The White House has confirmed that US President Donald Trump did in fact help his son draft a statement regarding Trump Jr’s meeting with a Russian lawyer.
Only weeks ago, Trump’s lawyer Jay Sekulow staunchly denied that the President played any role in signing off the controversial statement which offered misleading facts about the incident.
In June 2016, Trump Jr met with Russian lawyer Veselnitskaya and music promoter Rob Goldstone. Veselnitskaya has deep ties to Kremlin. Goldstone arranged for the meeting, noting that this was “part of Russia and its government’s support for Mr Trump.” The Trump campaign was promised information that would be harmful to the Hillary Clinton’s presidential bid. Trump Jr replied that he “loved it.” The meeting was also attended by Jared Kushner, Senior Advisor at the White House and then chairman of the Trump campaign, Paul Manafort.
Details of the meeting were published in a New York Times article in 2017. At the time, Trump Jr said that the meeting had been about Russian adoption. Part of the statement that he released noted, “We primarily discussed a program about the adoption of Russian children that was active and popular with American families years ago and was since ended by the Russian government, but it was not a campaign issue at the time and there was no follow up.”
Follow-up reports from the New York Times contradicted Trump Jr’s statement. When Trump Jr realized that the New York Times had come into possession of the emails, he released them himself.
There is currently a Department of Justice (DoJ) investigation probing into whether members of the Trump campaign colluded with Russia.
Jared Kushner, Trump Jr and the President have all maintained that the meeting was of no consequence. When the news initially broke out, the President claimed that he had been made aware of the meeting just a few days before the New York Times report was published. In subsequent days, it was confirmed that Trump must have known about the meeting at least three weeks before that. This was because Jared Kushner’s legal team had reportedly informed him of their existence.
Trump’s lawyer, Sekulow appeared in a number of television interviews to deny that Trump had helped draft the initial statement. To one reporter he said, “I wasn't involved in the statement drafting at all, nor was the President. I'm assuming that was between Mr. Donald Trump Jr., between Don Jr. and his lawyer. I'm sure his lawyer was involved, that's how you do it. So, to put this on the President, I think is absolutely incorrect."
A follow-up report from Washington Post has divulged that Trump was the one who amended the initial statement to reflect misleading facts about the meeting. The White House has since confirmed that Trump “weighed in as any father would.”
Some experts now claim that the latest revelation could implicate the President legally and he could be charged with obstruction of justice. It is also possible that Trump’s lawyer himself could be in legal trouble for his statements.
Our assessment is that it will be important for Trump to be forthcoming on 'what did he know and when did he come to know?'. This was the key question that emanated during the Watergate probe. There are also lessons that President Trump can learn from the investigations during Iran Contragate. If the President is arraigned for making misleading statements, he could be indicted for obstruction of justice.