President Donald Trump took time out of his visit to France to defend his eldest son, saying Donald Trump Jr.’s meeting with a Russian lawyer during last year’s presidential campaign involved routing political “opposition research” and was one that “most people would have taken.”
“But nothing happened from the meeting,” the president said. “Zero happened from the meeting. And honestly, I think the press made a very big deal over something that really a lot of people would do.”
Speaking during a joint news conference with French President Emmanuel Macron, Trump also tried to shift the focus of the flap to the Obama administration, saying that former Attorney General Loretta Lynch approved the paperwork that allowed the lawyer, Natalia Veselnitskaya, to enter the country.
“I see that she was in the halls of Congress, also,” Trump said. “Somebody said that her visa or her passport to come into the country was approved by Attorney General Lynch. Maybe that’s wrong. I just heard that a little while ago. But we were surprised to hear that. So she was here because of Lynch.”
It was the president’s most detailed remarks since his son, Donald Trump Jr., released emails revealing that he had met with Veselnitskaya last year after an entertainment publicist hold him the lawyer had damaging information about Hillary Clinton that came from the Russian government.
“It was a short meeting,” President Trump said. “It was a meeting that went very, very quickly, very fast. Two other people were in the room. I guess one of them left almost immediately, and the other one was not really focused on the meeting.
“I do think this. I think from a practical standpoint most people would have taken that meeting. It’s called opposition research or even research into your opponent. I’ve had many people — I’ve only been in politics for two years — but I’ve had many people call up, ‘Oh gee, we have information on this factor or that person or, frankly, Hillary.’ 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.”
The president’s remarks echoed the defense his son gave of the meeting, which also was attended by former campaign chairman Paul Manafort and presidential son-in-law Jared Kushner.
Donald Trump Jr. characterized the information as potential opposition research that didn’t pan out.
“So again. I have a son who is a great young man — he’s a fine person — took a meeting with a lawyer from Russia,” the president said. “It lasted for a very short period. And nothing came of the meeting. And I think it’s a meeting that most people in politics probably would have taken.”