WASHINGTON — The White House said Tuesday it was “ridiculous” for lawmakers to use words like “treason” in response to the revelation that Donald Trump Jr. met with a Kremlin-connected Russian lawyer in June 2016 in order to receive damaging information about his father’s rival, Hillary Clinton.
Deputy press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders largely stonewalled questions about the disclosure after reading a statement from President Trump: “My son is a high-quality person and I applaud his transparency.”
Sanders added that the president “absolutely” still wants the ongoing investigations in Congress and by a special counsel at the Justice Department to continue.
“We’d love to get this matter closed,” she said.
In the wake of Trump Jr.’s disclosure, Democratic lawmakers have turned up the heat on the White House over the Trump campaign’s alleged ties to Russia. Sen. Tim Kaine, D-Va., his party’s vice presidential candidate in 2016, told reporters: “Nothing is proven yet, but we’re now beyond obstruction of justice, in terms of what’s being investigated.”
Kaine added: “This is moving into perjury, false statements and even into potentially treason.”
Asked about the escalation in rhetoric, Sanders replied: “Those new words are ridiculous.”
Trump Jr. on Tuesday tweeted an email chain about setting up a meeting with a Kremlin-connected lawyer, Natalia Veselnitskaya, along with Trump campaign chief Paul Manafort and Jared Kushner, Trump Jr.’s brother-in-law and currently a top White House adviser.
“This is obviously very high level and sensitive information but is part of Russia and its government’s support for Mr. Trump,” noted one of the emails, from music publicist Rob Goldstone.
Goldstone had sent an initial email to Trump Jr. with the subject line “Russia – Clinton – private and confidential” saying that a Russian pop star, Emin Agalarov, had reached out to Goldstone on behalf of his father, Aras Agalarov, a Russian real estate developer who helped bring the elder Trump’s 2013 Miss Universe pageant to Moscow.
“Emin just called and asked me to contact you with something very interesting,” wrote Goldstone on June 3, 2016. “The Crown prosecutor of Russia met with father Aras this morning and in their meeting offered to provide the Trump campaign with some official documents and information that would incriminate Hillary and her dealings with Russia and would be very useful to your father. This is obviously very high level and sensitive information but is part of Russia and its government’s support for Mr. Trump — helped along by Aras and Emin.”
Trump Jr. responded 17 minutes later, asking to set up a meeting and suggesting that the information would be useful to drop later in the summer.
“Thanks Rob I appreciate that,” wrote the president’s eldest son. “I am on the road at the moment but perhaps I just speak to Emin first. Seems we have some time and if it’s what you say I love it especially later in the summer.”
Additional contributions from Gabby Kaufman and Christopher Wilson.