President Donald Trump personally “dictated” a misleading statement about his son’s meeting with a Russian lawyer last year that said they primarily “d
iscussed a program about the adoption of Russian children,” The Washington Post reported Monday.
Trump crafted the initial statement — which did not mention that his son, Donald Trump Jr., had been offered compromising information about Hillary Clinton in exchange for taking the meeting — one day after discussing “adoptions” with Russian President Vladimir Putin during a dinner at the G20 summit.
“Really, pleasantries more than anything else,” Trump told the New York Times when asked about the previously undisclosed conversation the two leaders had at a dinner. “Just talked about things. Actually, it was very interesting; we talked about adoptions.”
The fact that Trump and Putin spoke about the adoption issue — which is intimately connected to the US’ sanctions policy vis a vis the Magnitsky Act — the night before Trump reportedly dictated his son’s statement about the Trump Tower meeting raises questions about whether Putin played a role, directly or indirectly, in influencing the version of events Trump’s team relayed to the press.
Trump told Reuters on July 12 that he had only just learned of the June 2016 meeting, which included his son, son-in-law, former campaign chairman, and two Russians who had been lobbying to repeal the Magnitsky Act. The 2012 law targeting Russians suspected of human-rights led Putin to retaliate by banning US adoption of Russian children. But Trump’s legal team reportedly knew about the meeting as early as June.
According to Yahoo, Marc Kasowitz, Trump’s chief lawyer in the Russia investigation at the time, and Alan Garten, executive vice president and chief legal officer of the Trump Organisation, were apprised in the third week of June of the email chain between Trump Jr. and music publicist Rob Goldstone.
Goldstone told Trump Jr. in an email that a Russian “government attorney” wanted to meet to give him dirt on Hillary Clinton as part of the Kremlin’s support for Trump’s candidacy.
Trump Jr. agreed to the meeting, replying, “If it’s what you say it is, I love it, especially later in the summer.” He then forwarded the email chain to Paul Manafort, the campaign chairman at the time, and Jared Kushner.
It is unclear if Kasowitz or Garten told the president about the emails or the Trump Tower meeting before he dined with Putin on July 7. Trump has insisted he did not find out about either until the New York Times broke the story on July 8. Trump Jr. published the full email chain on Twitter three days later.
Putin has given Trump one talking point during their first, formal meeting that the president subsequently relayed to his aides, according to the New York Times: Namely, that if the Russians had hacked into the Democratic National Committee, they wouldn’t have gotten caught.
The White House did not respond to a request for comment.
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