On Monday, the Washington Post, citing “multiple people with knowledge of the deliberations,” reported that President Trump personally dictated a misleading statement Donald Trump Jr. released about a June 2016 meeting with a Russian lawyer.
“The extent 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 that some advisers fear could place him and some members of his inner circle in legal jeopardy,” the Post reports. “As special counsel Robert S. Mueller III looks into potential obstruction of justice as part of his broader investigation 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.”
The piece includes a one-sentence response from Jay Sekulow, Trump’s private lawyer. Sekulow doesn’t deny any specific aspect of the Post’s reporting, but says, “Apart from being of no consequence, the characterizations are misinformed, inaccurate, and not pertinent.”
One thing that is newly pertinent, however, is an interview Sekulow did on the July 16 edition of Meet the Press. During it, Sekulow categorically denied that Trump was involved in the drafting of Trump Jr’s misleading statement.
“The president did not draft the response,” Sekulow said. “The response came from Donald Trump Jr., I’m sure in consultation with his lawyer… I do want to be clear the president was not involved in the drafting of the statement.”
"I do want to be clear the president was not involved in the drafting of the statement" — Jay Sekulow, Trump's lawyer, apparently lying pic.twitter.com/DMukqu6uIU
— Judd Legum (@JuddLegum) August 1, 2017
Sekulow’s Meet the Press comments may have been intended to insulate the president from involvement in Trump Jr.’s efforts to collude with Russia. Though the statement Trump Jr. initially released about the June 2016 meeting said he and the Russian lawyer primarily discussed adoption policy, within days, Trump Jr. released emails indicating he was actually promised incriminating information about Hillary Clinton that he was told came straight from the Russian government. The emails indicated he and other campaign officials eagerly took the meeting anyway.
A July 14 CNN report details the legal jeopardy Trump and other White House aides who were involved in trying to do damage control for Trump Jr. may have put themselves in.
“A sensitive legal matter such as [drafting Trump Jr.’s statement] would normally have been handled by the attorneys, given that it was about the Russia investigation,” CNN reported. “[Aides] can now be called on by investigators led by Special Counsel Robert Mueller to explain what they may have learned about the meeting that the President’s eldest son, Trump Jr., his son-in-law, Jared Kushner, and then-Trump campaign chairman Paul Manafort had with the Russian lawyer during the 2016 campaign.”
We now know that not only were White House aides involved in putting together Trump Jr.’s misleading statement, but so was the president himself.
According to the Post, Trump dictated the statement later released on his son’s behalf claiming the meeting with the Russian lawyer was about adoption while flying back to the U.S. from Germany aboard Air Force One on July 8. That flight occurred the day after Trump had a second, secret meeting with Russian President Vladimir Putin during a dinner at the G-20 summit.
During an interview with the New York Times, Trump said that during that second meeting— which wasn’t disclosed until more than a week after it occurred — he and Putin “talked about adoption.”
“And I actually talked about Russian adoption with him, which is interesting because it was a part of the conversation that Don had in that meeting,” Trump said.