Donald Trump Jr. tried to come clean regarding his June 2016 meeting with Russian lawyer Natalia Veselnitskaya in an interview with Fox News' Sean Hannity on Tuesday. The reports about the meeting have triggered rumors of possible collusion between him and the Kremlin officials.
Trump Jr. publicly addressed the matter for the first time, since it surfaced, in one of the most anticipated interviews on the network. What also helped in building up the hype was Trump Jr.’s father President Donald Trump tweeting about the interview.
Trump Jr. expressed regret over the way the inconsequential meeting was blown out of proportion, stating if he was given another chance, he “probably would have done things a little differently."
"This [was] pre-Russia fever. This [was] pre-Russia mania," Trump Jr. told Hannity. "I don’t think my sirens went [off] or my antenna went up at this time because it wasn’t the issue that it’s been made out to be over the last nine months, ten months."
However, he defended his actions saying he wanted to see how things played out if he could get any useful information out of the conversation. Also, Trump Jr. added his meeting with Kremlin-connected lawyer was well before the alleged ties between the Trump campaign and Russian officials emerged, which meant he had no way of knowing the setup included anything other than damaging information about former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, his father’s opponent in the presidential race.
"My takeaway when all of this was going on is that someone has information on our opponent," he said on air. "This was 13 months ago, before I think the rest of the world was talking about that, trying to build up that narrative on Russia, so I don't even think my sirens went up, or the antennas went up, at this time because it wasn't, because it wasn't the issue that it's been made up to be over the last nine months, ten months."
Trump Jr. also put part of the blame for the incident, which he described as “a nothing,” on the music publicist Rob Goldstone for setting up meeting in the first place. He said Goldstone apologized to him for making him attend a 20-minute long meeting that did not yield any fruitful results.
"I think what happened [is] he sort of goosed up, he built up, there was some puffery to the email, perhaps to get the meeting, to make it happen," Trump Jr. said. "In the end, there was probably some bait-and-switch about what it was really supposed to be about."
Following the release of the emails that led to the controversial meeting, Trump supporters began tweeting out in support of Trump Jr. as he recounted his version of the course of events on Fox News. Most supporters praised the president’s son for not hiding or deleting his emails unlike Clinton had done during the presidential election.
Some social media users, however, objected that Trump Jr. chose Hannity’s show to defend him against the allegations of Russian collusion because the Fox News anchor is an ardent supporter of the president. Others pointed out Trump Jr. has no reason to hide his meeting with the Russian official.
Twitterati also pointed out Veselnitskaya was seen sitting behind former United States Ambassador to Russia Michael McFaul at the Foreign Affairs Committee Hearing on June 14, 2014.
Mcfaul tweeted out in defense saying he did not control the sitting arrangements at the hearing.