President Donald Trump today acknowledged an earlier lie about a meeting about a secret meeting his son, son-in-law and former campaign manage held with Russians in the Trump Tower in an hope to gather dirt on opponent Hillary Clinton in the 2016 Presidential election.
In an angry tweet from his New Jersey golf club, where Trump is having an extended vacation he is calling a “working session,” Trump fired off missives about the meeting, the news media and special counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation into the Russian involvement in the 2016 presidential election.
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!
After news of the meeting broke, Trump — on Air Force One — dictated a response to the media, claiming the meeting was about to discuss immigration issues, not opposition research on Clinton.
“We primarily discussed a program about the adoption of Russian children that was active and popular with American families years ago,” the statement read.
The story about the meeting changed several more times, eventually forced by the discovery of emails between the president’s eldest son and an intermediary from the Russian government offering damaging information about Trump’s opponent, Hillary Clinton. Betraying no surprise or misgivings about the offer from a hostile foreign power, Trump Jr. replied: “If it’s what you say I love it especially later in the summer.”
Sunday’s tweet was Trump’s clearest statement yet on the purpose of the meeting, which has become a focal point of Mueller’s investigation even as the president and his lawyers try to downplay its significance and pummel the Mueller probe with attacks. On Sunday, Trump again suggested without evidence that Mueller was biased against him, declaring, “This is the most one sided Witch Hunt in the history of our country.”
As Trump and his allies have tried to discredit the probe, a new talking point has emerged: that even if that meeting was held to collect damaging information, none was provided and “collusion” — Trump’s go-to description of what Mueller is investigating — never occurred.
“The question is what law, statute or rule or regulation has been violated, and nobody has pointed to one,” said Jay Sekulow, one of Trump’s attorneys, on ABC’s “This Week.”
Legal experts point out several possible criminal charges, including conspiracy against the United States and aiding and abetting a conspiracy. Despite Trump’s public Twitter denial, the president has expressed worry that his son may face legal exposure even as he believes he did nothing wrong, according to three people close to the White House familiar with the president’s thinking but not authorized to speak publicly about private conversations.
Sekulow acknowledged that the public explanation for the meeting has changed but insisted that the White House has been very clear with the special counsel’s office. He said he was not aware of Trump Jr. facing any legal exposure.
“I don’t represent Don Jr.,” Sekulow said, “but I will tell you I have no knowledge at all of Don Jr. being told that he’s a target of any investigation, and I have no knowledge of him being interviewed by the special counsel.”
Trump’s growing private anger spilled out into public with the Twitter outburst Sunday, which comes at yet perilous time for his embattled presidency.
Still pending is a decision about whether he sits for an interview with Mueller and it may occur in the coming weeks, according to Rudy Giuliani, his attorney and his primary spokesman now on the Mueller probe. Trump ‘s anger increasing over what he feels are trumped-up charges against his former campaign chairman, Paul Manafort, whose trial began last week and provided a visible reminder of Mueller’s work.
He rages against what he claims are the media’s obsession with his links to Russia and the status of Cohen, his former fixer. Cohen is telling prosecutors what he knows about Trump really knew about the Trump Tower meeting ahead of time.
Despite a show of force from his national security team this week as a warning against future Russian election meddling, Trump called the matter a “hoax” again this week. At a trio of rallies, he raised the volume of his already vitriolic rhetoric toward the media, savaging the press for unflattering coverage and, he claims, bias.
Another of his tweets Sunday:
The Fake News hates me saying that they are the Enemy of the People only because they know it’s TRUE. I am providing a great service by explaining this to the American People. They purposely cause great division & distrust. They can also cause War! They are very dangerous & sick!
The fusillade of tweets came from Bedminster, Trump’s golf course, where he is ensconced in a property that bears his name at every turn and is less checked in by staffers. It was at the New Jersey golf club where a brooding Trump has unleashed other inflammatory attacks and where, in spring 2017, he made the final decision to fire FBI Director James Comey, the move that triggered the Russia probe.
Trump was joined for his Saturday rally in Ohio by former White House communications director Hope Hicks, who departed the administration earlier this year. Her unannounced presence raised some eyebrows as Hicks has been interviewed by Mueller and was part of the team of staffers that helped draft the original statement on the Trump Tower meeting.
Multiple White House officials have been interviewed while still working at the White House and have remained in contact with the president.
Associated Press Writer Jonathan Lemire provided material for this report. Follow Lemire on Twitter at http://twitter.com/@JonLemire. Doug Thompson can be followed there too at http://twitter.com/@dougthompson.
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