Trump dictated Don Jr.’s statement calling meeting with Russian lawyer ‘primarily’ about adoption
Donald Trump personally dictated the statement Donald Trump Jr. gave to The New York Times in which he claimed the June 2016 meeting between the president’s son and a Russian lawyer was mostly about a Russian adoption program, The Washington Post reports.
Before NYT even began asking Trump Jr. and others for comment about the meeting, which both Jared Kushner and then-campaign chair Paul Manafort had attended and initially failed to disclose, the original plan was to be completely transparent about the meeting. Instead, once The Times began poking around, Trump himself got involved and on the way back from the G20 summit he made everything way worse than it needed to be. From WaPo:
Flying home from Germany on July 8 aboard Air Force One, Trump personally dictated a statement in which Trump Jr. said he and the Russian lawyer had “primarily discussed a program about the adoption of Russian children” when they met in June 2016, according to multiple people with knowledge of the deliberations. The statement, issued to the New York Times as it prepared a story, emphasized that the subject of the meeting was “not a campaign issue at the time.”
Trump Jr. and Kushner’s lawyers figured explaining everything in detail — and even possibly releasing the emails — right from the start was the best way to handle the situation, as they assumed more and more information would eventually leak out. They were correct. Shortly after the meeting was reported, a follow up report was published revealing that Trump Jr. was told in emails from the lawyer that the supposed damaging info she was offering from Clinton came directly from the Russian government. Not long after that, upon realizing The Times had copies of the emails and was going to publish them, Trump Jr. tweeted out the emails himself.
The result of all of this was a days-long slow unraveling of the initial statement Trump had dictated to White House director of strategic communications Hope Hicks aboard Air Force One. Trump Jr. didn’t go to the meeting to talk about the Magnitsky act or the adoption program that ended as a result, he was there to get dirt on Clinton. Just because he left when he realized no such dirt was coming doesn’t mean he didn’t try to get it.
Jay Sekulow, one of President Trump’s lawyers, responded to The Post’s request for comment with only, “Apart from being of no consequence, the characterizations are misinformed, inaccurate, and not pertinent.”
But according to WaPo, lawyers for both Trump and Trump Jr. were caught off guard by the revised statement, and some advisers worry the vague and misleading statement being written by POTUS himself makes it look like he was trying to cover something up.
“This was…unnecessary,” one adviser told WaPo. “Now someone can claim he’s the one who attempted to mislead. Somebody can argue the president is saying he doesn’t want you to say the whole truth.”
Lying to reporters isn’t illegal, but it’s not a great look when you’re under investigation for both collusion and obstruction of justice. But sources in the White House explained that the way Trump sees it, he hasn’t done anything wrong so it doesn’t matter what he says.
It will be interesting to see if special counsel Robert Mueller agrees.
[Washington Post | Photo: Getty]