U.S. President Donald Trump has said his son's meeting with a Russian lawyer last year in hopes of obtaining damaging information about his Democratic rival Hillary Clinton is "standard practice" during a political campaign.
"Most people would have taken that meeting," Trump said at a joint news conference with French President Emmanuel Macron. "It's called opposition research, or research into your opponent."
"I've only been in politics for two years, but I've had many people call up, 'Oh gee, we have information on this factor or this person or frankly Hillary,' -- that's very standard in politics. Politics is not the nicest business in the world, but it's very standard," he said.
Trump's latest defense of his son Donald Trump Jr.'s meeting with Russian lawyer Natalya Veselnitskaya came as U.S. House of Representatives Speaker Paul Ryan urged Trump Jr. to testify before Congress about the meeting.
The younger Trump has offered to cooperate with Congress about the matter and would be the first member of the president's inner circle to testify before committees that are investigating Russian attempts to influence the election.
Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Charles Grassley said on July 13 that he will send Trump Jr. a letter asking him to testify in public, and Ryan said he supported that request.
"I think any witness who's been asked to testify in Congress should do that," Ryan said.
Trump Jr. disclosed this week that he agreed to meet with Veselnitskaya in June 2016 after he was told she represented the Russian government and had damaging information on Clinton.
Trump Jr. said he would "love it" it that were the case, and he invited his brother-in-law, Jared Kushner, and Trump's campaign chairman at the time, Paul Manafort, to join the meeting, according to e-mails Trump Jr. released this week.
The e-mails are the most concrete evidence to date that Trump's campaign might have been willing to accept Russian help to win the election and are now a major focus of investigations in Congress.
The president stressed that Veselnitskaya was a private attorney and not a Russian government lawyer, and that nothing of substance came out of the meeting.
Meanwhile, U.S. citizen groups filed a complaint against Trump Jr., Kushner, and Manafort on July 13 with the U.S. agency that oversees elections, arguing that the three violated the law by meeting with the Russian.
The complaint with the Federal Election Commission was signed by Common Cause, the Campaign Legal Center, Democracy 21, and two campaign lawyers involved with those groups.