White House counsellor Kellyanne Conway sparred with CNN's Chris Cuomo in a lengthy interview on Monday (10 July) defending Donald Trump Jr's meeting with a Russian lawyer linked to the Kremlin last year. Over the weekend, the New York Times reported that in June 2016 President Trump's eldest son met the lawyer who promised damaging information about Hillary Clinton.
The meeting at Trump Tower with Natalia Veselnitskaya was reportedly attended by the president's son-in-law Jared Kushner and his then-campaign chairman Paul J Manafort.
Trump Jr said in a statement that he was not informed about the attorney's name prior to the meeting and asked Kushner and Manafort to attend but "told them nothing of the substance".
On Monday, Trump Jr sarcastically tweeted: "Obviously I'm the first person on a campaign to ever take a meeting to hear info about an opponent... went nowhere but had to listen."
While the White House has downplayed the actions of Trump's son, the revelations come as the FBI and congressional committees investigate Russian interference in the 2016 election and alleged collusion between Trump's campaign and Moscow.
During the wide-ranging, unusually long 35-minute interview, Conway defended Trump Jr's meeting with the attorney saying there was "no information provided that was meaningful".
"Don Jr has very explicitly stated he didn't even know the name of the person with whom he was meeting," she said. "He agreed to the meeting based on a contact from the Miss Universe Pageant.
"They get into the meeting and it quickly turns into a pretext for Russian adoption, according to his statements, that the comments this woman is making about any type of information on Hillary Clinton were vague. They were meaningless."
CNN host Chris Cuomo questioned the changes in Trump Jr's story.
"He changed his story twice. You talked about being in a court of law - not good when you change your story," Cuomo said. "There are big implications when you change your story like this. Second of all, even if it is true, whether or not it was good information, Kellyanne, doesn't mean it was a smart move to take a meeting with a Russian-connected person who was going to give you negative information about your opponent. That could create huge legal issues. You know that."
"I admire your moxie, sitting there with the CNN chyron next to you," Conway replied. Cuomo immediately retorted: "I could not be more proud to have that CNN chyron next to me."
During the exchange, Conway sparred with Cuomo over CNN and Trump's tweets as well as media coverage of the issues.
Cuomo also tried to wrap up the interview numerous times as CNN skipped multiple commercial breaks. Around the 28-minute mark, Cuomo said: "Your people say you have to go, by the way. So you make sure that the White House press office doesn't yell at me."
"I'm not going to let this go," Conway said. "Chris, stop being so sensitive".
"I've got people yelling in my ear that you have to go," he said, laughing.
Twitter erupted with a slew of jokes mocking the bizarre interview and heated banter. Some annoyed Twitter users urged media channels not to give Conway a platform to "never answer questions and always twist the conversation".
"Can the media please stop putting Kellyanne Conway on the air to spew her bulls**ttery "alternative fact" lies?" one Twitter user wrote.
"All those words and nothing said," one person wrote.