Key U.S. lawmakers investigating charges of Russian meddling in the 2016 election want Donald Trump, Jr. to testify about his June 2016 meeting at Trump Tower in New York with a Russian lawyer thought to have information that could damage Democrat Hillary Clinton’s campaign.
“The revelation that the Trump Campaign eagerly intended to possibly collude with Russia is deeply disturbing,” Democratic House minority leader Nancy Pelosi tweeted Thursday.
Besides his eldest son, President Donald Trump’s son-in-law, Jared Kushner, 36, is expected to testify in closed session. Democrat lawmakers are also demanding that Kushner, a senior adviser to the president, be stripped of his security clearance.
“There doesn’t seem to be any ethical standard in the White House,” Pelosi tweeted. “Jared Kushner’s security clearance must be immediately revoked.”
Trump Jr. asked to testify
Even some members of Trump’s own Republican Party have said it would be in the president’s best interest if he removed all of his children from the White House, including Kushner, who is married to the president’s eldest daughter Ivanka.
In Washington, Sen. Charles Grassley (R-IA), chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee, sent a letter to the younger Trump asking him to testify about his June 2016 meeting with Russian lawyer, Natalia Veselnitskaya. Donald Trump Jr. has said he is willing to testify voluntarily, but Grassley said he would be subpoenaed if need be.
Grassley said no questions would be off limits as the panel investigates what the U.S. intelligence community has concluded was Moscow’s election interference personally directed by Russian President Vladimir Putin.
Democratic Sen. Chris Coons said, “I look forward to asking Donald Trump Jr. what the heck he was thinking in embracing a meeting with someone who said they were representing one of our foremost adversaries in the world?”
Grassley’s committee is one of several congressional panels investigating the Trump campaign’s links with Russia, while Special Counsel Robert Mueller, a former FBI director, is heading a criminal probe into the election interference and whether the president obstructed justice by firing another FBI director, James Comey, while he was heading the Russia probe before Mueller took over.
The leader of the Republican majority in the House of Representatives, Speaker Paul Ryan, urged the younger Trump to honor Grassley’s request that he testify.
“I think any witness who’s been asked to testify in Congress should do that,” Ryan said.
Watch: Trump Defends Outreach to Russia and His Son Donald Jr.
Trump: 'Most people would have taken that meeting'
Speaking to reporters jointly with French President Emmanuel Macron Thursday in Paris, Trump defended his eldest son’s meeting with Veselnitskaya last year.
“I think from a practical standpoint, most people would have taken that meeting,” Trump said Thursday of Donald Trump Jr.’s decision to talk with the lawyer after being told by an intermediary that she was a Russian government attorney and would offer him material as part of Moscow’s election support of Trump.
“It’s called opposition research or even research into your opponent. That’s very standard in politics; politics is not the nicest business in the world but it’s very standard where they have information and you take the information,” Trump said as he stood alongside French President Emmanuel Macron at a Paris news conference.
Trump, who is facing months of investigations in the U.S. about his aides’ contacts with Russians during his run to the White House, said, “Nothing happened from the meeting, zero happened from the meeting, and honestly I think the press made a very big deal over something that really a lot of people will do.
“As far as my son is concerned, my son is a wonderful young man,” Trump said. “He took a meeting with a Russian lawyer, not a government lawyer, but a Russian lawyer. It was a short meeting, it was a meeting that went very, very quickly; very fast.”
Trump was asked whether he agreed with Christopher Wray, his nominee to head the Federal Bureau of Investigation, that his son should have called FBI investigators when offered the meeting because it was supposedly coming from a foreign adversary, Russia. But Trump simply praised his appointment of Wray.