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Trump calls son caught up in Russia scandal 'transparent, innocent'

TRUMP CALLS SON CAUGHT UP IN RUSSIA SCANDAL TRANSPARENT, INNOCENT

US President Donald Trump said Wednesday on Twitter that his son Donald Trump Jr, who met with a Russian lawyer last year, is "open, transparent and innocent."

In 2016, Trump Jr met with Russian lawyer Natalia Veselnitskaya, who apparently had damaging information about his father's rival presidential candidate Hillary Clinton.

Also present at that meeting were Jared Kushner, Trump's son-in-law, and Paul Manafort, Trump's then-campaign manager.

The Trump camp has consistently claimed over the past year that no one associated with the campaign had any contacts with Russians that were seeking to influence the election.

The younger Trump said in a Tuesday interview with Fox News that the June 2016 encounter amounted to "nothing ... literally just a wasted 20 minutes."

He said he did not tell his father about the meeting because "there was nothing to tell."

"My son Donald did a good job last night. He was open, transparent and innocent. This is the greatest Witch Hunt in political history. Sad!" President Trump tweeted on Wednesday.

Trump Jr's interview followed his release earlier in the day of an email exchange with intermediary Rob Goldstone, a music publicist, offering him "some official documents and information" against Clinton that "would be very useful to your father."

"If it's what you say I love it especially later in the summer," Trump Jr responded within minutes.

The email exchange shows that the meeting was eventually set up to take place on June 9, 2016, in Trump Tower, five months before the election his father won.

The initial email from Goldstone said the source of the documents was Russian justice officials.

Trump Jr only released the emails after the New York Times revealed details about the meeting with Veselnitskaya and also reported some of the emails' contents.

The exchange shows for the first time that some members of the Trump campaign were willing to accept Russian help.

Trump Jr said in a statement that he released the emails in an effort to be "totally transparent."

Trump praised his eldest son's decision to release the emails.

"My son is a high-quality person and I applaud his transparency," Trump said in a statement read by White House spokeswoman.

Meanwhile, the Kremlin said Wednesday that the allegations of unlawful collusion with Russia surrounding the Trump team have been unfolding like a soap opera.

"It definitely looks like a long-running soap opera that can compete with the most successful TV series currently aired in the United States," Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said in comments carried by state news agency TASS.

Peskov emphasized, however, that Russia would have nothing to do with the drama: "We are not taking part or playing roles in it."

He reiterated that the Kremlin has been in no way connected with the Veselnitskaya, saying it "has never been in contact with this lawyer."

Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said at a press conference in Brussels that "today I turned on the TV and all the Western channels were talking only about this."

"It's striking how serious people can make a mountain out of a molehill," Lavrov said. "And maybe there wasn't even a molehill to begin with."

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