- Jim Bourg/Reuters
President Donald Trump was behind a misleading statement that incompletely described his son 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 that the meeting took place, said that Trump Jr. and the lawyer “primarily discussed a program about the adoption of Russian children” and that the subject of conversation was “not a campaign issue at the time.”
But that characterization evolved over the next few days, with Trump Jr. ultimately publishing his email correspondences with the British music publicist who organized the meeting. The email chain indicated that the pretext of the meeting was that the lawyer would provide the Trump campaign with damaging information about Hillary Clinton “as part of Russia and its government’s support for Mr. Trump,” to which Trump Jr. replied, “I love it.”
Trump’s son-in-law, Jared Kushner, and his campaign chairman at the time, Paul Manafort, also attended the meeting.
According to The Post, when news of the meeting broke, a group of Trump’s advisers agreed that the White House should release a truthful statement that could not be repudiated if more details 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 G-20 summit in Hamburg, Germany, The Post said.
Trump has maintained that he learned of the meeting just days before The Times first reported on it, and previous reporting suggested he had merely signed off on the statement. But Monday’s report describing direct involvement by Trump in the response could attract more scrutiny to Trump amid investigations by Congress and the FBI into 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. Mueller sent a request to White House officials to preserve any documents relating to the 2016 meeting.
Trump has defended his son and has repeatedly dismissed the Russia investigation, tweeting on July 15: “You are witnessing the single greatest WITCH HUNT in American political history – led by some very bad and conflicted people!”