The White House defended President Trump's involvement in issuing a statement about his son's meeting with a Russian lawyer during the campaign, saying that the statement was true and that the president was simply acting as a father.
“The statement that Don Jr. issued is true. There's no inaccuracy in the statement,” said incoming White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders. “The president weighed in just as any father would based on the limited information that he had.”
“This is all discussion, frankly, of no consequence,” Sanders added.
The comments seem to confirm that Trump participated in the drafting of the statement on Air Force One and contradict past statements from Trump's attorneys denying that he had any involvement.
“The president was not — did not — draft the response,” Trump's attorney Jay Sekulow said on “Meet the Press” in an interview July 16. “The response came from Donald Trump Jr. and — I’m sure — in consultation with his lawyer.”
While Sanders denied that Trump “dictated” the document, she acknowledged that he “weighed in and offered suggestions” on a statement that claimed that in the meeting, Trump Jr. and other participants “primarily discussed a program about the adoption of Russian children.” That statement turned out to be misleading.
Emails obtained by the New York Times and subsequently released by Trump Jr. later showed that the meeting was pitched to Trump's son as one about derogatory information about Hillary Clinton. That disclosure prompted Trump Jr. to correct his public statements.
In addition to Trump Jr., the president's son-in-law, Jared Kushner, and campaign manager Paul Manafort also attended the meeting. Kushner did not initially disclose the meeting on the government forms he was required to fill out to join the administration.
Yet Sanders claimed on Tuesday that the meeting was “was disclosed to the proper authorities.”
Trump worked with aides on the statement on Air Force One while returning to the U.S. from the Group of 20 Summit in Hamburg on July 8. He insisted that the statement describe the meeting as unimportant and primarily about adoptions.
In reality, Trump Jr. had enthusiastically agreed to attend the meeting after being promised damaging information on Clinton as part of the Russian government's efforts to help his father's campaign.
During Tuesday's briefing, Sanders recited a litany of other stories involving Clinton and Russia that she believed the media should cover instead. And she accused Democrats of focusing on a “phony” Russia story to advance political goals.
“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,” Sanders said.