The White House on Tuesday attempted to downplay President Donald Trump’s role in helping draft the initial statement from Donald Trump Jr. in which Trump’s eldest son attempted to explain his previously undisclosed meeting with a Kremlin-linked lawyer during the 2016 campaign.
“The president weighed in as any father would based on the limited information that he had,” White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders said. “This is all discussion frankly of no consequence.”
She also denied a Washington Post account of Trump’s involvement reporting that the president personally “dictated” a majority of the statement, which claimed that the focus of the undisclosed meeting was about Russian adoptions. But emails published by the New York Times—and Trump Jr. himself—later showed that the initial statement was misleading: At the center of the meeting was not adoptions, but a promise of damaging information on Hillary Clinton—a prospect Trump Jr. appeared eager to receive.
Sanders continued to push back on Tuesday, asserting that the only “misleading” factor was reporters pushing a “false narrative” about the Russia scandal.
The confirmation on Tuesday that the president had a role in crafting his son’s response also directly contradicts vehement denials from Trump’s lawyers: “The president did not draft the response,” Jay Sekulow, the president’s personal lawyer, said during a July 16 appearance on Meet the Press. “The response came from Donald Trump Jr. and I’m sure in consultation with his lawyer.”
“I do want to be clear the president was not involved in the drafting of the statement and did not issue the statement,” Sekulow added.
The revelation last month that Trump Jr. had met with Russian lawyer Natalia Veselnitskaya during the election in hopes of receiving incriminating information on Clinton sparked a firestorm of controversy, with legal experts describing it as the strongest hard evidence yet that Trump associates may have colluded with Russian officials to win the presidential election.