On Tuesday, First Son Donald Trump Jr. released on Twitter an email chain between himself and an acquaintance who wanted to set up a meeting between Trump Jr. and a Russian lawyer who claimed to have incriminating information on then-Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton.
Trump's tweet came two minutes before The New York Times published a story on the same email chain and ignited a firestorm of debate about the ethical and legal nature of the meeting.
That night, Trump Jr. appeared on Fox News's “Hannity” to answer questions from host Sean Hannity about the apparent scandal.
The meeting wasn't scandalous by origin
Music publicist Rob Goldstone, whom Trump Jr. said he considers an “acquaintance,” sent him an email relaying that Azerbaijani-Russian billionaire Aras Agalarov had information regarding Clinton, and that Agalarov's son, Emin, was open to giving that information to the Trump family.
“Someone has information on our opponent,” Trump Jr. told Hannity. He said he first thought, “Hey, wait a minute I've heard about all these things, but maybe this is something. I should hear him out.”
He decided to be open to hearing the guy out because he considered the meeting nothing more than “opposition research.”
Trump told Hannity he “didn't know anything about it at the time” and accepted the meeting with Russian lawyer Natalia Veselnitskaya as a courtesy to Goldstone. He explained that he had no idea what the information she had was, but speculated it would be in regard to one of the various scandals he'd already read about in the newspaper.
Nothing came from it
According to both Trump and Veselnitskaya, the meeting ended up being about nothing having to do with Clinton. He claimed it's possible Goldstone “built up” the meeting to “make it happen.”
He corroborated Veselnitskaya's claim that brother-in-law and campaign adviser Jared Kushner left after a few minutes when it became clear they weren't going to receive any information relevant to Clinton.
The first son shared that the only tidbit of information even partially relevant to the campaign was that “some [Democratic National Committee] donors may have done something in Russia and they didn't pay taxes,” which, in “light of everything that was out there,” was useless.
Trump and Goldstein have both come out and said that the meeting was a “wasted 20 minutes,” and that Goldstein apologized to Trump for the lack of what transpired.
He claimed he didn't tell his father about the meeting because “there was nothing to tell.”
Dates of the emails are important
The Trump family's alleged collusion with Russia has repeatedly been at the center of the news cycle, so it's understandable people would be skeptical about why Trump Jr. would even engage in an email that mentioned the Russian government's preference toward his father.
However, he reminded people about the dates on the emails, which gives an “element of context” for why the communication took place. He told Hannity:
“This is pre-Russia fever, this is pre-Russia mania ... before the rest of the world ... was trying to build up this Russia narrative. I don't even think my sirens went up or the antennas went up at this time ... because it wasn't the issue it was made out to be over the last nine months, 10 months.”
Hindsight is 20/20
While nothing came from the meeting, now that it's raised all sorts of questions. Trump Jr. admitted if he could do it over again, he wouldn't necessarily do it exactly the same way.
Given that the Trump-Russia story is far different than it was 13 months ago when the meeting took place, he explained, “In retrospect, I would have done things a bit differently ... but hindsight is 20/20.”
“This is the first time we've ever done any of this. I'm still way in the learning curve on all of this,” Trump said.
However, he added that if the meeting had resulted in anything “shady” or “a danger to national security” he would have brought it to someone at once, but didn't because it was “nothing.”
Trump has publicly said that he is more than willing to cooperate and provide any necessary documentation, which he reaffirmed during his interview with Hannity.