On Monday, Donald Trump Jr. offered his first defense of the Trump Tower meeting in months. Appearing on Fox News host Laura Ingraham's radio show, Trump Jr. responded to new questions raised by a tweet in which President Trump conceded explicitly for the first time that the purpose of the meeting with a Kremlin-aligned Russian lawyer was opposition research on Democrats.
Most have focused on the fact that Trump Jr. claimed his line cut out when he was asked about the Trump team's contradictions. But buried within his answers were some worthwhile nuggets — and questionable claims — about how he's defending the meeting today, more than one year after it was first revealed. Trump Jr. reiterated that the meeting was primarily about adoption, as his misleading first statement about it claimed, and said the oppo research promise was merely a “bait and switch.” He also compared his decision to take the meeting to members of Congress meeting with the lawyer Natalia Veselnitskaya, without noting the key difference — that he took the meeting seeking information that very likely would have been illegal to accept.
Below is a full transcript of that section of the interview, with the key parts highlighted and annotated. To see an annotation, click on the yellow text.
INGRAHAM: I want to play something for you, and you can respond to it. This is what they’re all focused on now — supposed contradictions in the Trump Tower meeting. Let’s listen.
(BEGIN AUDIO CLIPS)
PRESIDENT TRUMP: Politics is not the nicest business in the world. It’s very standard where they have information and you take the information. In the case of Don, he listened. I guess they talked about, as I see it, they talked about adoption and some things.
SEAN SPICER: There was nothing, as far as we know, that would lead anyone to believe that there was anything except for a discussion about adoption and the Magnitsky Act.
JAY SEKULOW: The president didn’t sign off on anything. He was coming back from the [Group of 20 summit]. The statement that was released on Saturday was released by Donald Trump Jr., I’m sure in consultation with his lawyers.
(END AUDIO CLIPS)
INGRAHAM: Do you want any comments on that, Donny, because they’re hitting you on that for contradictions. I mean, they’re calling it worse than contradictions, obviously.
TRUMP JR.: Hello?
INGRAHAM: Donny, what is your reaction to all that.
. . .
INGRAHAM: Donny, I don’t know, we lost you there.
TRUMP JR.: They started playing the recording, and then they got cut off.
INGRAHAM: No, sorry about that. But this is typical — this is typical of the left. Hillary Cl — I was just saying, Hillary Clinton pays for this Russian dossier and, as far as I can tell, has never come clean about that, never been held accountable for that. We know all the shenanigans at the FBI. And now it’s, "Oh, was it the Magnitsky Act?" "Was it dirt on Hillary?" "Who consulted?" "Who wrote the statement?" I just want to give you an opportunity to address all that.
TRUMP JR.: It's sort of the cycles of the media narrative, right? The other stuff isn't sticking, so they're back now. Tomorrow they’ll be back on the 25th Amendment. Literally nothing’s changed, forever. They don't talk about the genesis of that meeting and that these people were dealing with Fusion GPS before and after the meeting, et cetera, et cetera. Like I said, it was a 20-minute meeting. It ended up being about essentially nothing that was relevant to any of these things. And that's all it is, and that's all they've got. And that is, I guess, the ultimate distraction from what's really going on in this country, which is you have a Republican president, a very conservative president, who's getting stuff done. And they can’t handle that. They will do anything they can to try to stop that, to try to block that, to try to prevent that from happening. So this is just another distraction when, again, when after two years of nonstop investigation with everyone in the media, everyone in the FBI, everyone in this — whoever. The whole world is looking at this; they have yet to produce anything that remotely resembles what they’ve been talking about. And yet every day, "Oh, my God! We got it now! Now, you know, we found the needle in the haystack." I mean, I’ve been hearing this for two years, so —
INGRAHAM: But Donny, did the issue of adoption — which is near and dear to my heart, because I have two Russian adopted sons —
TRUMP JR.: I know. We’ve spoken about it.
INGRAHAM: Did that come up?
TRUMP JR.: When?
INGRAHAM: In the meeting with Veselnitskaya.
TRUMP JR.: Like I said, that was the primary thing that we had spoken about in the meeting. That’s not the premise that got them in the room. And then they started — it was essentially a bait and switch to talk about that. And everyone has basically said that in testimony already. I mean, so this is nothing new. And like I said, I know that is an important issue to you and near and dear to many people’s hearts, but this is nothing that was a campaign issue to us. This wasn’t relevant to us, and it wasn’t something that we were going to do anything with.
INGRAHAM: Well, that Magnitsky Act — just so people who don’t understand what this is — Magnitsky Act was passed after this Russian lawyer who represented this guy, Bill Browder, the claim was he was tortured in prison by the Russians. So Browder got Congress to pass this act which put all these sanctions on these Russian oligarchs. So a lot of these Russian oligarchs still want to do business in the country. You know, you’ve got all these Chinese doing business in the United States, but the Russian oligarchs can’t do it. So they want to get rid of this Magnitsky Act. What Putin says is, you get rid of that, I’ll allow Americans to adopt Russians again — Russian children. That was his tit for tat. When Magnitsky passed, he got rid of adoption for Americans. So that’s why it would come up — because of the Magnitsky Act. But Donny, the whole focus here is whether this was some conspiracy to work with Russia to undermine the election.
TRUMP JR.: It’s ridiculous. It’s ridiculous. They don’t talk about this same lawyer being in virtually half of Congress’s — on both sides, probably — half of Congress’s, their offices — basically, she’s lobbying. She didn’t do that to us. She didn’t tell us that that’s what’s going on, but that’s what it was an attempt to do. And there’s really nothing beyond that. Now they’ve gotten plenty of mileage out of this thing, and they’re going to keep milking it for as long as they possibly can. But it’s essentially a big waste of time, and I imagine after two years they would have come up with something if there was anything real there.
TRUMP JR.: It’s a one-way mouthpiece. They just yell into the mic, and keep saying it and saying it and saying it, and hoping something will come from it.
INGRAHAM: And Veselnitskaya — Donny, you probably know this, but my listeners might not — if this was such an important meeting, Veselnitskaya said, "Oh, I’ll come and talk to anyone anytime." They’ve never interviewed her. Why have they — if it was so important, why have they never interviewed her? I find that to be very curious.
TRUMP JR.: And she’s given written testimony, and everyone else in the meeting has either done that or testified themselves — all saying the same thing. So, again, it’s a very convenient sound bite. I’m sure they’ll milk it for another couple more years. And in the end, nothing’s going to come of it.