The Latest: Trump says he learned of son’s meeting recently

FILE - In this Friday, Nov. 4, 2016 file photo, Donald Trump Jr. campaigns for his father Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump in Gilbert, Ariz. Donald Trump’s eldest son, son-in-law and then-campaign chairman met with a Russian lawyer shortly after Trump won the Republican nomination, in what appears to be the earliest known private meeting between key aides to the president and a Russian. Representatives of Donald Trump Jr. and Jared Kushner confirmed the June 2016 meeting to The Associated Press after The New York Times reported Saturday, July 8, 2017 on the gathering of the men and Russian lawyer Natalia Veselnitskaya at Trump Tower. (AP Photo/Matt York, File)

WASHINGTON (AP) — The Latest on the controversy surrounding a meeting last summer between Donald Trump Jr. and a Russian lawyer promising damaging information on Hillary Clinton (all times local):

5:50 p.m.

President Donald Trump says he was unaware of his son’s meeting with a Russian lawyer until recently.

Trump tells Reuters in a White House interview before departing for Paris Wednesday that he “didn’t know until a couple of days ago when I heard about this.”

Trump also defended his son’s decision to take the meeting, saying he thinks “many people” would have done the same.

Donald Trump Jr. was told the lawyer had compromising information on Hillary Clinton that was being shared as part of a Russian effort to help his father.

Trump also said he spent the first 20 or 25 minutes of his lengthy meeting with Vladimir Putin confronting him last week and asking him about election meddling. Trump says Putin denied the conclusions of U.S. intelligence officials that Russia was behind the effort.

MORE: Emails show Trump Jr. embraced help said to be from Kremlin

—-

5:40 p.m.

A spokesman for Senate Judiciary Chairman Chuck Grassley says he’s working with the Justice Department’s special counsel to ensure that there won’t be a conflict if he calls the former chairman of Donald Trump’s presidential campaign to testify.

Grassley said earlier Wednesday that the panel plans to question Paul Manafort and will subpoena him if necessary. A spokesman later said the committee is working with special counsel Robert Mueller to ensure no conflicts exist with his investigation into Russian meddling in the 2016 election. The Judiciary panel is also investigating the matter.

Spokesman Taylor Foy says the committee will work with Mueller if conflicts exist.

Manafort participated in a meeting last summer in which a Russian lawyer was prepared to pass on potentially damaging information about Hillary Clinton.

—-

4:30 p.m.

The top Democrat on the House Intelligence committee says his panel wants to look at the use of Russian social media “trolls” or “bots” and whether they are connected to President Donald Trump’s campaign or its digital strategy.

California Rep. Adam Schiff says Schiff said those issues would fall under the scope of the larger probe, including the Trump campaign’s data analytics. That digital operation was overseen by Trump’s son in law, Jared Kushner.

Schiff says the Russian use of social media is “certainly something we want to explore” as part of the panel’s investigation into Russian meddling in the 2016 campaign.

3:15 p.m.

President Donald Trump says he gets along “very, very well” with Russian President Vladimir Putin. But he says the Russian leader would have preferred to have his 2016 rival Hillary Clinton in the White House.

Trump tells Christian broadcast station CBN in an interview taped Wednesday that Clinton would have weakened the U.S. military and driven up energy prices – two things Putin would have welcomed.

U.S. intelligence agencies have concluded that the Russian government meddled in the 2016 election to bolster Trump, and to hurt Clinton.

Trump also says in his first interview following a lengthy face-to-face meeting with Putin that he thinks the two “get along very, very well.” But he says Putin will always want “what’s good for Russia, and I want what’s good for the United States.”

—-

2:00 p.m.

Democrats on the House Judiciary Committee are questioning the Trump administration’s decision to settle a money laundering case with a Russian real estate firm in light of revelations that the company was represented by the same Russian lawyer who met last year with President Donald Trump’s son.

The letter sent by House Judiciary ranking member John Conyers and other Democrats asks whether lawyer Natalia Veselnitskaya was involved in settlement negotiations between Russian real estate firm Prevezon Holdings Ltd. and the Justice Department. Prevezon agreed last May to pay $6 million to the government to avoid a trial on charges the firm laundered proceeds from a $230 million tax fraud.

Veselnitskaya represented Dennis Katsyv, Prevezon’s owner. Katsyv backed a lobbying campaign last year aimed at scuttling Magnitsky Act sanctions against Russian interests.

1:11 p.m.

The chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee says he and the panel’s top Democrat have agreed to bring former Trump campaign official Paul Manafort before the panel.

In an interview with Iowa reporters, Sen. Chuck Grassley of Iowa says Manafort was at a meeting involving President Donald Trump’s son and a Russian lawyer. The Republican senator says he has several questions and the panel would subpoena Manafort if necessary.

Grassley said he and Sen. Dianne Feinstein are working closely on it.

According to emails released Tuesday by Donald Trump Jr., he appeared eager to accept information from the Russian government that could have damaged Hillary Clinton’s campaign.

—-

10:34 a.m.

House Speaker Paul Ryan is deflecting questions about the latest revelation of President Donald Trump’s son meeting last June with a Russian lawyer for possible dirt on Hillary Clinton.

Ryan told reporters on Wednesday that it’s important to get to the bottom of what happened, but that’s a job for special counsel Robert Mueller and the congressional intelligence committees.

According to emails released Tuesday by Donald Trump Jr., he appeared eager to accept information from the Russian government that could have damaged Clinton’s campaign.

Ryan said it is “absolutely unacceptable” that Russia meddled in the presidential election. He said it was “very important that these professionals do their jobs” in the investigations.

—-

9:45 a.m.

President Donald Trump is pushing back against any reports of dysfunction in his administration, writing on Twitter that the White House is “functioning perfectly, focused on HealthCare, Tax Cuts/Reform & many other things.”

The president, who typically watches a steady diet of news on cable television, adds that he has “very little time for watching T.V.”

Trump was spending part of his morning responding to reports that he has raged against the latest development with Russia. He has defended the meeting that his eldest son had last June with a Russian lawyer that appear to show Donald Trump Jr. was eager to accept information from the Russian government to damage Hillary Clinton’s campaign.

8:15 a.m.

Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov says he is surprised that Donald Trump Jr. is facing controversy for meeting with a Russian lawyer during the 2016 presidential campaign.

Speaking at a news conference in Brussels, Lavrov said didn’t he understand why the meeting, which Trump Jr. has acknowledged, was becoming such a large issue. Lavrov asked, “What is the problem here?”

President Donald Trump’s eldest son revealed Tuesday that he was eager to hear damaging information about Hillary Clinton from the Russian government, disclosing a series of emails that showed him conversing with a music publicist who wanted him to meet with a “Russian government attorney” who supposedly had dirt on Clinton.

The lawyer, Natalia Veselnitskaya denies having any compromising information about Clinton.

Lavrov referred to Russian President Vladimir Putin’s earlier comments that the current controversy was the result of someone “trying to contest the election results.”

7:30 a.m.

President Donald Trump’s lawyer is defending the president’s son, Donald Trump Jr., saying he did not violate any laws in his meeting with a Russian lawyer.

Attorney Jay Sekulow says that the president was not aware of Trump Jr.’s June 2016 meeting and didn’t find out about his son’s email exchange until “very recently.”

Sekulow says the president is not being investigated by special counsel Robert Mueller.

The attorney is defending Trump, his son and their associates in the aftermath of the revelation of Trump Jr.’s meeting – along with former campaign chairman Paul Manafort and Trump son-in-law and top adviser Jared Kushner – to discuss allegedly compromising information about Hillary Clinton.

Sekulow spoke on ABC’s “Good Morning America” and NBC’s “Today.”

7:20 a.m.

The Kremlin has denied reaching out to a Moscow-based property developer and his son who arranged a meeting between a Russian lawyer and Donald Trump Jr. to discuss allegedly compromising information about Hillary Clinton.

The emails published by Trump Jr. show publicist Rob Goldstone telling Trump that singer Emin Agalarov and his father, developer Aras Agalarov, had “helped along” the Russian government’s support for Trump. In his email, Goldstone said that the “Crown prosecutor of Russia” offered to provide the information on Clinton to the Trump campaign in a meeting with Aras Agalarov.

Speaking to reporters Wednesday in Moscow, President Vladimir Putin’s spokesman Dmitry Peskov, insisted that the Kremlin has not spoken to Agalarov and has no ties to the Russian lawyer who was at the meeting.

7 a.m.

President Donald Trump is defending son Donald Trump Jr. in regards to the Russia investigation, writing on Twitter that his son was “open, transparent and innocent.”

The president is again calling the investigation the “greatest Witch Hunt in political history.”

Trump took to Twitter on Wednesday morning in the aftermath of his son’s defense of a meeting he had last June with a Russian lawyer. According to emails released by Trump Jr., he appeared eager to accept information from the Russian government that would have damaged Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton’s campaign.

The incident has raised questions of whether members of Trump’s campaign coordinated with Russia to hurt Clinton and help Trump.

2:45 a.m.

Donald Trump’s eldest son has revealed he was eager to hear damaging information about Hillary Clinton from the Russian government, disclosing a series of emails that marked the clearest sign to date that Trump’s campaign was willing to consider election help from a longtime U.S. adversary.

The email exchange posted to Twitter Tuesday by Donald Trump Jr. showed him conversing with a music publicist who wanted him to meet with a “Russian government attorney” who supposedly had dirt on Clinton as “part of Russia and its government’s support for Mr. Trump.” The messages reveal that Trump Jr. was told the Russian government had information that could “incriminate” Clinton and her dealings with Russia.

“I love it,” Trump Jr. said in one email response.