Friday 22 September 2017

Trump Jr accused of 'potential treason'

Donald Trump Jr, pictured with wife Vanessa, hugs his father at the end of the 2016 Republican National Convention in Cleveland, Ohio. Photo: Reuters
Donald Trump Jr, pictured with wife Vanessa, hugs his father at the end of the 2016 Republican National Convention in Cleveland, Ohio. Photo: Reuters

Harriet Alexander in Washington

President Donald Trump's eldest son was last night accused of "potential treason" after emails showed that he was willing to embrace a Russian-backed effort to elect his father to the White House.

As Republicans sought to defend Mr Trump Jr, legal experts said he could have left himself open to criminal charges for conspiring to commit election fraud or soliciting information from a foreign adversary.

Russian lawyer Natalia Veselnitskaya. Photo: AP
Russian lawyer Natalia Veselnitskaya. Photo: AP

The emails were exchanged between Mr Trump Jr and Rob Goldstone, a British-born music publicist who set up a meeting with Kremlin-linked lawyer Natalia Veselnitskaya in June last year, two weeks after Donald Trump Sr secured the Republican presidential nomination.

'The New York Times' was about to publish the emails when Mr Trump Jr released them yesterday.

The messages are the most significant evidence yet to emerge in the investigations into allegations of collusion between the Trump campaign and Russian officials.

Mr Goldstone, representing Emin, the pop star son of Russian billionaire Aras Agalarov, said Emin wanted to get in touch with Mr Trump Jr, or Sr, to pass on the "incriminating" information on the Democrat rival.

Part of an email conversation between Donald Trump Jr and publicist Rob Goldstone in a Twitter message posted by the US president’s son yesterday. Photo: Reuters
Part of an email conversation between Donald Trump Jr and publicist Rob Goldstone in a Twitter message posted by the US president’s son yesterday. Photo: Reuters

Aras Algarov worked with the Trumps on the 2013 Miss Universe pageant in Moscow and is close to Vladimir Putin, the Russian president.

Seventeen minutes later, Mr Trump Jr replied: "If it's what you say I love it especially later in the summer."

He forwarded details of the exchange to Jared Kushner, Mr Trump's son-in-law and senior adviser, and Paul Manafort, then Mr Trump's campaign manager, who both attended the meeting with Ms Veselnitskaya, who had flown in from Moscow, at Trump Tower on June 9, 2016.

Earlier yesterday, Ms Veselnitskaya described the president's son as being desperate for information which would damage Mrs Clinton, saying they "wanted it so badly".

Ms Veselnitskaya was asked by NBC News why Mr Trump Jr was told she possessed compromising material.

"I never had any damaging or sensitive information about Hillary Clinton. It was never my intention to have that," she said.

"It is quite possible that maybe they were longing for such an information. They wanted it so badly that they could only hear the thought that they wanted."

Ms Veselnitskaya, who campaigns for the repeal of the Magnitsky Act - which imposed sanctions on senior associates of President Vladimir Putin - insisted that she did not work for the Russian government.

The email chain will become central to US Congress and special counsel investigations into potential collusion between Russia and the Trump campaign. It is probable that Mr Trump Jr, Mr Kushner and Mr Manafort will be required by Congress to reveal what was said at the meeting.

Lindsey Graham, a Republican senator, said: "I know Donald Trump Jr is new to politics, I know that Jared Kushner is new to politics, but this is going to require a lot of questions to be asked and answered.

"Any time you're in a campaign and you get offered from a foreign government to help your campaign, the answer is no. So I don't know what Mr Trump Jr's version of the facts are. Definitely he has to testify."

Former CIA operative Bob Baer said: "This is looking more and more like treason from a CIA officer's point of view."

Democrats called it a "smoking gun" and demanded to know what President Trump himself knew. The meeting took place a floor below his office on a day when he was in Trump Tower. The White House said he only found out about it a few days ago.

In a statement, Mr Trump said: "My son is a high-quality person and I applaud his transparency."

On Monday - before 'The New York Times' revealed that Mr Goldstone had sent the email before the meeting promising information as part of a Kremlin campaign - Mr Trump Jr's newly appointed lawyer, Alan Futerfas, said "that Don Jr had no knowledge as to what specific information, if any, would be discussed" in the meeting.

He called the reports "much ado about nothing", and noted that Ms Veselnitskaya was not a government official and had not been a prosecutor since 2001.

Mr Trump Jr earlier yesterday responded to the second day of 'New York Times' revelations. "Media & Dems are extremely invested in the Russia story," he tweeted. "If this nonsense meeting is all they have after a yr, I understand the desperation!" (© Daily Telegraph London)

Telegraph.co.uk

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