Senate to release transcripts on Russian lawyer meeting

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Mr Trump JrImage source, Getty Images
Image caption,
Mr Trump Jr has been interviewed by several investigators in Washington

A US Senate committee plans to release transcripts of interviews with Trump aides who attended a 2016 meeting with a Russian lawyer at Trump Tower.

The transcripts include an interview with Donald Trump Jr, who attended the meeting after he was promised dirt on Hillary Clinton.

The interviews are part of one of several inquiries into whether the Trump campaign colluded with Moscow.

It was not immediately clear when the transcripts would be released.

What transcripts could be released?

Republican Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Chuck Grassley said the panel would start releasing "all witness interviews that we have done related to that meeting" right away and "get them out to the public for everyone to see".

His panel leads one of four Russia-related inquiries into Trump officials.

As well as the president's eldest son, the committee has interviewed other participants at the controversial Trump Tower meeting.

They include music promoter Rob Goldstone, Russian-American lobbyist Rinat Akhmetshin and Anatoli Samochornov, a translator for Russian lawyer Natalia Veselnitskaya.

Dianne Feinstein, the most senior Democrat on the committee, said she was "delighted" by Mr Grassley's decision.

Image source, EPA
Image caption,
Mr Grassley and Mrs Feinstein

Why is Trump Tower meeting significant?

When it was first revealed, Mr Trump Jr said he met Ms Veselnitskaya in June 2016 at his father's Manhattan skyscraper to discuss US adoptions of Russian children.

The meeting took place in the run-up to the November 2016 presidential election, and he later acknowledged attending the meeting because he had been promised information that would help defeat Democratic candidate Hillary Clinton.

It was later reported by several media outlets that President Trump has personally dictated the first misleading statement, claiming the meeting was to do with adoptions.

Critics say Mr Trump's involvement may constitute obstruction of justice.

Former White House Chief strategist Steve Bannon, who served Mr Trump during his campaign and throughout the first seven months of his presidency, has called the meeting "treasonous".

Mr Bannon later clarified that his comments were directed at former Trump campaign manager Paul Manafort, who also attended the Trump Tower meeting with the president's son.

Media caption,

President Trump said he is "looking forward" to being questioned

Why release transcripts?

Senator Grassley said he felt his committee's investigation of the Trump Tower meeting was complete, so it was time to start releasing the testimony.

The announcement comes amid increasing rancour in Congress over the investigations of the intelligence community's finding that Russia had sought to interfere in the 2016 election to boost Mr Trump.

Senator Grassley said on Thursday that Senator Feinstein had "spooked" other potential witnesses recently when she unilaterally released a transcript from another witness.

Earlier this month, Senator Feinstein, a California Democrat, disseminated 312 pages of testimony by Glenn Simpson, the head of a Washington-based research firm, Fusion GPS.

Hired by Mr Trump's political opponents, Fusion GPS produced a much-disputed dossier that alleges ties between him and the Kremlin.

Senator Grassley said Senator Feinstein's decision meant the committee's chances of "getting a voluntary interview with Mr Kushner have been shot".

Mr Kushner, the president's son-in-law, also attended the Trump Tower meeting.

Media caption,

All you need to know about the Trump-Russia investigation

What about the missing FBI texts?

Separately on Thursday, the US Department of Justice's (DoJ) internal watchdog said it had recovered a trove of missing texts between two FBI officials who made disparaging comments about Mr Trump.

The texts between FBI agent Peter Strzok and FBI lawyer Lisa Page, who were romantically linked, went missing due to an apparent technical glitch and were recovered using forensic tools.

In a letter to Republican lawmakers, DoJ Inspector General Michael Horowitz said the five months of messages could be shared with congressional committees.

In some of the other messages previously released to Congress, Mr Strzok and Ms Page refer to Donald Trump as an "idiot" and a "loathsome human".

The president and some Republicans have said the texts prove political bias at the FBI.

Mr Strzok was removed from the Russia inquiry after the messages were discovered.