WASHINGTON — After setting up a meeting with Russian agents to discuss what he thought would be incriminating information on Hillary Clinton in June 2016, Donald Trump Jr. made an 11-minute phone call to a blocked phone number, according to a transcript of his interview with Senate investigators released Wednesday.
Trump Jr. says he can't remember who he spoke to that night. But his father, now President Trump, used a blocked phone number at his home at the time, according to former campaign manager Corey Lewandowski.
At a rally the next day, the presidential candidate alluded to information his campaign was gathering on Hillary Clinton. He said he was planning to give a “major speech” the following week “discussing all of the things that have taken place with the Clintons," he said.
“I think you’re going to find it very informative and very, very interesting,” Trump said. “I wonder if the press will want to attend, who knows.”
Whether or not President Trump knew about his son's meeting with Russians is one of the central unanswered questions in a wide-ranging investigations into possible Russian collusion in the 2016 presidential election.
Interviews with the Senate Judiciary Committee could not answer that question conclusively, as Trump Jr. said he couldn't remember whether he talked to his father about it.
But the documents released Wednesday laid out in greater detail the potentially damaging information Russian attorney Natalia Veselnitskaya was shopping to the Trump campaign at the meeting.
Rinat Akhmetshin, a Russian lobbyist who attended the meeting, told the committee Veselnitskaya wanted to discuss an alleged $880 million tax scheme involving investors who also contributed to the Democratic National Committee or the Clinton campaign.
The meeting offer came from Rob Goldstone, a music publicist who represented Russian singer Emin Agalarov.
Goldstone promised Trump Jr. "official documents and information that would incriminate Hillary and her dealings with Russia and would be very useful to your father," according to emails obtained by the Senate Judiciary Committee.
"If it's what you say I love it especially later in the summer," Trump Jr. emailed back.
In his closed-door Senate testimony, Trump Jr. explained what he meant by that. "It was a colloquial term used to say, hey, great, thank you," he said.
But ultimately, the June 9, 2016 meeting at Trump Tower ended up being about the adoption of Russian children by American couples, which the Russian government blocked in response to U.S. sanctions passed by Congress in the Magnitsky Act.
Trump Jr. and his brother-in-law — now White House senior adviser Jared Kushner — were visibly annoyed by the discussion of the Magnitsky Act, Goldstone told the committee. He said that Kushner in particular was "agitated" and "infuriated"
But Trump Jr. told the committee he didn't regret taking the meeting.
"To the extent that they had information concerning the fitness, character, or qualifications of any presidential candidate, I believed that I should at least hear them out," Trump Jr. said in his prepared testimony to the committee.
"The meeting provided no meaningful information and turned out to be not about what was represented. The meeting was instead primarily focused on Russian adoptions, which is exactly what I said over a year later in my statement of July 8, 2017," he said.
But that statement — crafted in part by President Trump himself — neglected to mention that he attended the meeting expecting to get damaging information on Clinton.
Trump Jr. said he worked with the White House to draft the statement, but that he communicated through Hope Hicks, who was then the White House's director of strategic communications.
"I never spoke to my father about it," he said. "She asked if I wanted to actually speak to him, and I chose not to because I didn't want to bring him into something that he had nothing to do with."
The Senate Judiciary Committee interviewed 12 people in its investigation of the Trump Tower meeting, and Chairman Chuck Grassley, R-Iowa, ordered the release of six transcripts Wednesday. Two witnesses, Kushner and Trump campaign chairman Paul Manafort, declined to testify.
Trump Jr. said Wednesday that he cooperated fully with the investigation. "The public can now see that for over five hours I answered every question asked and was candid and forthright with the committee," he said in a statement.