President Trump has yet again tweeted about his personal legal issues in a way he perhaps shouldn't have.
The Washington Post reported Saturday that Trump had expressed concerns in the past week about his son Donald Trump Jr.'s legal exposure from the 2016 Trump Tower meeting. In a tweet about that report on Sunday, Trump said, “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!”
The first is that Trump appears to have broken some new ground here when it comes to admitting the true purpose of the Trump Tower meeting with a Kremlin-aligned lawyer — and even further contradicted the initial statement he helped draft about it. At the time, Donald Trump Jr. issued a statement explaining that he and the lawyer, Natalia Veselnitskaya, had “primarily discussed a program about the adoption of Russian children.” We have since discovered that the elder Trump actually dictated that statement.
Quickly, though, that explanation fell apart, and we learned that Trump Jr. had actually been promised harmful information about Democrats, including Hillary Clinton. The president himself seemed to shrug it off, saying in July 2017 that, “from a practical standpoint, most people would have taken that meeting.” He added: “It’s called opposition research or even research into your opponent.” (Trump also tweeted along these lines.) But at the same time, he still suggested that the meeting was, in large part, about adoption.
Sunday's tweet appears to acknowledge more explicitly than before that the meeting was indeed predicated on opposition research: “This was a meeting to get information on an opponent.” The initial denial — which, again, Trump himself dictated — is pretty irreconcilable with that. (You could perhaps argue that adoption was mostly discussed, even if the meeting was set up to discuss oppo research, but that's a stretch.)
If you're Robert Mueller and you're looking at whether Trump obstructed justice, you've now got even more evidence of a clear attempt to mislead the public and obscure the truth. Trump's July 2017 comments came before we knew he was involved in drafting that initial misleading response, and they don't so precisely say the meeting was intended to get oppo; now there is really no disputing that point if you're Trump's lawyer. (It's a little like Trump's Lester Holt interview, in which he said Russia was on his mind when he fired James Comey. That may not be the same, legally speaking, as him saying he fired Comey because of the Russia investigation.)
The second issue here are the final words of the tweet. “I did not know about it!” This is something Trump has said regularly about the Trump Tower meeting and something he has re-upped now that Michael Cohen is reportedly telling people that Trump did know about it.
But here's the thing: This is a tweet about how the Trump Tower meeting was totally fine — nothing illegal to see here. If you've got no real concern about legal exposure from the meeting, why distance yourself from it? Trump seems to be arguing against his own point by assuring us that he had nothing to do with this meeting, which — oh, by the way — was totally on the up-and-up. Trump might as well have just confirmed The Post's report that he is worried about what the meeting portends for his son.
Is this tweet, in and of itself, damning? Probably not. But obstruction-of-justice cases are about proving that someone had “corrupt intent” when they took the actions they did. And for the second time in less than a week, Trump tweeted something that suggested his intent wasn't terribly wholesome. He also suggested that he isn't as convinced as he'd like us to believe that there's nothing to see here.
This post has been updated.