Trump Jr email chain cites Russian support for his father

Donald Trump Jr has said the meeting he later had with a Russian lawyer primarily involved discussion of US sanctions.

This file photo taken on April 17, 2017 shows Donald Trump, Jr, son of US President Donald Trump, attending the 139th White House Easter Egg Roll on the South Lawn of the White House in Washington, DC. Picture: AFP.

WASHINGTON - President Donald Trump's eldest son was told a Russian prosecutor was offering his father's 2016 presidential campaign incriminating information about White House rival Hillary Clinton as part of Russian government support, according to an email chain that the son released on Tuesday.

"The Crown prosecutor of Russia ... offered to provide the Trump campaign with some official documents and information that would incriminate Hillary and her dealings with Russia and would be very useful to your father," said the June 3, 2016, email to Donald Trump Jr from publicist Rob Goldstone.

"This is obviously very high level and sensitive information but is part of Russia and its government's support for Mr. Trump," according to the email posted by Trump Jr. on Twitter.

"If it's what you say I love it," Trump Jr replied in part.

Financial markets appeared to have been jarred by the sudden disclosure from Trump Jr.

Following his tweets, the S&P 500 Index .SPX slid by about 0.6% in the span of about 20 minutes, although it has since retraced about half that move. The dollar index, the broadest measure of the United States (US) currency’s strength, weakened by about 0.16%. US 10-year Treasury futures, meanwhile, gained ground.

Legal experts are divided on whether Trump Jr's participation in the meeting with the Russian lawyer could lead to criminal liability. Collusion in and of itself is not a crime. But if the younger Trump conspired or aided and abetted a criminal action, such as hacking into American computer networks, that could be grounds for criminal charges.

Several lawyers also said that the meeting could run afoul of federal election laws barring campaigns from accepting gifts or things of value from foreign nationals.

The emails do not at first glance appear to provide evidence of illegal activity, and Trump Jr has said a meeting he later had with a Russian lawyer arranged via Goldstone primarily involved discussion of US sanctions.

However, Goldstone's statement that the promise of incriminating information on Democratic presidential candidate Clinton was "part of Russia and its government’s support for Mr Trump" provides new ammunition for federal and congressional investigators who are probing whether there was collusion between the Kremlin and Trump’s presidential campaign.