Rep. Adam Schiff (D-Calif.) said if The New York Times' bombshell report published Monday night is accurate — that Donald Trump Jr. was told in an email last year that a Kremlin-connected lawyer he was set to meet with had compromising information on Hillary Clinton, gathered by the Russian government and given to Trump Jr. in order to assist his father's campaign — he may have learned about the Russians meddling in the 2016 presidential election well before the public did.
Trump Jr. confirmed to the Times on Saturday that he met with Natalia Veselnitskaya June 9, 2016, at Trump Tower, saying that all they did was discuss the adoption of Russian children by Americans and the Magnitsky Act. On Sunday, he admitted to the paper he was told Veselnitskaya had information on his father's opponent, Hillary Clinton, but what she said "made no sense," and it was clear she really wanted to meet with him about the adoption issue.
On Monday, after the Times released its report on the email Trump Jr. received setting up the meeting, Schiff told MSNBC's Rachel Maddow that the meeting took place after Russian hackers stole emails from the Democratic National Committee, but before they were released, and "one of the questions we are investigating is, did the Russians begin this as an intelligence gathering operation and later decide to make it a weaponization of data operation? Or did they begin with that intent in mind?"
The hacked documents were released in July, a few weeks after the June 9 meeting, and at the time "we wouldn't have known that the Russians intended to escalate that way," Schiff, ranking member of the House Intelligence Committee, said. "So, if this is correct, the first person who may have found out that the Russians had decided not just to gather information about what the candidates' positions might be or what they might do in office, but they had made a decision to intervene to try to help a candidate, the first person who may have learned that was the president's son through this email, because at that time, we couldn't be sure whether this was going to go beyond the intelligence gathering operation."