Trump Jr's Russia emails: Inside the latest controversy
President Donald Trump's eldest son, Donald Trump Jr, tweeted an email thread on how a meeting with a Russian lawyer with potentially incriminating information on Hillary Clinton came to fruition, leading up to the 2016 presidential election
Donald Trump Jr. arrived on Capitol Hill Wednesday to meet with House Intelligence Committee investigators as the lawmakers continue to probe into Russian meddling in the 2016 presidential election.
Trump Jr., the president’s eldest son, is expected to face questions pertaining to his family’s financial dealings with Russians. He is also expected to be asked about a controversial meeting he scheduled with members of the Trump campaign and a Russian lawyer at Trump Tower in New York City in June 2016.
Wednesday’s meeting is behind closed doors. Trump Jr. already privately met with members of the Senate Judiciary Committee in September.
The New York Times reported in July that Trump Jr. met with Russian lawyer Natalia Veselnitskaya during the campaign after learning that she had damaging information about Hillary Clinton, the Democratic opponent of Donald Trump.
Read on for more information about Trump Jr.’s meeting, and how he’s involved in the Russia investigation.
So what was this meeting about?
Before Trump Jr. was set to meet with the Russian lawyer as his father campaigned for the presidency, Trump Jr. was told Veselnitskaya’s potentially damning information about Clinton was from the Kremlin, the New York Times reported.
The report was the first public word that Trump Jr. took the meeting with the understanding that he would be presented with damaging information about his father’s political opponent and that the material could have emanated from the Kremlin.
Trump Jr. has maintained that Veselnitskaya did not have any information to share and instead wanted to discuss other matters, such as the Magnitsky Act which enacts sanctions on certain Russian officials as punishment for human rights violations.
“After pleasantries were exchanged, the woman stated that she had information that individuals connected to Russia were funding the Democratic National Committee and supporting Ms. Clinton,” Trump Jr. said in an earlier statement.
“Her statements were vague, ambiguous and made no sense. No details or supporting information was provided or even offered,” Trump Jr. continued
Was anyone else at the meeting?
Trump’s son-in-law Jared Kushner and then-campaign chairman Paul Manafort also attended the meeting along with a translator.
A spokesperson for Trump’s outside legal team said Trump “was not aware of and did not attend the meeting.”
Didn’t Trump Jr. publish the emails about the meeting?
Trump Jr. posted screenshots of multiple emails purportedly from Rob Goldstone, a music publicist who wanted to set up the meeting.
In a June 3, 2016 email, Goldstone said he was asked to “contact you with something very interesting.”
“The Crown prosecutor of Russia met with his father Aras this morning and in their meeting offered to provide the Trump campaign with some official documents and information that would incriminate Hillary [Clinton] and her dealings with Russia and would be very useful to your father,” Goldstone said.
He added that the information was “very high level and sensitive” but was “part of Russia and its government’s support for Mr. Trump.”
Trump Jr. responded in less than 20 minutes saying that he wanted to check out the information first, but “if it’s what you say I love it especially later in summer.”
Who is this Russian lawyer?
In another email, Goldstone referred to Veselnitskaya as “the Russian government attorney.”
But in a later statement, Trump Jr. said she “was not a government official.”
The Kremlin, too, denied knowing her. Dmitry Peskov, a spokesman for Russian President Vladimir Putin, said the Kremlin “cannot keep track” of every Russian lawyer who holds meetings in Russia or abroad.
So did Trump Jr. break the law?
As Trump Jr. does not have a position in his father’s administration, he is not required to disclose foreign contacts, according to the Associated Press.
Foreign nationals are prohibited from providing "anything of value" to campaigns, and that same law also bars solicitation of such assistance. The law typically applies to monetary campaign contributions, but courts could consider information such as opposition research to be something of value.
Bradley A. Smith, a former Bill Clinton-appointed Republican Federal Election Commission member, said that based on what's known about the meeting, Trump Jr.'s actions are unlikely to be considered illegal solicitation.
"It's not illegal to meet with someone to find out what they have to offer," Smith said.
But Larry Noble, a former general counsel at the FEC, said the situation "raises all sorts of red flags."
"You do not want your campaign to be involved with foreign nationals, period," said Noble, now senior director at the Campaign Legal Center.
Fox News’ Benjamin Brown and Bree Tracey contributed to this report, along with the Associated Press.
Kaitlyn Schallhorn is a Reporter for Fox News. Follow her on Twitter @K_Schallhorn.