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Washington • Sen. Orrin Hatch, the former chairman of the Senate Intelligence and Judiciary committees, said Tuesday that emails showing Donald Trump Jr. knowingly met with a Russian lawyer promising information to "incriminate" Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton was "overblown" and defended President Donald Trump's son as an "honorable" person.
Hatch said Trump Jr. didn't have any role in the administration and that it absolves the Trump White House of any wrongdoing.
"I think that's overblown," Hatch told reporters. "He's the son of the president, and frankly I think that's overblown."
Asked whether the son should have informed his father, Hatch said he wasn't "concerned about it," adding, "I know Don Jr., he's a very bright young man, he's a very nice young man."
Hatch, though, noted that had he been approached in one of his campaigns by a Russian operative offering dirt on an opponent, he wouldn't have taken the meeting.
"No," Hatch said, chuckling.
Minutes before The New York Times broke the story that Trump Jr. was advised ahead of his meeting with a Russian lawyer that she was offering compromising information about Clinton, the president's son tweeted out the email exchange from summer 2016.
The Russian lawyer was offering documents that would "incriminate Hillary and her dealings with Russia and would be very useful to your father," the email from a confidant of Trump Jr. said. "This is obviously very high level and sensitive information but is part of Russia and its government's support for Mr. Trump."
Trump Jr. responded, "If it's what you say I love it especially later in the summer."
Rep. Chris Stewart, a Utah Republican and member of the House Intelligence Committee probing Russia's meddling in the 2016 election, said Tuesday that the emails "obviously" raise concerns.
"It raises some questions that we're going to have to answer," Stewart said in an interview. "The American people are certainly going to want to have answers."
That said, Stewart cautioned that in the 10 months his committee has been probing the Russia interference, there were many so-called smoking guns that turned out to be just smoke.
"There's been a number of times that we thought, you know, this was a bombshell or this is a meaningful revelation and it turned out not to be and I've learned to be careful in prejudging something like this," he said.
Stewart also blasted Sen. Tim Kaine, a Virginia Democrat who was Clinton's running mate in 2016, who had said earlier that, "We're now beyond obstruction of justice. … This is moving into perjury, false statements, and even into potentially treason."
Responded Stewart: "I just think that's an entirely premature conclusion to be throwing around words like 'treason.' "
Hatch also took issue with Kaine's comments.
"You've got to be kidding," the Utah senator said. "That kind of language should never be used."