What you need to know about Trump Jr.’s closed-door hearing with the House Intelligence Committee, Dec 6.
On Wednesday, Dec 6, Donald Trump Jr. testified before the House Intelligence Committee in a closed-door session regarding any direct contact with Russian officials during the 2016 US presidential campaign.
According to Committee Democrats, most of the 8-hour interview revolved around the younger Trump’s notorious meeting with Russian lawyer Natalia Veselnitskaya at Trump Tower June of 2016, though some questions focused on Trump Jr.’s correspondence with WikiLeaks.
The Meeting at Trump Tower
On June 9, 2016, Donald Trump Jr. met with a Russian lawyer at Trump Tower, accompanied by President Donald Trump’s former campaign chair Paul Manafort, and White House Chief Strategist, and son-in-law to President Trump, Jared Kushner.
Trump Jr. had gone into the meeting expecting to receive information on Hillary Clinton that would contribute to his father’s election victory. However, when it became evident that Ms. Veselnitskaya’s motives for arranging the meeting concerned other matters, Trump Jr. seemed to lose interest, according to Veselnitskaya’s testimony before the United States Senate Committee on the Judiciary on Nov 20.
The meeting between Donald Trump Jr. and Russian lawyer Natalia Veselnitskaya was arranged through an exchange of emails between publicist Rob Goldstone and the younger Trump, which Trump Jr. later posted publicly to his Twitter account.
After the email exchanges went public, younger and elder Donald Trump had a conversation regarding the meeting, according to Rep. Adam Schiff, who attended the Wednesday hearing.
At the closed-door meeting yesterday, Trump Jr. told House investigators that he spoke with White House Communications Director Hope Hicks to request help in crafting a response to the initial reports following news reports about the meeting at Trump Tower. Trump Jr. claims that at the time, President Trump was debating between a longer and a shorter statement while Trump and Hicks were aboard Air Force One.
Younger Trump cites attorney-client privilege
According to Trump Jr., President Trump was not alerted of the meeting between Trump campaign officials and Russian lawyer Natalia Veselnitskaya when it happened, but the two had a conversation regarding the events after the meeting went public.
When questioned about details concerning the conversation between himself and President Trump, Donald Trump Jr. refused to provide details and invoked attorney-client privilege because of the presence of attorneys during the exchange with his father, according to California representative Adam Schiff.
Attorney-client privilege is “a legal privilege that works to keep communications between an attorney and his or her client secret,” according to Cornell Law School. The privilege is usually only exercised in cases where a lawyer is called to testify or give evidence about client communications.
According to Shiff, the conversation between younger and elder Donald Trump in the aftermath of the publication of the emails focused more on public reactions to the events than anything else.
“As I understand it, this particular conversation for which they were claiming privilege took place after the emails became public, and, was therefore focused more on the reaction to the publication of the emails,” Schiff stated.
However, in regards to Trump Jr.’s invocation of the attorney-client privilege, Schiff stated that he did not believe it was possible to “shield communications between individuals merely by having an attorney present.”
According to Business Insider, Democratic members of the House Intelligence Committee viewed their closed-door interview with Donald Trump Jr. to be largely unhelpful to their ongoing investigation of Russian interference in the 2016 US election. Republican members, however, said that they felt that Donald Trump Jr. had been forthcoming, according to a report by the New York Times.