Update: Incoming White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders confirmed Tuesday afternoon that what Sekulow said wasn't true, saying, "The president weighed in just as any father would."
President Trump's personal lawyer, Jay Sekulow, has some explaining to do.
The Washington Post reported Monday night that the president himself was responsible for the drafting of Donald Trump Jr.'s misleading statement after the New York Times revealed that the younger Trump had arranged a meeting with a Russian lawyer in June 2016. Individuals say White House advisers had decided to be transparent about the meeting, but the president changed the game plan at the last minute to misleadingly suggest that the meeting was about adoption. The full truth soon came out that the meeting was arranged to discuss compromising information, supposedly from the Russian government, about Hillary Clinton.
The problem for Sekulow? He denied at least twice, pretty unequivocally, that the president played any role in the drafting of that statement.
Here's what Sekulow said on NBC's “Meet the Press” on July 16 (emphasis added):
CHUCK TODD: You were very careful to say the president didn’t draft the statement. That isn’t what I asked. Did the president get a heads-up on the statement? Did he sign off on the statement? Was he asked to read the statement before it was given to the New York Times on Air Force One?
SEKULOW: No, I mean, I can’t say whether the president was told the statement was going to be coming from his son on that. I didn’t have that conversation and let me say this — but I do want to be clear — that the president was not involved in the drafting of the statement and did not issue the statement. It came from Donald Trump Jr. So that’s what I can tell you because that’s what we know. And Donald Trump Jr. has said the same thing. That it was, in fact, from him and I believe it was his lawyer was in consultation — I’m sure his lawyer was in consultation.
And here's Sekulow again on ABC's “Good Morning America” four days prior, on July 12:
GEORGE STEPHANOPOULOS: That does raise another set of questions. Because the New York Times is reporting this morning the president's signed off on the initial statement on Saturday on the initial statement from Don Jr. on Saturday, but didn't mention the emails, didn't really go into any great detail on the meeting, in fact, was misleading about the meeting. So the president signed off on that statement. Does he feel he was misled by his son and by Jared Kushner if, indeed, they didn't tell him about these emails that they both received?
SEKULOW: The president didn't sign off on anything. He was coming back from the G-20 [summit], the statement that was released on Saturday, was released by Donald Trump Jr. and, I'm sure, in consultation with his lawyers. The president wasn't involved in that.
STEPHANOPOULOS: Well the New York Times says that he was involved in it, that several people on the plane were involved in it as well. So you're disputing ...
SEKULOW: That's incorrect.
STEPHANOPOULOS: … that account from the New York Times.
Several of Sekulow's claims in defense of Trump have come under scrutiny. I did a whole annotation of his Sunday show appearances last month.
But these statements are about as contradictory as it gets, when compared to The Post's new report. What's remarkable is that, as Stephanopoulos noted, the New York Times had reported at the time, on July 11, that the president himself approved the statement. “Ultimately, the people said, the president signed off on a statement from Donald Trump Jr. for the Times,” it wrote.
So it's difficult to believe Sekulow didn't have an opportunity to verify that information. Instead, he offered a broad and complete denial. And then, four days later, he offered the same broad denial.