NEW YORK CITY — US President Donald Trump was behind a misleading statement that inaccurately portrayed Donald Trump Jr.’s meeting with a Russian lawyer in 2016, The Washington Post reported on Monday.
The statement, published in July after The New York Times first reported the meeting, claimed that Trump Jr. and the lawyer “primarily discussed a program about the adoption of Russian children” during the meeting at Trump Tower, and that the subject of conversation was “not a campaign issue at the time.”
The statement would be proven false days later, when Trump Jr. published his email correspondences with a British music producer who organised the meeting. In the email chain, Trump Jr. was told the lawyer would provide damaging information about Hillary Clinton as part of the Russian government’s attempt to influence the US election, to which Trump Jr. replied, “I love it.”
Trump’s son-in-law, Jared Kushner, and his then-campaign manager, Paul Manafort, also attended the meeting.
According to The Post, when news of the meeting broke, a group of Trump’s advisers agreed the White House should release a truthful statement that could not be repudiated if more details of the meeting surfaced later.
But Trump overruled the advisers and “personally dictated” the misleading statement that was eventually published, according to The Post’s report. The statement was crafted aboard Air Force One as Trump returned from the G20 summit in Hamburg, Germany.
Trump has maintained that he only learned of the meeting days before news of its existence was broken by The New York Times, and previous reporting claimed he had merely signed off on the statement. But Monday’s report detailing Trump’s direct involvement in the response could add more ammunition to allegations that the president participated in a cover-up of Russian election interference.
“This was … unnecessary,” one of Trump’s advisers told The Post. “Now someone can claim he’s the one who attempted to mislead. Somebody can argue the president is saying he doesn’t want you to say the whole truth.”
The meeting has caught the attention of Robert Mueller, the special counsel investigating possible collusion between the Trump campaign and Russia, who sent a request to White House officials to preserve any documents relating to the 2016 meeting.
Meanwhile, Trump has defended his son and has repeatedly dismissed the Russia probe as a “witch hunt.”
“You are witnessing the single greatest WITCH HUNT in American political history — led by some very bad and conflicted people!” Trump tweeted on July 15.
Read the Washington Post report here »
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