During an interview on Sunday’s edition of This Week, Jay Sekulow — one of President Trump’s lawyers — admitted he was wrong last year when he claimed Trump “wasn’t involved” in dictating a misleading statement for his son about the infamous June 2016 Trump Tower meeting between his campaign and Kremlin-connected Russians who offered political dirt on Hillary Clinton.
After initially denying Trump was involved at all, Trump’s legal team — including Sekulow — sent the special counsel’s office a memo early this year acknowledging Trump had in fact dictated a statement for Donald Trump Jr. claiming the meeting he arranged was “primarily” about Russian adoptions — not, as revealed by emails Trump Jr. subsequently released, to obtain damaging information about Clinton.
On Sunday, host George Stephanopoulos pressed Sekulow on the disconnect between what he said last summer and what he now acknowledges to be the case.
“You said the president ‘wasn’t involved’ in any way at all. Later Sarah Sanders changed that, she said the president ‘weighed in’ but he didn’t dictate anything, and then in January of this year the president’s legal team, including you, sent a memo to Robert Mueller saying this: ‘You have received all of the notes, communications and testimony indicating that the President dictated a short but accurate response to the New York Times article on behalf of his son, Donald Trump, Jr.,'” Stephanopoulos said. “So why did you deny President Trump’s involvement? When do you learn that the denial wasn’t true?”
Sekulow pinned blame for his false statement on “bad information” that was fed to him.
“Well let me tell you two things on that one. Number one, as you know George, I was in the case at that point, what, a couple of weeks, and there was a lot of information that was gathering, and as my colleague Rudy Giuliani said, I had bad information at that time,” Sekulow said. “I made a mistake in my statement, I’ve talked about that before. That happens when you have cases like this.”
Sekulow continued, “As far as when did we correct it, the important part is the information that we’ve shared with the office of special counsel — I’m not going to get into the details — but we were very clear as to the situation involving that trip, and the statements that were made to The New York Times. So, I think it’s very important to point out that in a situation like this, you have, over time, facts develop.”
Pres. Trump's attorney Jay Sekulow on previously denying that the president was involved in putting out a statement on the Trump Tower meeting: "I had bad information at that time and made a mistake in my statement … over time facts develop" https://t.co/nVPL8E1Fhk #ThisWeek pic.twitter.com/VbS9Vgzh5Q
— ABC News Politics (@ABCPolitics) August 6, 2018
Sekulow’s comments indicate Trump’s lies about the true purpose of the Trump Tower meeting weren’t limited to the statement he dictated for his eldest son falsely claiming it was “primarily” about Russian adoptions. They suggest Trump also mislead his legal team about a meeting which the president himself now admits represented his campaign’s willingness to collude with a foreign adversary.
Trump has repeatedly denied knowing about the Trump Tower meeting in advance, including in a tweet posted Sunday.
Fake News reporting, a complete fabrication, that I am concerned about the meeting my wonderful son, Donald, had in Trump Tower. This was a meeting to get information on an opponent, totally legal and done all the time in politics – and it went nowhere. I did not know about it!
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) August 5, 2018
But there are strong indications that Trump hasn’t told the truth about that either. As ThinkProgress detailed, a speech Trump gave on June 7, 2016 — two days before the Trump Tower meeting — teased a forthcoming speech in which he promised to detail dirt about the Clintons.
“I am going to give a major speech on — probably Monday of next week — and we’re going to be discussing all of the things that have taken place with the Clintons,” Trump said. “I think you’re going to find it very informative, and very, very interesting.”
When Trump made those comments, Trump Jr. had already exchanged emails with Rob Goldstone, a publicist who coordinated the Trump Tower meeting between Trump campaign officials and a “Russian government attorney” who promised to provide him and other top Trump campaign officials with information about Clinton.
Though Trump Jr.’s emails prove that he took the meeting in hopes of obtaining useful dirt on Clinton, he later claimed the Russian attorney didn’t have the goods. The “major speech” Trump teased was never delivered. In recent days, Trump and his legal team have started pushing the talking point that “collusion is not a crime.”
Sekulow isn’t the only member of team Trump who has had a hard time explaining comments they made in the summer of 2017 about the misleading statement Trump dictated for his son. In the wake of the New York Times breaking news in June about the memo acknowledging Trump dictated Don Jr.’s statement, Press Secretary Sarah Sanders was grilled about a statement she made on August 1, 2017 about how Trump “certainly didn’t dictate” anything for Don Jr.
Sanders refused to explain her own comments, and instead referred reporters to “outside counsel.” She wouldn’t even say if her comment from last August was “still operative.”