A White House contradiction
Trump helped draft his son’s misleading statement on his meeting with Russians.
WASHINGTON — The White House acknowledged Tuesday that President Trump “weighed in as any father would” in helping draft a misleading statement for Donald Trump Jr. last month about his meeting with Russians during the presidential campaign.
By the acknowledgment, White House Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders seemed to confirm the gist of a Washington Post story, published late Monday, that Trump dictated the statement for his son while aboard Air Force One, overruling advisors who wanted a fuller, more candid explanation of the June 2016 meeting in Trump Tower.
Sanders’ comments in effect refuted Trump’s lawyer and frequent spokesperson, Jay Sekulow, who said two weeks ago on NBC’s “Meet the Press” that “the president was not involved in the drafting of the statement.” Sekulow said much the same on ABC’s “This Week.”
Four days after Trump Jr. issued his initial, inaccurate statement on July 8 about the 2016 meeting, his father suggested to reporters he was largely in the dark about it, and assumed his son and the son’s lawyers wrote the statement. “I only heard about it two or three days ago,” Trump said. He also praised his son for his “transparency” on the issue.
The initial statement for Trump Jr., written on the president’s plane, said that the younger Trump and a Russian lawyer “primarily discussed a program about the adoption of Russian children” and their meeting was unrelated to the campaign.
Sanders said Tuesday that “the statement that Don Jr. issued is true. There’s no inaccuracy in the statement.”
Yet Trump Jr.’s emails showed otherwise. The emails, which he released last month as the New York Times planned to publish them, revealed that he came to the meeting with attorney Natalia Veselnitskaya not to talk about adoptions but on an acquaintance’s assurance that she was a Russian government lawyer who had “official documents and information” that would “incriminate” Hillary Clinton, “and be very useful to your father.”
The emails further said the information was “part of Russia and its government’s support for Mr. Trump.”
“If it’s what you say I love it,” Trump Jr. responded to his email correspondent, Rob Goldstone, a music promoter with business dealings in Russia.
Also copied on some of the emails to and from the younger Trump were Jared Kushner, the president’s son-in-law and advisor; and Paul Manafort, Trump’s campaign chairman at the time. Both men accompanied Trump Jr. to the meeting, which included other Russians.
Trump Jr. and the White House have maintained that nothing came of the meeting. In that spirit, Sanders said Tuesday that “this is all discussion frankly of no consequence.”
“There was no follow-up,” she added. “It was disclosed to the proper parties.”
Sen. Mark R. Warner of Virginia, the top Democrat on the Senate Intelligence Committee, one of the panels that is investigating Russia’s election interference and potential collusion with the Trump campaign, said on CNN on Tuesday that the revelations would prompt more questions of Trump Jr. and Kushner.
“I’ll let any rational individual make a judgment,” Warner said. “But it seems a bit strange, the president of the United States comes in and drafts this statement that is just factually wrong.”
IN ACKNOWLEDGING President Trump “weighed in” on Donald Jr.’s statement about his meeting with a Russian lawyer, the White House contradicted Trump’s lawyer, who said “the president was not involved.”