By Greg Jaffe,
A senior member of President Trump’s personal legal team said Sunday that there was nothing improper in the meeting that Donald Trump Jr., the president’s oldest son, took with a Russian lawyer promising dirt on Hillary Clinton.
“Well, I wonder why the Secret Service, if this was nefarious, why the Secret Service allowed these people in,” Jay Sekulow, a lawyer for the president, said on ABC’s “This Week With George Stephanopoulos.” “The president had Secret Service protection at that point, and that raised a question with me.”
It’s highly unlikely that the Secret Service, which is charged with protecting the president, his aides and his family from physical harm, would have any influence over who the president or his children chose to meet during a presidential campaign.
A Secret Service spokeswoman cast doubt on Sekulow’s claims.
“Donald Trump Jr. was not under Secret Service protection in June 2016,” said Cathy Milhoan, the director of communications for the protective agency.
The president, meanwhile, took to Twitter, where he once again portrayed the Russia investigations as a media fabrication and turned his fire on his old Democratic rival.
“Hillary Clinton can illegally get the questions to the Debate & delete 33,000 emails but my son Don is being scorned by the Fake News Media?” Trump tweeted Sunday morning.
The president’s tweets, however, did not address his son’s missteps and obfuscations regarding the Russia meeting, which have only served to feed suspicions.
Initially, Trump Jr. said the meeting focused on Russia’s moves to halt adoptions by American families, but he changed his story after new details emerged. Emails released last week show that Trump Jr. believed he was meeting with Natalia Veselnitskaya, a Russian lawyer with possible ties to the Kremlin, who would provide damaging information about Clinton as part of a Russian broader effort to assist his father’s presidential campaign. He was joined at the meeting by Jared Kushner, Trump’s son-in-law; Paul Manafort, then a top campaign aide; and Rinat Akhmetshin, a lobbyist and possible intelligence agent in the former Soviet Union.
Trump Jr. has said that nothing came of the discussion.
Sekulow reiterated that he has seen no indication that the president is under investigation by either special counsel Robert S. Mueller III or by the House or Senate intelligence committees. Sekulow is part of a legal team headed by New York attorney Marc E. Kasowitz, and the White House said last week that Trump was adding veteran Washington lawyer Ty Cobb to handle the White House response to Russia-related investigations.
“We have had no notification,” Sekulow said on CBS’s “Face the Nation. “Nothing has changed since James Comey said three times that he wasn’t under investigation.”
Sekulow put the responsibility for the initial incomplete response regarding last summer’s meeting squarely on the shoulders of the president’s son.
“The president was not involved in the drafting of the statement and did not issue the statement. It came from Donald Trump Jr.,” Sekulow said of the initial statement to the New York Times.
Sekulow also said that there was nothing illegal in the meeting with Veselnitskaya and Akhmetshin.
“Here is the reality: The meeting in and of itself, of course, as I’ve said before, is not a violation of the law,” Sekulow said on “This Week.” He added that “the president was not aware of the meeting and did not participate in it.”
The lawyer’s response was relatively muted compared with that of the president, who said that the media’s obsession with the Russia story was interfering with his ability to govern.
“With all of its phony unnamed sources & highly slanted & even fraudulent reporting, #Fake News is DISTORTING DEMOCRACY in our country!” Trump tweeted Sunday morning.