President Trump said Wednesday that he was not aware of his son Donald Trump Jr.'s meeting last year with a Russian lawyer but that he does not blame him for the ensuing controversy, which has thrust the White House back into a cloud of questions surrounding the Trump campaign's interactions with Russia in 2016.
“I think many people would have held that meeting,” Trump said in an interview with Reuters on Wednesday, adding that he only learned about his eldest son's meeting in June of last year “a couple of days ago.”
The meeting, first reported by the New York Times, showed Trump Jr.'s willingness to accept what he believed to be potentially incriminating information about Hillary Clinton from Natalia Veselnitskaya, a lawyer identified in an email as a “Russian government attorney.”
In the interview with Reuters, the president also said that he pressed Russian President Vladimir Putin for the first 20 to 25 minutes of a more than two-hour private meeting last Friday at the Group of 20 summit in Germany about possible Russian interference in the U.S. presidential election, directly asking Putin whether his country had meddled.
“I said, 'Did you do it?' " Trump said. “And he said, 'No, I did not. Absolutely not.' I then asked him a second time in a totally different way. He said absolutely not.”
But Trump also added, according to a tweet from Reuters, that he did not necessarily trust Putin's denial. Asked whether he believed Putin's claim that Russia had not tried to interfere in the 2016 U.S. election, Trump said: “Something happened; we have to find out what it is.”
Though Trump has said “I think it could very well have been Russia” that interfered in the 2016 elections, he's also proven unwilling to forcefully blame Russia, saying he thinks it also could have been “other countries” or even a 400-pound man living in his parents' basement.
Earlier Wednesday, Trump defended his eldest — and namesake — son on Twitter, saying Trump Jr., who offered his version of events in an interview with Fox News's Sean Hannity on Tuesday night, had done “a good job” on television and was “open, transparent and innocent.”