TRUMP ROLE in release called that of a dad
WASHINGTON — The White House defended President Donald Trump’s involvement in the statement his son issued about his meeting with a Russian lawyer during the presidential campaign, saying the statement was true and that the president was simply acting as a father.
“The statement that Don Jr. issued is true. There’s no inaccuracy in the statement,” said White House spokesman Sarah Huckabee Sanders. “The president weighed in just as any father would based on the limited information that he had.”
“This is all discussion, frankly, of no consequence,” Sanders added.
The comments confirmed that Trump participated in the drafting of the statement on Air Force One and contradict past statements from Trump’s attorneys denying that he had any involvement in it.
“The president was not — did not — draft the response,” Trump’s attorney Jay Sekulow said on Meet the Press in an interview July 16. “The response came from Donald Trump Jr. and — I’m sure — in consultation with his lawyer.”
While Sanders denied that President Trump “dictated” the statement, she acknowledged that he “weighed in and offered suggestions” on it. The statement said that in the 2016 meeting, Trump Jr. and other participants “primarily discussed a program about the adoption of Russian children.” That statement turned out to be misleading.
Emails obtained by The New York Times and subsequently released by Trump Jr. later showed that the meeting was pitched to Trump’s oldest son as one about compromising information about Hillary Clinton. That disclosure prompted Trump Jr. to correct his public statements.
In addition to Trump Jr., the president’s son-in-law, Jared Kushner, and campaign manager Paul Manafort also attended the meeting with the Russian lawyer. Kushner did not initially disclose the meeting on the government forms he was required to fill out in order to join the administration.
Yet Sanders said Tuesday that the meeting “was disclosed to the proper authorities.”
President Trump worked with aides on the statement on Air Force One while returning to the U.S. from the Group of 20 summit in Hamburg, Germany, on July 8, according to aides familiar with the statement. He insisted that the statement describe the meeting as unimportant and primarily about adoptions, the aides said.
In reality, Trump Jr. had enthusiastically agreed to attend the meeting after being promised damaging information on Clinton as part of the Russian government’s efforts to help his father’s campaign.
Kushner, meanwhile, told some congressional interns Monday that the Trump campaign couldn’t have colluded with Russia because the team was too disorganized to coordinate with a foreign government.
The remarks came in response to a question about special counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation into Russia’s meddling in the 2016 election and whether the Trump campaign worked with Moscow.
ForeignPolicy.com first reported Kushner’s remarks, which were intended to be off the record.
“They thought we colluded, but we couldn’t even collude with our local offices,” Kushner said, according to the website.
A Democratic congressional aide knowledgeable of the meeting confirmed the accuracy of the remarks and others that Kushner made. The aide spoke on condition of anonymity to freely describe the talk.
Kushner also told the interns that the White House doesn’t know where Mueller’s inquiry is headed. He said he didn’t think he’d embark on a career in government and politics after Trump’s victorious White House bid, so he didn’t carefully track his contacts with foreign officials, which is required information on a security clearance application.
“The statement that Don Jr. issued is true. There’s no inaccuracy in the statement. The president weighed in just as any father would based on the limited information that he had.” — Sarah Huckabee Sanders, White House spokesman
Information for this article was contributed by Abby Phillip of
The Washington Post and by Richard Lardner of The Associated Press.