On Twitter, US President Donald Trump has said the meeting that took place between his son Donald Jr. and Russian officials was "to get information on an opponent".
On 7 August, Trump returned to discussing the contentious meeting, writing: “Fake News reporting, a complete fabrication, that I am concerned about the meeting my wonderful son, Donald, had in Trump Tower. 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!”
Fake News reporting, a complete fabrication, that I am concerned about the meeting my wonderful son, Donald, had in Trump Tower. 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!
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) August 5, 2018
The tweet offers a new version of events from the Trump camp. It may have come in response to a Washington Post report that Trump has been “privately brooding” and fretting about the outcome of Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation to those around him.
The contentious meeting took place on 8 June 2016, involved Donald Trump Jr. and Russian lawyer Natalia Veselnitskaya, among others.
On 8 July 2016, The New York Times reported the meeting had taken place. The following day, Trump Jr. issued a statement explaining why he had met with the Russians. “It was a short introductory meeting. I asked Jared (Kushner, Trump’s son-in-law) and Paul (Manafort, Trump’s former Campaign Chairman) to stop by. We primarily discussed a program about the adoption of Russian children that was active and popular with American families years ago and was since ended by the Russian government, but it was not a campaign issue at the time and there was no follow-up.”
Trump-dictated statement, July 2017: "We primarily discussed a program about the adoption of Russian children that was active and popular with American families years ago."
Trump, August 2018: "This was a meeting to get information on an opponent."
— Peter Baker (@peterbakernyt) August 5, 2018
The following day, The New York Times reported that Trump Jr. had been promised compromising information about Trump’s then opponent, Hillary Clinton. In the following days, Trump Jr. released the full email chain he had with Rob Goldstone, a music publicist and liaison for Russian oligarch Aras Agalarov, which showed Goldstone making clear that the Russians wanted to share dirt on Clinton with the Trump campaign.
Donald Trump denied knowledge of the meeting at the time but it has recently come to light that he did know about the meeting and dictated his son’s statement saying the summit was primarily about adoption.
Jay Sekoluw, one of Trump’s attorneys, said that the President was corrected in saying no laws were broken by the meeting,
“The question is how would it be illegal?” Sekulow told ABC. “You have to look at what laws, rules, statutes were really broken here.” Other lawyers have opined that colluding with a foreign power to win an election may constitute conspiracy against the US.
It's illegal for a campaign to get such help from a foreign power. https://t.co/jUGaWhZsb4
— The New York Times (@nytimes) August 5, 2018
Trump’s assertion that politicians routinely meet foreign representatives, particularly those from a country viewed as an adversary, has been rejected in news reports.
The Huffington Post concluded that Trump has written “NO COLLUSION” on Twitter some 40 times but has now contradicted this by admitting the meeting was to gather intelligence on his political opponent.
A “turning point” in the Trump presidency
In that it involved Trump publicly moving away from his previous explanation of the meeting, The New Yorker‘s Adam Davidson wrote the tweet “should be seen as a turning point” for the Trump administration.
Conspiring with a foreign power to get dirt on an opponent in US elections is a violation of campaign finance laws.
— Ted Lieu (@tedlieu) August 5, 2018
“It was possible, just days ago, to believe—with an abundance of generosity toward the President and his team—that the meeting was about adoption, went nowhere, and was overblown by the Administration’s enemies,” Davidson continued.
“No longer. The open questions are now far more narrow: Was this a case of successful or only attempted collusion? Is attempted collusion a crime?”
Democrat Congressman Ted Lieu said the revelations about the Trump Tower meeting amounted to a violation of campaign finance laws. Another Democrat, Adam Schiff, wrote that “none of this is normal or credible”.
What do we do when a President has openly admitted to attempted collusion, lying, and a coverup? https://t.co/WO2TDLqiU1
— The New Yorker (@NewYorker) August 6, 2018
Trump’s former lawyer, Michael Cohen, has previously contradicted Trump’s version of events around the meeting, saying the President did have prior knowledge of it.
Trump has stepped up his attacks on Mueller’s investigation in recent weeks amid reports it is drawing to a close. Trump’s head lawyer, Rudy Giuliani, previously opined that Trump has the constitutional power to pardon himself of any wrongdoing.