The US president, Donald Trump, has described the storm over his son’s meeting with a Russian lawyer as “the greatest witch-hunt in political history” and “sad!”

In a typically combative tweet, Trump praised Donald Trump Jr and said “my son Donald did a good job last night” when he appeared on Fox News. “He was open, transparent and innocent,” Trump added.

Trump Jr. has been embroiled in scandal since it emerged that he met the Russian lawyer Nataliya Veselnitskaya at Trump Tower in New York on 9 June 2016. The meeting, which was also attended by Trump’s son-in-law, Jared Kushner, and Trump’s then campaign chair, Paul Manafort, was brokered by a British publicist and former journalist, Rob Goldstone.

Emails published by Trump Jr on Tuesday showed that Goldstone promised the lawyer would bring from Russia “some official documents and information that would incriminate Hillary [Clinton]”. He said: “This is obviously very high level and sensitive information but is part of Russia and its government’s support for Mr Trump.”

Advertisement

Critics have said that the offer – and Trump Jr’s willingness to go ahead with the meeting – amount to proof of collusion. Trump Jr denies wrongdoing. On Tuesday evening, he told Fox News host Sean Hannity: “In retrospect I probably would have done things a little differently.” The meeting, he said, was “a nothing”.

On Wednesday, Trump Sr’s lawyer Jay Sekulow told morning TV shows the president did not find out about the meeting until “very recently”. Sekulow also said the president was not being investigated by Robert Mueller, the special counsel investigating links between Trump aides and Russia.

The New York Times reported, however, that Donald Trump signed off on his son’s first statement about the meeting, which said it was primarily about a Russian bar on US adoptions. The Times report cited anonymous sources. Trump also tweeted on Wednesday: “Remember, when you hear the words ‘sources say’ from the Fake Media, often times those sources are made up and do not exist.”