The White House said on Tuesday that US President Donald Trump had a role in producing a statement in which his son denied that a meeting he had with a Russian lawyer was related to the 2016 presidential campaign, comments later shown to be misleading.
White House spokeswoman Sarah Sanders told a briefing that Trump “certainly didn’t dictate (the statement), but he weighed in, offered a suggestion like any father would do.”
“The statement that was issued was true and there were no inaccuracies in the statement,” Sanders said, even though emails later released by Donald Trump Jnr showed that the subject of the meeting was to be possible damaging information about Republican Trump’s rival for the presidency, Democrat Hillary Clinton.
The Washington Post reported on Monday that Trump’s advisers discussed the statement about the meeting and agreed that Trump Jnr should issue a truthful account of the episode so that it “couldn’t be repudiated later if the full details emerged.”
But the president, who was flying home from Germany on July 8, changed the plan and “personally dictated a statement in which Trump Jnr said he and the Russian lawyer had ‘primarily discussed a programme about the adoption of Russian children,’” the Washington Post said, citing unidentified people with knowledge of the deliberations.
That was inaccurate. Trump Jnr later released emails that showed he eagerly agreed last year to meet a woman he was told was a Russian government lawyer who might have damaging information about Clinton as part of Moscow’s official support for his father. The New York Times was first to report the meeting at Trump Tower in New York.
Sanders’ comments in effect refuted Trump’s lawyer and frequent spokesperson, Jay Sekulow, who said two weeks ago on NBC’s Meet the Press that “the president was not involved in the drafting of the statement.” Sekulow said much the same on ABC’s This Week.
Four days after Trump Jnr issued his initial, inaccurate statement on July 8 about the 2016 meeting, his father suggested to reporters he was largely in the dark about it, and assumed his son and the son’s lawyers wrote the statement.
“I only heard about it two or three days ago,” the president said. He added praise for his son’s “transparency” on the issue.
Senator Mark Warner of Virginia, the top Democrat on the Senate Intelligence Committee, one of the congressional panels that is investigating Russia’s election interference and potential collusion with the Trump campaign, said on CNN Tuesday that the revelations would prompt more questions of Trump Jnr.
“I’ll let any rational individual make a judgment,” Warner said. “But it seems a bit strange, the president of the United States comes in and drafts this statement that is just factually wrong.”
Additional reporting by Tribune News Service
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