Trump Lawyer Says President Was Unaware of Son's Russia Emails, as Kremlin Denies Connection

Image: President Donald Trump's attorney Jay Sekulow
President Donald Trump's attorney Jay Sekulow is interviewed on TODAY.NBC News

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/ Source: NBC News
By Rachel Elbaum and Mansur Mirovalev

President Donald Trump only saw for the first time on Tuesday emails offering his eponymous son information about Hillary Clinton during the 2016 election, his lawyer asserted on the TODAY Show Wednesday.

“You know when the president saw the email? When everyone else did,” the president’s personal attorney, Jay Sekulow, said. He also said that Trump did not attend the June 9, 2016, meeting between Russian lawyer Natalia Veselnitskaya and his son that took place in Trump Tower.

President Trump told Reuters on Wednesday that he had no problem with the meeting.

"I think many people would have held that meeting," Trump said. "It was a 20-minute meeting, I guess, from what I’m hearing. Many people, and many political pros, said everybody would do that."

On Tuesday, Trump Jr. released via twitter the chain of emails with music publicist Rob Goldstone, who wrote that the attorney has “information that would incriminate Hillary and her dealings with Russia and would be very useful to your father.”

Sekulow also insisted that no laws had been broken by Trump’s son.

“We know what the facts are now,” said Sekulow. “The chain of emails are out there. Under that scenario there is no violation of any law. There’s no statue that’s even in play."

“This was a 20 minute meeting,” he added. “It was opposition research. We are acting like that doesn’t ever happen.”

Related: Did Trump Jr. Break Laws When He Met Russian Lawyer Veselnitskaya?

But past Republican campaign operatives have said that Trump Jr.'s willingness to meet with someone with information said to be from Russia was indeed out of the ordinary.

"Umm, Jr., i have worked on over 100 campaigns and it is first time i have heard of someone meeting w/ foreign adversary to get oppo. [opposition research]," wrote Matthew Dowd, who worked on President George W. Bush's 2004 election campaign, on Monday on Twitter.

Nicole Wallace, who also worked with Bush and is now an MSNBC host, responded in agreement:

"I second that. I handled oppo - not exactly the high minded side of campaigning, but a reality - but never ever from a foreign adversary," she replied on Twitter.

Meanwhile, Dmitry Peskov, a spokesman for the Kremlin, stressed Wednesday that Veselnitskaya did not represent Russia.

"A lawyer represents the Russian state if he participates in a case on behalf of the Russian state, where the Russian state acts as plaintiff or defendant, and in this case there was nothing like that," Peskov said. "That's why the question, the wording is inappropriate and absurd."

Veselnitskaya represents wealthy Russians, and is the go-to lawyer for the Moscow regional government, The New York Times reported in a bio piece on her Wednesday.

In early morning tweets Wednesday, Trump praised and defended his son.

“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!" the president posted

In his first interview after the revelations in the media, Trump Jr. said on Tuesday on Fox News Channel that “in retrospect, I probably would have done things a little differently.”

He added that he may have had conversations with other Russians as well.

Trump Jr. claimed he released his emails on Twitter because wanted to be “totally transparent” and dismissed the significance of the emails and meeting.

But a deputy managing editor for The New York Times said the emails were only made public by Trump Jr. after he was informed the paper was publishing a story about them.

Trump Jr. expressed no discomfort in the email chain that the information may be coming from the Russian government.

Veselnitskaya told NBC News on Tuesday in an exclusive interview that the purpose of the meeting with Trump Jr. was to discuss U.S. sanctions against Russia and she did not have any dirt on the Clinton campaign.

"I never had any damaging or sensitive information about Hillary Clinton. It was never my intention to have that," said Veselnitskaya, who also denied any connection to the Kremlin.

She added, however, that Trump Jr. was interested in information she had about a company she believes donated to the Democratic National Committee.

“The question that I was asked was as follows: whether I had any financial records which might prove that the funds used to sponsor the D.N.C. were coming from inappropriate sources," she said.

Congressmen, including Republicans, were quick to react on Tuesday to Trump Jr.’s emails.

“I voted for @POTUS last Nov. & want him & USA to succeed, but that meeting, given that email chain just released, is a big no-no,” tweeted Lee Zeldin, R-New York.

Adam Schiff of California, the top Democrat on the House Intelligence Committee, told reporters that he'll ask to interview Trump Jr., as well as anyone else connected to the meeting with Veselnitskaya.

"I think you have direct evidence that the Russian government had damaging information, communicated that to the campaign, and all of the campaign denials ... obviously now need to be viewed in a completely different context," he said.

Clinton's running mate during the 2016 election, Sen. Tim Kaine, D-Virginia, said the emails show that the scope of the investigation has grown.

"We're now beyond obstruction of justice, in terms of what's being investigated. This is moving into perjury, false statements and even into potentially treason," Kaine said.

A former Clinton campaign official, who no longer speaks for her, called latest revelations "the SNL [Saturday Night Live] version of what we always suspected was going on."

Kristen Welker contributed.