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01 August 2017

Trump ‘weighed in’ on son’s statement about Russian meeting

Donald Trump Jr (L) and Donald Trump appear together.Image copyright
Getty Images

President Donald Trump “weighed in” on the statement his son gave on talks with a Russian lawyer during the election, a White House aide has said.

Sarah Huckabee Sanders rebuffed reports that Mr Trump dictated the statement, but confirmed he was involved.

The statement said the meeting was about the adoption of Russian children, but revelations showed he expected damaging material on Hillary Clinton.

The president’s lawyer initially denied that Mr Trump had any input.

“The president weighed in as any father would based on the limited information that he had,” Ms Huckabee Sanders said at the White House’s daily news briefing on Tuesday.

She said he “didn’t dictate” the statement as earlier reported and that the issue was “of no consequence”.

“The Democrats want to continue to use this as a PR stunt and are doing everything they can to keep this story alive and in the papers every single day,” she added.

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Media captionAll you need to know about the Trump-Russia investigation

Ms Huckabee Sanders maintained there was no inaccuracy in Mr Trump Jr’s statements.

President Trump has repeatedly denied any collusion with Russia.

The Senate, House of Representatives and a special counsel are all investigating US intelligence findings that Moscow interfered in the US presidential election in an alleged attempt to undermine Mrs Clinton – a claim denied by the Kremlin.

The reports about Mr Trump Jr’s statement came in the midst of further turmoil at the White House.


How Trump team changed their story

  • I had no meetings with Russia as a campaign representative – Trump Jr (March 2017)
  • It was a short meeting but we only talked about adoption – Trump Jr (8 July)
  • I was promised dirt on Clinton but her statements were vague – Trump Jr (9 July)
  • It was standard opposition research – Trump Jr (10 July)
  • The president was “not involved in the drafting” of the statement – President Trump’s lawyer (16 July)
  • The president “weighed in” on the statement – White House spokeswoman (1 August)

White House communications director Anthony Scaramucci was fired on Monday after fewer than 10 days in the post.

The former Wall Street financier had drawn criticism after calling a reporter to give a profanity-laced tirade against his colleagues.

Reports that President Trump himself dictated the statement his son issued about the meeting with lawyer Natalia Veselnitskaya first emerged in the Washington Post, citing multiple sources.

The initial plan was that Mr Trump Jr would fully disclose what he knew about the meeting, the Post says, but that decision was reversed and his first statement said they had discussed the adoption of Russian children, not campaign issues.

Mr Trump Jr later acknowledged he had agreed to meet after being told Kremlin-linked information about Mrs Clinton would be offered during the talks.

He also released the email exchange that brought about the meeting.

The Washington Post says some of the president’s advisers fear the extent of the Mr Trump’s intervention could place him and some of his inner circle in legal jeopardy.

Why is Trump possibly in legal trouble?

By Anthony Zurcher, BBC News, Washington

According to the Washington Post, Donald Trump thinks that because he didn’t do anything wrong, he can’t obstruct the criminal investigation into Russian electoral meddling.

The president’s personal lawyers might want to tell him that’s not how it works – and the president might want to listen.

Even if misdirecting the media isn’t a crime, the Post points out that it’s enough to encourage special counsel Robert Mueller to take a closer look. And if the president, who it now appears had a deep involvement in crafting the response to the Donald Trump Jr email bombshell, did more than just help mislead the American public, he could be in legal jeopardy.

At the very least the president is playing with political dynamite by not insulating himself from the investigation. It’s a lesson President Richard Nixon learned the hard way during Watergate.

But then Mr Trump is operating as president the way he did as a candidate – with a small, sometimes chaotic inner circle, where lines of authority are blurred, “expert” advice is often dismissed and all paths lead to Trump.

If he – or new chief of staff John Kelly – doesn’t change this structure soon, the president may come to regret it.

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Media captionDonald Trump Jr maintains that there was nothing to tell his father President Trump

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