President Donald Trump defended his eldest son on Thursday over revelations that he met with a Kremlin-connected lawyer who had at one point reportedly offered damaging information on Hillary Clinton.
In a press conference with French President Emmanuel Macron, the president described the June 2016 event as “a short meeting” that went “very, very quickly,” dismissing it as a normal aspect of campaigning.
“Most people would have taken that meeting,” Trump said. “It’s called opposition research.”
The president then attempted to blame the meeting on the Obama administration, pointing out that the Russian lawyer, Natalia Veselnitskaya, was approved to enter the US by former Attorney General Loretta Lynch.
“Somebody said that her visa or her passport to come into the country was approved by Attorney General Lynch,” Trump said. “Now, maybe that’s wrong. I just heard that a little while ago, I was surprised to hear that. She was here because of Lynch.”
Lawyers and campaign experts have described seeking opposition research from a foreign government as highly abnormal. The Trump campaign has pushed back against the assertion by pointing out that a Ukrainian-American Democratic National Committee contractor offered to provide the campaign with damaging information on Trump on behalf of Ukraine. The DNC has denied that it solicited anti-Trump opposition research from Ukraine.
Trump’s defenders have floated a number of arguments to tamp down the seriousness of the meeting, which some legal experts speculate could have violated campaign finance laws.
The president’s legal team tried to tie Veselnitskaya to research firm Fusion GPS, noting that the Russian lawyer had worked with the group at one point. Fusion GPS denied that it was involved in the meeting.
“We have learned from both our own investigation and public reports that the participants in the meeting misrepresented who they were and who they worked for,” Trump legal spokesperson Mark Corallo told The New York Times.
“Specifically, we have learned that the person who sought the meeting is associated with Fusion GPS, a firm which according to public reports, was retained by Democratic operatives to develop opposition research on the president and which commissioned the phony Steele dossier.”
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