Reporters pummeled White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders’ Monday over direct contradictions about a controversial meeting in Trump Tower involving members of Donald Trump’s campaign and a Kremlin-linked attorney.
Sanders spoke over journalists, yet reporters continued to try to pin down the press secretary on the truth about a misleading statement over the intent of the meeting.
“How are we supposed to know what to believe?” asked a frustrated Josh Dawsey of The Washington Post. “How can we believe what you’re saying from the podium if his [Trump’s] lawyers are saying it’s entirely inaccurate?”
A statement issued after The New York Times reported about the June 2016 meeting said its purpose was to discuss adoption policies between Russia and the U.S. In fact, it was primarily an attempt by Donald Trump Jr. to collect damaging information about presidential rival Hillary Clinton from the Russian attorney, he later clarified.
Sanders — and Donald Trump’s attorneys — flatly denied publicly then that the president had anything to do with the misleading statement about the meeting. But a confidential letter written by Trump’s attorneys in January and obtained by The New York Times on Saturday stated unequivocally that the misleading statement was “dictated” by the president.
In August, Sanders said Trump “certainly didn’t dictate” the statement.
When Jordan Fabian of The Hill asked Sanders to explain the discrepancy on Monday, Sanders refused to defend her own previous statement. “This is from a letter from the outside counsel, and I’d direct you to them to answer that question,” Sanders said.
When Peter Baker of the New York Times asked if she was retracting her previous statement, Sanders again responded: “Once again, this is a reference back to a letter from the outside counsel. I can’t answer, and I would direct you to them.”
Dawsey pressed: “Literally, you said he did not dictate. The lawyers say he did. What is it?” Again, Sanders refused to respond.
Trump’s personal attorney Rudy Giuliani said Monday evening that the president’s lawyers (and, apparently, Sanders) “got it wrong” when they initially said that Trump wasn’t involved in the statement. “I have no idea how they got it wrong, but they got it wrong,” he told CNN. “I swear to God it was a mistake.” Giuliani said the issue was “clarified in a letter and that’s the final position,” apparently meaning that Trump did, in fact, dictate the misleading statement.
But on Sunday, Giuliani said the Trump team’s recollection of the Trump Tower meeting statement “keeps changing.”
“This is the reason you don’t let this president testify in the special counsel’s Russia investigation,” Giuliani told ABC News. “Our recollection keeps changing.”