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Donald Trump Jr. likely to face questions on Russian contacts from House panel

Lawmakers probing potential collusion between Russia and the Trump campaign will question Trump Jr. about his direct contacts with Kremlin-connected officials.
Image: Donald Trump Jr. listens to a speech on the first day of the Republican National Convention
Donald Trump Jr. listens to a speech on the first day of the Republican National Convention on July 18, 2016 in Cleveland, Ohio.John Moore / Getty Images file

WASHINGTON — Lawmakers probing potential collusion between Russia and the Trump presidential campaign will question the president’s son about his direct contacts with Kremlin-connected officials Wednesday, in the first of two expected interviews before congressional intelligence committees.

Donald Trump Jr.’s appearance before members of the House Intelligence Committee follows a September meeting with the Senate Judiciary Committee in which he said he agreed to meet in June 2016 with a Russian lawyer at Trump Tower in hopes of obtaining information about Hillary Clinton’s “fitness, character or qualifications,” though he denied ever colluding with the Russian government in the campaign.

NBC News reported Tuesday that the lawyer, Natalia Veselnitskaya, told the Senate Judiciary Committee that Trump Jr. asked for evidence of illegal donations to the Clinton Foundation, information she said she did not have. Trump seemed to lose interest in the conversation at that point, she told the panel in a 51-page statement in which she also denied working for the Russian government.

Related: Donald Trump Jr. asked Russian lawyer for info on Clinton Foundation

Trump Jr. will also likely face questions about a May 2016 meeting with another Russian with Kremlin ties, Alexander Torshin, at private dinner during a National Rifle Association convention in Kentucky. Trump Jr.’s lawyer has confirmed that the two spoke but characterized the encounter as brief small talk.

Rep. Michael Conaway, R-Texas, the lead Republican in the House Intelligence Committee’s Russia probe, told NBC Tuesday that he expected lawmakers will ask “all the questions that are appropriate” about the Trump Tower and Torshin meetings.

The Senate Intelligence Committee is also expected to interview Trump Jr. soon, though a date has not been identified yet.

Conaway said he did not see the panel shifting its focus one week after former National Security Adviser Michael Flynn agreed to cooperate with special counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation of potential Russian collusion, saying the scope of their inquiry did not include Trump officials’ conduct during the transition period or once arriving at the White House.

“The Flynn issue post-dates most of the stuff we’re looking at,” Conaway said. “We’re not doing anything with obstruction, we’re not doing anything with all of that. … That’s up to Mueller.”

The committee has, though, been provided with additional potential leads to pursue about the nexus between Trump and Russian entities. During a committee interview with the firm behind a 35-page dossier on then-candidate Trump last month, a Fusion GPS official not only stood by its claims but provided additional leads about Russian money flowing to Trump real estate projects, particularly those overseas, according to two sources present for the interview.

Trump Jr. continues to oversee the family’s real estate business.

In response to questions from Senate investigators, Veselnitskaya also acknowledged that she worked with Glenn Simpson, a former Wall Street Journal reporter and co-founder of Fusion GPS, in a separate investigation of hedge fund investor Bill Browder, the accountant for Sergei Magnitsky, whose death spurred Congress to pass a law restricting Russians’ access to the U.S. banking system.

Months after that closed-door meeting with the Senate Judiciary Committee, Sen. Richard Blumenthal, D-Conn., on Tuesday asked Chairman Chuck Grassley, R-Iowa, to subpoena Trump Jr. for public testimony, saying he has failed to fully comply with the panel’s subsequent document requests. Blumenthal, in a letter to Grassley, points to new disclosures since the committee’s previous interview including his exchange of messages with WikiLeaks that had not been provided to the committee but were in the scope of its requests.