Reprinted with permission from Shareblue.com
Trump’s lawyers admitted for the first time in a newly revealed memo that Trump dictated a cover story to deceive the public about the June 2016 Trump Tower meeting between campaign officials and a Russian lawyer promising “dirt” on Hillary Clinton.
The revelation, which was made in a 20-page confidential memo sent to special counsel Robert Mueller in January and published Saturday by The New York Times, shows that the White House has lied for months about Trump’s involvement in crafting the deceptive response.
In the newly released memo, Trump’s lawyers absurdly argue that it is impossible for the president to obstruct justice, and that Mueller cannot force him to testify as he investigates Trump for potential obstruction of justice.
Mueller has told Trump’s legal team that he needs to interview Trump to determine whether he intended to obstruct the Russia investigation during certain key moments, including the firing of former FBI Director James Comey and the response from the White House when news first broke about the June 9, 2016 Trump Tower meeting.
That meeting — which was attended by Donald Trump Jr., Jared Kushner, and then-campaign chair Paul Manafort, along with several Russian figures including Kremlin-linked lawyer Natalia Veselnitskaya — has come under intense scrutiny in the months since it was uncovered by The New York Times in July 2017.
When news first broke, Trump Jr. released a statement claiming the meeting was about Russian adoptions. The statement did not mention that Trump Jr. and other campaign officials enthusiastically agreed to the meeting after being promised that Veselnitskaya and other Russians in attendance had “dirt” on Clinton to pass along to them.
As the cover story unraveled last summer, Trump and other White House officials did their best to distance Trump from his son’s deceptive statement about the meeting, saying he had nothing to do with it.
But in the new memo, Trump’s lawyers admit that he actually dictated the misleading statement, though they falsely claim that it wasn’t misleading to say a meeting to get “dirt” on Clinton was about adoptions.
The admission follows months of denials, including at least five public statements in which Trump’s former lawyer Jay Sekulow and White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders flatly rejected the idea that Trump was involved in crafting the misleading response.
In a letter to Mueller, Trump’s lawyers said he “dictated a short but accurate response to the New York Times” about the infamous Trump Tower meeting with Russians. But here are FIVE TIMES @JaySekulow and @PressSec previously denied Trump’s role in the misleading statement. pic.twitter.com/DINgjFdKvL
— Marshall Cohen (@MarshallCohen) June 2, 2018
This is the first time anyone has admitted that Trump dictated the statement for Trump Jr.
As The Times noted, “Trump’s advisers have tried to muddy this point, suggesting several people were involved, so the clarity of the sentence is striking.”
Mueller’s team is already investigating Trump’s involvement in crafting the deceptive cover story to determine whether he had intent to conceal evidence of his campaign’s ties to Russia.
This evidence could later be used as proof that he had the same intention when he took other actions, like firing Comey or pressuring Attorney General Jeff Sessions not to recuse himself.
But Trump isn’t the only one who could be in trouble over the misleading response to the Trump Tower meeting.
As David Corn pointed out in Mother Jones, Trump Jr. failed to disclose his father’s involvement in crafting the statement and may have lied to Congress when discussing the matter.
“Trump Jr. certainly did not inform the committee that his father had dictated the statement. In fact, he made it seem as if Trump was marginally involved, if at all. Yet according to the letter written by Trump’s own lawyers, Trump was in charge of the statement,” Corn wrote.
“Trump Jr.’s remarks to the committee conveyed an inaccurate impression and can be seen as an attempt to provide cover for his pop. They might even be considered false statements,” he added. “By the way, it’s a crime to lie to Congress.”
It’s also a crime to lie to federal investigators, which is exactly why Trump’s lawyers are so scared to let him talk to Mueller.
By all appearances, Trump is feeling pretty nervous, too. Just before The New York Times published the memo on Saturday, Trump took to Twitter in a desperate attempt to say the real criminals are Democrats — apparently hoping to deflect attention away from the five people who have pleaded guilty in the Russia probe, including three of Trump’s own associates.
And if the absurd arguments presented in this memo are the best Trump’s legal team has to offer, there’s good reason for him to be concerned.