Trump doesn't blame his oldest son for meeting with Russian lawyer

Timeline leading to Trump Jr.-Russia meeting
Timeline leading to Trump Jr.-Russia meeting

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    Timeline leading to Trump Jr.-Russia meeting

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Timeline leading to Trump Jr.-Russia meeting 02:49

Story highlights

  • "I think many people would have held that meeting," Trump told Reuters
  • "This isn't a question of defense. I didn't do anything," Trump said

Washington (CNN)President Donald Trump repeatedly defended his oldest son's meeting with a Russian lawyer in an interview with Reuters on Wednesday, saying that "many people would have held that meeting."

The meeting, despite Trump's dismissals, has rocked the White House, leading special counsel Robert Mueller's probe to look into Donald Trump Jr.'s meeting and connections with Natalia Veselnitskaya, a lawyer described to Trump's son in an email as a "Russian government lawyer" with information that was part of the country's effort to help elect his father.
"I think many people would have held that meeting," Trump told Reuters. "And you have to understand, when that took place, this was before Russia fever. There was no Russia fever back then, that was at the beginning of the campaign, more or less. There was no Russia fever."
Trump, while dismissing the meeting as a gathering where someone "comes in, sits, leaves, quickly," said he didn't know about the meeting "until a couple of days ago."
    He added: "Many people, and many political pros, said everybody would do that."
    Trump's interview came a day before the President landed in Paris for the third foreign trip of his presidency and his second in less than a week.
    Trump, standing next to French President Emmanuel Macron, will face the press on Thursday afternoon, where questions may focus on Trump Jr.'s connections with Veselnitskaya and the ongoing investigations into his ties with Russia.
    Trump dismissed the Russia investigations to Reuters as the "dumbest thing I've ever heard" and side-stepped a question about whether his legal team was defending him well by bluntly stating, "I didn't do anything."
    "This isn't a question of defense," Trump said. "I didn't do anything. I had no relationship to Russia. So I said, what can the legal team do?"
    Trump's aides had hoped that Trump's meeting with Russian President Vladimir Putin, which happened on the sidelines of the G20 in Hamburg, Germany, earlier this month, would have stemmed the steady flow of Russia stories. But as Air Force One crossed the Atlantic on its way back to Washington, The New York Times reported its first in a series of stories about Donald Trump Jr.'s meeting with Veselnitskaya.
    Trump told Reuters what he challenged Putin on his 2016 election meddling for the first 20 to 25 minutes of their meeting.
    "I said, 'Did you do it?' He said, 'No, I did not, absolutely not.' I then asked him a second time, in a totally different way. He said, 'Absolutely not,' " Trump recalled.
    Even before he met with Putin, though, Trump has raised questions about whether Russia was behind the election hacking, despite United States intelligence stating with a high degree of certainty that the country was behind the meddling.
    "Look: Something happened and we have to find out what it is, because we can't allow a thing like that to happen to our election process," Trump said. "So something happened, and we have to find out what it is."
    Trump wouldn't say during the interview whether he trusted Putin.
    "Do I feel I can trust anybody, OK?" he said. "I'm a very suspicious person. I am not a person that goes around trusting lots of people."