Tuesday 24 October 2017

Trump weighed in on statement of son's Russian meeting 'like any father would do'

Donald Trump Jr places a hand on the shoulder of his father, US president Donald Trump during campaigning. The pair are embroiled in controversy over a statement drawn up in connection with a meeting with a Russian lawyer. Photo: AFP/Getty Images
Donald Trump Jr places a hand on the shoulder of his father, US president Donald Trump during campaigning. The pair are embroiled in controversy over a statement drawn up in connection with a meeting with a Russian lawyer. Photo: AFP/Getty Images

Nick Allen

US President Donald Trump personally dictated a misleading statement in which his son Donald Trump Jr said a meeting with a Russian lawyer during the 2016 election was innocuous, it has been claimed.

It later emerged that during the meeting on June 9, 2016, Mr Trump's eldest son, his son-in-law Jared Kushner, and then-campaign manager Paul Manafort, met with a Russian government lawyer who had claimed to have incriminating information about Hillary Clinton.

The fact the meeting took place came to light last month and the president's advisers wanted to transparently reveal all details of the encounter, including who was there and what was discussed, the 'Washington Post' reported.

But Mr Trump was said to have overridden them and decided to reveal few details.

On board Air Force One, returning from the G20 summit in Hamburg, he reportedly dictated a statement which was then issued in his son's name.

The statement said Donald Trump Jr and the Russian lawyer Natalia Veselnitskaya "primarily discussed a programme about the adoption of Russian children", and insisted that "was not a campaign issue at the time and there was no follow-up".

Sacked: Anthony Scaramucci. Photo: REUTERS
Sacked: Anthony Scaramucci. Photo: REUTERS

Last night, the White House confirmed reports that Mr Trump had a role in drawing up the statement by Donald Trump Jr.

"He certainly didn't dictate [the statement]," said White House press secretary Sarah Sanders, "but ... he weighed in, offered suggestion like any father would do."

Mr Trump Jr subsequently released emails that showed he agreed to meet a woman he was told was a Russian government lawyer who might have damaging information about Democratic candidate Hillary Clinton as part of Moscow's official support for his father.

A lawyer for Mr Trump issued a statement in response to the 'Washington Post' report, saying: "Apart from being of no consequence, the characterisations are misinformed, inaccurate, and not pertinent."

However, David Sklansky, a professor of criminal law at Stanford Law School, said that if Mr Trump had helped craft a misleading public statement about the meeting, he may have bolstered a potential obstruction of justice case against himself.

"To build a criminal obstruction of justice case, federal law requires prosecutors to show that a person acted with corrupt intent. A misleading public statement could be used as evidence of corrupt intent.

"Lying usually isn't a crime," he said. But "it could be relevant in determining whether something else the president did, like firing [former FBI director James] Comey, was done corruptly".

Meanwhile, Mr Trump may be trying for a reset in the West Wing, but he is making clear that he is not changing his Twitter habit. On Twitter yesterday, Mr Trump wrote: "Only the Fake News Media and Trump enemies want me to stop using Social Media (110 million people). Only way for me to get the truth out!"

The tweet came one day after retired General John Kelly took over as Mr Trump's new chief of staff and immediately brought about the sacking of newly appointed communications director Anthony Scaramucci.

Irish Independent

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