Donald Trump has effectively admitted lying over the June 2016 meeting between his top campaign advisors, including his son Donald Trump Jr., and three Kremlin-linked envoys.
Continuing to rail against “fake news” and the “Witch Hunt” amid more details about the possible conspiracy with the Russians, Trump broke his 11-day vacation to tweet on Sunday morning:
Fake News reporting, a complete fabrication, that I am concerned about the meeting my wonderful son, Donald, had in Trump Tower. This was a meeting to get information on an opponent, totally legal and done all the time in politics – and it went nowhere. I did not know about it!
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) August 5, 2018
The statement immediately added to Trump’s troubles because of his admission that the aim was to gather material damaging Hillary Clinton, the Democratic nominee in the 2016 Presidential campaign.
That exposed as a lie the original statement made by Donald Trump Jr. in July 2017, when The New York Times first revealed the Trump Tower meeting which also included campaign manager Paul Manafort and Trump Sr.’s son-in-law Jared Kushner. That statement said the subject of the meeting was “adoptions”.
Moreover, Trump Sr.’s lawyers acknowledged in a formal document in early June that the President, returning aboard Air Force One from the G20 summit in Germany, dictated his son’s declaration — in light of his Sunday tweet, lying and thus possibly obstructing justice.
On Sunday, Jay Sekulow, until recently a Trump lawyer, admitted that his denial of Trump Sr.’s involvement in the drafting of Trump Jr.’s press release was wrong: “I had bad information at that time and made a mistake in my statement.”
Did Trump Know in Advance of Meeting?
Attention on the Trump Tower meeting was renewed last week by reports that Trump’s former long-time attorney Michael Cohen will attest in court to Trump Sr.’s knowledge in advance of the encounter.
Sources close to Cohen, who is facing Federal charges over financial issues, say he can describe a meeting on June 7, 2016 — two days before the arrival fo the Kremlin-linked envoys — of five high-level campaign advisors, including Trump Jr., Manafort, and Kushner.
Rick Gates, Manafort’s senior aide, was also in the June 7 discussion, according to Cohen. Pleading guilty earlier this year to financial crimes, Gates has been cooperating with Special Counsel Robert Mueller.
Trump’s attorney Rudy Giuliani tried to quash the story but only fed it by appearing to acknowledge “collusion” with the Russians, saying that it is not a crime, and by initially pointing to the advance meeting of the advisors.
Friends and advisors say the volatile Trump has been even more agitated by developments, leading to his Twitter outbursts only deepening his trouble.
One advisor indicated Trump is effectively acknowledging conspiracy, but believes it was accidental, with Donald Trump Jr. “inadvertently” falling into legal jeopardy.
Trump’s former lawyer Sekulow fell back on the collusion-is-not-a-crime defense yesterday: “The question is: How would it be illegal? Nobody’s pointed to [a law prohibiting the meeting].”
Under US campaign laws, it is illegal for foreign nationals, let alone a foreign power, to have any political or financial involvement.