WASHINGTON — Hillary Clinton’s former top campaign aides said Tuesday’s revelations about Donald Trump Jr.’s meeting with a Russian lawyer showed collusion between the Trump campaign and Moscow during the 2016 race.
Trump has dismissed the Russia probe as a “witch hunt” pushed by Democrats and insisted for months there was no collusion between him or his campaign and the Russian government. But emails released by Trump’s eldest son show his willingness to meet with a Russian lawyer to receive damaging information about Clinton described as “part of Russia and its government’s support for Mr. Trump.”
Clinton remained mum on the subject, refraining from commenting on the developments on Tuesday. But her former running mate, Virginia Sen. Tim Kaine, told reporters the investigation had moved “beyond obstruction of justice in terms of what’s being investigated. This is moving into perjury, false statements and even into potentially treason.”
Clinton’s former campaign manager, Robby Mook, said he thought the “case is closed at this point on whether Don Jr. and Paul Manafort and Jared Kushner are either colluding or seeking to collude on the Russians,” referring to Manafort, Trump’s one-time campaign chairman, and Kushner, Trump’s son-in-law and top White House adviser.
While Clinton, the former secretary of state, has taken some responsibility for her stunning loss in the 2016 election, she has also blamed questionable the FBI in its handling of her email investigation, Russia’s interference and misogyny.
She has also said Russia’s role in hacking into her campaign’s internal emails and coordinating their release by WikiLeaks were damaging to her campaign. Campaign officials noted that Trump Jr.’s June meeting with the Russian attorney came shortly before the Democratic National Committee acknowledged that its email system had been hacked.
The former Democratic presidential nominee has said that Russian President Vladimir Putin purposely interfered to hurt her campaign and help Trump, a charge that Putin has denied.
But Clinton’s top advisers said Tuesday they were stunned by Trump Jr.’s use of email to set up the meeting, leaving a paper trail, and the brazen manner with which he met with the attorney.
“We shouldn’t be surprised, but we still should be shocked. Shocking is generally an overused word but that’s what this is,” said Jake Sullivan, a former Clinton campaign adviser.
Brian Fallon, who served as a top Clinton campaign spokesman, called the evidence “damning” but said it would still take special counsel Robert Mueller time to carry out his investigation.
Associated Press writer Vivian Salama contributed to this report.