White House counselor Kellyanne Conway had a busy Monday, after reports about Donald Trump Jr.‘s meeting with a Russian lawyer during the 2016 presidential campaign. When she appeared on CNN, the interview with New Day anchor Chris Cuomo was a marathon, lasting over a half-hour when many interviews usually run less than 10 minutes. In the interview, Conway told Cuomo that Trump Jr.’s meeting resulted in nothing.
“Let’s focus on what did not happen in that meeting,” Conway told CNN. She said “no information provided” during the meeting “was meaningful,” adding that “no action was taken” after the meeting.
The seemingly never-ending interview included critiques of CNN, as Conway insisted that CNN should be focusing more on President Donald Trump‘s successes. At one point, she asked Cuomo if it “bothered” him that CNN talked more about Russia than America. Cuomo then insisted that Trump Jr.’s meeting “matters” because Trump Jr. and members of the Trump administration have previously denied meeting with Russians during the campaign. “I think America matters,” Conway interjected.
“Don Jr. has very explicitly stated he didn’t even know the name of the person with whom he was meeting,” Conway told Cuomo. “He agreed to the meeting based on a contact from the Miss Universe Pageant.”
Prior to her interview with Cuomo, Conway was on ABC News’ Good Morning America, where she also told George Stephanopoulos that there was no useful information gained during the meeting. During that interview, ABC played a clip of Conway denying that there were any meetings between the Trump campaign and Russians.
Stephanopoulos asked how Conway could say that there was no evidence of an attempt at collusion with the Russians if Trump Jr. spoke with a Kremlin-linked lawyer who offered material damaging to Clinton. Conway responded by saying that Trump Jr. said he didn’t seek the meeting and that no “meaningful” information was obtained during the meeting.
Over the weekend, The New York Times reported that Trump Jr. had a meeting with Russian lawyer Natalia Veselnitskaya on June 9, 2016, two weeks after his father, President Trump, clinched the Republican nomination. Trump’s son-in-law, Jared Kushner, who is now a senior advisor to the president, attended the meeting, as did then-Trump campaign manager Paul Manafort. Trump Jr. met with Veselnitskaya because she promised information that could be damaging to Trump’s opponent, Hillary Clinton.
Trump Jr. has admitted to meeting Vaselnitskaya, but first said the topic was adoption and to help an acquaintance he met at the 2013 Miss Universe pageant in Moscow.
“After pleasantries were exchanged, the woman stated that she had information that individuals connected to Russia were funding the Democratic National Committee and supporting Mrs. Clinton. Her statements were vague, ambiguous and made no sense,” Trump Jr. told the Times. “No details or supporting information was provided or even offered. It quickly became clear that she had no meaningful information.”
Trump Jr. gave another statement to the Times later, further clarifying the goal of the meeting. Here’s the full second statement Trump Jr. provided:
I was asked to have a meeting by an acquaintance I knew from the 2013 Miss Universe pageant with an individual who I was told might have information helpful to the campaign. I was not told her name prior to the meeting. I asked Jared and Paul to attend, but told them nothing of the substance. We had a meeting in June 2016. After pleasantries were exchanged, the woman stated that she had information that individuals connected to Russia were funding the Democratic National Committee and supporting Ms. Clinton. Her statements were vague, ambiguous and made no sense. No details or supporting information was provided or even offered. It quickly became clear that she had no meaningful information. She then changed subjects and began discussing the adoption of Russian children and mentioned the Magnitsky Act. It became clear to me that this was the true agenda all along and that the claims of potentially helpful information were a pretext for the meeting. I interrupted and advised her that my father was not an elected official, but rather a private citizen, and that her comments and concerns were better addressed if and when he held public office. The meeting lasted approximately 20 to 30 minutes. As it ended, my acquaintance apologized for taking up our time. That was the end of it and there was no further contact or follow-up of any kind. My father knew nothing of the meeting or these events.
Trump Jr. tweeted that there were no inconsistencies between the two statements. “No inconsistency in statements, meeting ended up being primarily about adoptions. In response to further Q’s I simply provided more details,” he wrote.