Trump dic­tated his son’s mis­lead­ing state­ment

Austin American-Statesman - - FRONT PAGE - By Ash­ley Parker

On the side­lines of the Group of 20 sum­mit in Ger­many last month, Pres- ident Don­ald Trump’s ad­vis­ers dis­cussed how to re­spond to a new rev­e­la­tion that Trump’s old­est son had met with a Rus­sian lawyer dur­ing the 2016 cam­paign — a dis­clo­sure the ad­vis­ers knew car­ried po­lit­i­cal and po­ten­tially le­gal peril.

The strat­egy, the ad­vis­ers agreed, should be for Don­ald Trump Jr. to re­lease a state­ment to get ahead of the story.

They wanted to be truth­ful, so their ac­count couldn’t be re­pudi- ated later if the full de­tails emerged.

But within hours, at the pres­i­dent’s di­rec­tion, the plan changed.

Fly­ing home from Ger­many on July 8 aboard Air Force One, Trump per- son­ally 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.”

The claims were later shown to be mis­lead­ing.

Over the next three days, mul­ti­ple ac­counts of the meet­ing were pro­vided to the me­dia as pub­lic pres- sure mounted, with Trump Jr. ulti- mately ac­knowl­edg­ing that he had ac­cepted the meet­ing af­ter receiving an email promis­ing dam­ag­ing in­for­ma­tion about Hil­lary Clin­ton as part of a Rus­sian gov­ern­ment ef­fort to help his father’s cam­paign.

The ext e nt of the pres­i­dent’s per­sonal in­ter­ven­tion in his son’s re­sponse, the de­tails of which have not pre­vi­ously been re­ported, adds to a se­ries of ac­tions that Trump has taken t hat some ad­vis­ers fear could place him and some mem­bers of his in­ner cir­cle in le­gal jeop­ardy.

As Special Coun­sel Robert Mueller in­ves­ti­gates po­ten­tial ob­struc­tion of jus­tice as part of his broader probe of Rus­sian in­ter­fer­ence in the 2016 elec­tion, these ad­vis­ers worry that the pres­i­dent’s di­rect in­volve­ment leaves him need­lessly vul­ner­a­ble to al­le­ga­tions of a coverup.

“This was ... un­nec­es­sary,” said one of the pres­i­dent’s ad­vis­ers, who like most other peo­ple in­ter­viewed for this story spoke on the con­di­tion of anonymity to dis­cuss sen­si­tive in­ter­nal de­lib­er­a­tions. “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.”

Trump has al­ready come un­der crit­i­cism for steps he has taken to chal­lenge and un­der­cut the Rus­sia probe.

He fired FBI Di­rec­tor James Comey on May 9 af­ter a pri­vate meet­ing in which Comey said the pres­i­dent asked him if he could end the in­ves­ti­ga­tion of ousted na­tional se­cu­rity ad­viser Michael Flynn.

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