President Donald Trump’s personal lawyer floated a new reason why Donald Trump Jr. did nothing wrong when he met with a Russian lawyer offering damaging information on Hillary Clinton.
In an interview on ABC’s “This Week,” Jay Sekulow argued that Trump Jr.’s meeting with the lawyer, Natalia Veselnitskaya, and Russian-American lobbyist Rinat Akhmetshin was innocent because if it weren’t, the Secret Service would not have let the guests meet with top members of the Trump campaign.
“I wonder why the Secret Service – if this was nefarious – why the Secret Service allowed these people in?” Sekulow said. “The president had Secret Service protection at that point, and that raised a question with me.”
Sekulow’s comments quickly sparked criticism, as many people noted that it was not normally the secret service’s duty to bar individuals from meeting with campaign officials, particularly if those officials do not pose an immediate, obvious threat.
Akhmetshin also told Yahoo’s Michael Isikoff on Friday that “no one asked us for ID’s” when he and Veselnitskaya walked into Trump Tower.
“We literally walked in” without any security check, Akhmetshin said.
Further, the Secret Service said later on Sunday that Trump. Jr. was not under Secret Service protection at the time of the meeting.
“Donald Trump, Jr. was not a protectee of the USSS in June, 2016. Thus we would not have screened anyone he was meeting with at that time,” a spokesman told Reuters.
So the Secret Service is supposed to decide what people presidential candidates can meet, and what people they can't? Just so dumb. https://t.co/mtkpW8hkw9
— James Surowiecki (@JamesSurowiecki) July 16, 2017
Surely the GOP knows the Secret Service is not tasked with protecting our country from espionage nor our electoral system from tampering? https://t.co/gChzyRT45Y
— Tom Bonier (@tbonier) July 16, 2017
This is a very odd defense.
If Watergate was nefarious, why'd the Secret Service let Nixon do it?
Because that's not their job. https://t.co/NujcuvCeoH
— Matthew Yglesias (@mattyglesias) July 16, 2017
Previous spin: We didn't know who they were until they got to the meeting.
New spin: They were vetted by our Secret Service detail. https://t.co/4Awr4gGeJx
— Ryan Lizza (@RyanLizza) July 16, 2017
Knowing the Secret Service as I do, 1)they won't be pleased by this and 2)Executive Protective service isn't there to be a chaperone. https://t.co/sRgctMPcyQ
— Juliette Kayyem (@juliettekayyem) July 16, 2017
The Secret Service also didn't stop Reagan from selling weapons to Iran to fund Contra war! We need to fix the Secret Service!
— Jeet Heer (@HeerJeet) July 16, 2017
Though he is not Donald Trump Jr.’s lawyer, Sekulow has become one of the most high-profile defenders of both Trumps’ conduct, appearing regularly for television interviews multiple times a week from Nashville, where he is located.
He has regularly sparred with television anchors, claiming that Trump did not know about his son, campaign manager, and son-in-law’s meeting with the Russian lawyer, and has insisted that Trump is not under criminal investigation, despite reporting from The Washington Post and the president’s own tweet that suggested he is a target of the probe.