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

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

The White House has confirmed reports that President Donald Trump helped draft a statement about his son’s meeting with a Russian lawyer.

Mr Trump “weighed in” on his son’s response to media, but did not dictate the wording, a White House aide said.

Donald Trump Jr initially said the meeting was about Russian adoption before acknowledging he was offered damaging material on Hillary Clinton.

The president’s lawyer had denied Mr Trump had any input in the statement.

The 39-year-old US first son came under scrutiny after the New York Times began reporting last month on his June 2016 meeting at Trump Tower.

White House spokeswoman Sarah Huckabee Sanders told a news briefing on Tuesday: “The president weighed in as any father would based on the limited information that he had.”


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Media captionSarah Huckabee Sanders: “The president weighed in as any father would”

But she maintained he “didn’t dictate” the statement and 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.

Ms Huckabee Sanders said 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 intelligence findings that Moscow interfered in the US presidential election in an alleged attempt to undermine Mrs Clinton – a claim denied by the Kremlin.

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)

The Washington Post reported late on Monday that President Trump himself personally dictated the statement his son issued about the meeting with lawyer Natalia Veselnitskaya.

The president was flying home last month aboard Air Force One from the G8 summit in Germany when he told his son what to say, according to the newspaper.

Mr Trump Jr’s statement would say that he and Ms Veselnitskaya “primarily discussed a programme about the adoption of Russian children”.

The initial plan was for Mr Trump Jr to fully disclose what he knew about the meeting, the Post says.


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

But that decision was reportedly 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, insisting nothing came of the encounter.

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.

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

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.

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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