'Trump dictated' misleading account of Russian meeting

The White House said on Tuesday that US President Donald Trump had a role in a statement in which his son denied a meeting with a Russian lawyer was related to the 2016 presidential campaign, but a spokeswoman insisted the statement was true.
This file photo taken shows US President Donald Trump as he delivers remarks on law enforcement at Suffolk Community College in Ronkonkoma, New York, on July 28, 2017.
This file photo taken shows US President Donald Trump as he delivers remarks on law enforcement at Suffolk Community College in Ronkonkoma, New York, on July 28, 2017. PHOTO: AFP

WASHINGTON • President Donald Trump dictated a statement, later shown to be misleading, in which his son Donald Trump Jr said a meeting he had with a Russian lawyer in June last year was not related to his father's presidential campaign, The Washington Post reported on Monday.

Mr Trump Jr released e-mails last month that showed he eagerly agreed last year to meet a woman he was told was a Russian government lawyer who might have damaging information about Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton as part of Moscow's official support for his father.

The New York Times was the first to report the meeting.

The Post said Trump advisers discussed the new disclosure and agreed that Mr Trump Jr should issue a truthful account of the episode so that it "couldn't be repudiated later if the full details emerged".

The President, who was flying home from a Group of 20 summit in Germany on July 8, changed the plan and "personally dictated a statement in which Mr Trump Jr said he and the Russian lawyer had 'primarily discussed a programme about the adoption of Russian children'," the Post said, citing unnamed people with knowledge of the deliberations.

It said the statement, issued to The New York Times as it prepared to publish the story, stressed that the subject of the meeting was "not a campaign issue at the time".

The meeting with lawyer Natalia Veselnitskaya has thrust Mr Trump Jr into the centre of a growing scandal over whether Mr Trump's associates colluded with Moscow to tilt the 2016 election in the Republican's favour.

Former FBI director Robert Mueller is probing, in his capacity as special counsel, the Russia connection independently of the Senate panels.

The Post said advisers worry that the extent of Mr Trump's direct involvement in his son's response could put the President - already under fire for other efforts to undermine the Russia probe - and key advisers in legal jeopardy.

"This was... unnecessary," one presidential adviser told the Post on condition of anonymity. "Now, someone can claim he's the one who attempted to mislead."

REUTERS, AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on August 02, 2017, with the headline ''Trump dictated' misleading account of Russian meeting'. Print Edition | Subscribe