The White House is mounting a public and legal defense of Donald Trump Jr. in preparation for a Capitol Hill showdown that could come as early as this week.
Sen. Mark Warner, Virginia Democrat, said the emails disclosing a meeting between high-ranking Trump campaign officials and a Russian government attorney have taken the Senate’s investigation to “another level.”
“I want to hear from everyone in that meeting and get their version of the story, as well as I think we may find out there may have been other meetings as well,” Mr. Warner, vice-chair of the Senate Intelligence Committee, said Sunday on the CBS program “Face the Nation.”
The younger Mr. Trump posted the June 2016 email chain to his Twitter account on Tuesday accompanied by a statement.
The emails showed Trump family friend Rob Goldstone acting as an intermediary to arrange a meeting with Natalia Veselnitskaya, a Russian government attorney who supposedly had compromising information about Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton.
“This is obviously very high level and sensitive information but is part of Russia and its government’s support for Mr. Trump,” Mr. Goldstone wrote.
“If it’s what you say I love it especially later in the summer,” the president’s son responded.
Lawmakers on both sides of the aisle are interested in speaking to the younger Mr. Trump about the meeting, which was also attended by then-Trump campaign manager Paul Manafort and Mr. Trump’s son-in-law, White House adviser Jared Kushner.
Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Charles E. Grassley, Iowa Republican, on Thursday invited the younger Mr. Trump to testify before Congress and hoped he would come as early as this week. He said he’s willing to subpoena the president’s son if necessary.
The White House responded to the congressional scrutiny by hiring veteran Washington attorney Ty Cobb as special counsel and mobilizing another lawyer, Jay Sekulow, to mount a public defense.
In several appearances on political talk shows Sunday, Mr. Sekulow underscored that the younger Mr. Trump broke no laws by taking the meeting.
“Of course, nothing in that meeting that would have taken place, even if it were about the topic of an opposition research paper from a Russian lawyer, is illegal or a violation of the law,” Jay Sekulow said on “Fox News Sunday.”
He also said the seriousness of the meeting, which the younger Mr. Trump maintains devolved into a discussion about U.S adoption policy toward Russia, pales in comparison to “collusion” between the Clinton campaign and the Ukrainian government.
“Don’t conflate, I don’t think it’s appropriate to conflate, the exact transaction as it was laid out in those emails, which was not a solicitation by the Trump campaign to get information, it was an offer of opposition research,” he said. “Compare that to what took place with the Ukrainians and the DNC, where they were working in collusion with each other.”
But Democrats have accused the Trump campaign of dissembling about their interactions with Russian officials during the race.
The younger Mr. Trump denied he had met with any Russian officials until recently, and Mr. Kushner has had to update his federal disclosure form several times to include the names of additional foreign contacts.
“I would think if you had a meeting with agents of the Russian government, where they were bringing forth information to discredit Clinton and help their then-candidate Trump, I would think a rational person would remember that,” Mr. Warner said on the CBS program “Face the Nation.”
Rep. Adam Schiff of California, the ranking Democrat on the House Intelligence Committee, said the public “can’t accept anything Don Jr. says.”
“And, of course, we can’t accept much the president says about this either, because he has a similar record of not being forthcoming when it comes to Russia,” Mr. Schiff said on Sunday on ABC’s “This Week.”
Amid a flurry of tweets Sunday about the U.S. Women’s Open golf tournament, held at Trump National Golf Club in Bedminster, N.J., the president defended his son, tweeting: “HillaryClinton can illegally get the questions to the Debate & delete 33,000 emails but my son Don is being scorned by the Fake News Media?”
Mr. Trump attended the biggest event in women’s golf for the third day.