, who was at the meeting as a representative of a Russian developer who once partnered with Mr. Trump to bring the Miss Universe pageant to Moscow, and Rinat Akhmetshin, a Russian-American lobbyist. A translator, Anatoli Samochornov, who was in attendance has also spoken to investigators.
Appearing voluntarily, Donald Trump Jr. arrived out of sight of cameras through a back entrance to the U.S. Capitol for the highly anticipated session.
Prior to the hearing there was intense speculation that lawmakers would also ask President Trump’s eldest son about correspondence he had with the radical transparency group WikiLeaks during the campaign.
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