With constantly changing stories and contradictory statements, President Donald Trump and his lawyers continue to move the goalposts on the truth of what happened before, during, and after a June 2016 meeting between the president’s son and Russian operatives at Trump Tower.
In a Sunday morning tweet, Trump seems to have implicated his son, Donald Trump Jr., and even possibly himself, in an alleged conspiracy over the meeting, which included Trump’s son-in-law Jared Kushner and his former campaign manager Paul Manafort.
One of Trump’s lawyers, Jay Sekulow, appeared on ABC News’s This Week on Sunday to muddy the waters even further. He also “explained” why he had lied to This Week host George Stephanopoulos a year ago about the president’s involvement in a false statement his son gave to The New York Times in July 2017 about the meeting.
Sunday’s developments had the air of panic, obstruction, and legal desperation all wrapped into one tough day for Team Trump.
In a Twitter tirade while on vacation in New Jersey, Trump again referred to the news media as “Fake News” and “the Enemy of the People.” But he took it a step further by claiming that journalists “can also cause War!”
“They are very dangerous and sick,” he added.
Then—intentionally or not—he appears to have thrown his own son under the bus on the conspiracy front.
“Fake News reporting, a complete fabrication, that I am concerned about the meeting my wonderful son, Donald, had in Trump Tower,” Trump tweeted. “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!”
It’s hard to keep track of the different versions of the story we’ve heard so far from Trump, his son, and their lawyers—and that’s the point. They’re continuously lying for a reason, and you can be sure that Special Counsel Robert Mueller and his team of investigators are following very closely.
This latest tactic—designed more for its PR value than as a legal defense—follows the approach of Trump mouthpiece Rudy Giuliani, which is to admit colluding with the Russians to get dirt on then-candidate Hillary Clinton, only to claim that such collusion isn’t a crime. Sekulow parroted this line on This Week.
“Well, the question is how would it be illegal,” Sekulow said. “I mean, the real question here is would a meeting of that nature, the meeting itself, constitute a violation of the law. And what you have is a situation, and I’ve said this well over a year, you have to look at what laws, rules, regulations, statutes are purportedly violated here.” He then attacked the FBI and the Justice Department.
Stephanopoulos confronted Sekulow about his statement in July 2017 in which he said the president wasn’t involved in Donald Trump Jr.’s statement claiming the meeting with the Russians was about adoptions, not damaging information on the Clinton campaign. Stephanopoulos pointed out that last January, Trump’s legal team—including Sekulow—sent a memo to Mueller stating that Trump “dictated a short but accurate response to the New York Times article on behalf of his son, Donald Trump, Jr.”
Sekulow’s defense was that he was new to the team at the time.
“There was a lot of information that was gathering, and as my colleague, Rudy Giuliani said, I had bad information at that time. I made a mistake in my statement…That happens when you have cases like this,” Sekulow said.
He added that, “In a situation like this, you have, over time, facts develop. That’s what investigations do.”