President Donald Trump has praised the transparency shown by his eldest son, Donald Jr, in releasing emails where he said “I love it” to what he had been told was an attempt by the Russian government to undermine Hillary Clinton’s presidential election campaign.
Mr Trump’s defence of his son comes despite the fact that the emails increase the pressure on the White House over a number of investigations into potential ties between the Trump team and Russia. The release of the emails, via Mr Trump Jr’s Twitter account, appear to have been forced by the fact that reporters were lining up a story disclosing the contents of the messages, amid a mounting controversy about his previously undisclosed meeting last summer with Russian lawyer Natalia Veselnitskaya, who has been linked to the Kremlin.
While President Trump called his son a “high quality person” in a statement read out by White House spokeswoman Sarah Huckabee Sanders, Democrats jumped on the revelation, calling the emails “explosive”. A number of Democrats also claimed that the messages prove there was collusion between the Trump campaign and Russia as part of attempts by Moscow to meddle in the 2016 presidential election – something the White House has repeatedly denied.
Meanwhile, in an interview with Fox News on Tuesday evening, Mr Trump Jr insisted his father had not been made aware of the meeting. “I wouldn’t have even remembered it until you started scouring through this stuff,” he said. “It was literally just a wasted 20 minutes, which was a shame.”
But he added that with hindsight, he “probably would have done things a little differently”.
Accusations of potential co-operation between the Trump campaign team and Russia, over what a number of US intelligence services have said was hacking of the election with the aim of helping Mr Trump into the White House, have dogged the President’s first few months in office. A number of Congressional and FBI investigations into the hacking and any potential links to team Trump are underway – with the latest revelations sure to pile more pressure onto the President.
Both the Senate and House intelligence committees have said they want to speak to Mr Trump Jr, and examine the emails, while the team of Justice Department Special Counsel Robert Mueller, who has taken over the FBI investigation, is also planning to study both the meeting and the emails, according to a report by CNN.
Investigators have been searching for a “smoking gun” over the contacts…