White House press secretary Sean Spicer contradicted a tweet earlier this morning from President Donald Trump and said “there was nothing” that would cause anyone to think that the controversial meeting between Donald Trump Jr. and a Russian lawyer had to do with anything other than adoptions.
“Look, you know I’m not going to get into the specifics of this,” Spicer said at Monday’s off-camera press briefing. “But I will say that it is quite often for people who are given information during the heat of a campaign to ask what that is. That’s what simply he did. The President has made it clear through this tweet. And there was nothing, as far as we know, that would lead anyone to believe that there was anything except for a discussion about adoption and the Magnitsky Act.”
Hours earlier, Trump tweeted that most politicians would have gone to such a meeting to collect opposition research, which is what Trump Jr. admitted the meeting was supposed to be about.
“Most politicians would have gone to a meeting like the one Don Jr. attended in order to get info on an opponent,” Trump tweeted. “That’s politics!”
Trump has admitted previously that Trump Jr. took the meeting with the full expectation that the Russian lawyer, Natalia Veselnitskaya, would provide him with damaging information on soon-to-be Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton.
Trump Jr. himself last week released his email exchange with Rob Goldstone, the British music publicist who helped arrange the meeting attended by Trump Jr., Veselnitskaya, then-campaign chairman Paul Manafort, and Trump’s son-in-law and current White House adviser Jared Kushner. The emails showed that Trump Jr. was made aware the information was coming from the Russian government.
Goldstone said in his emails to Trump Jr. that Veselnitskaya was a “Russian government attorney” who wanted to share some information about Clinton as “part of Russia and its government’s support for Mr. Trump.” Goldstone wrote that the Russians “offered to provide the Trump campaign with some official documents and information that would incriminate Hillary and her dealings with Russia and would be very useful to your father.”
To that, Trump Jr. responded, “If it’s what you say I love it especially later in the summer.”
Trump Jr. said the damaging information never materialised, and that the meeting, which he said lasted 20 or 30 minutes, quickly veered into discussion of the Magnitsky Act, a US law that blacklists Russians accused of human-rights abuses. The law so enraged Russian President Vladimir Putin that he retaliated by barring US citizens from adopting Russian children.
But later last week, additional sources came forward and admitted they too were in on the meeting. One, Rinat Akhmetshin, a Russian-American lobbyist who served in the Soviet military, told The Associated Press on Friday that Veselnitskaya presented documents to the Trump representatives who attended the June 2016 Trump Tower meeting that she believed detailed the flow of illicit funds to the Democratic National Committee.
In Akhmetshin’s recounting, Veselnitskaya suggested to those in the meeting that they make the contents of the documents public. She said that doing so could help Trump’s campaign, Akhmetshin said.
“This could be a good issue to expose how the DNC is accepting bad money,” he recalled her saying.
Akhmetshin said Trump Jr. then asked whether she had evidence to back up the assertion, to which Veselnitskaya said the campaign would have to do more research on the subject. That’s when Trump Jr. lost interest, Akhmetshin said.