WASHINGTON ― White House press secretary Sean Spicer on Monday appeared to be confused about Donald Trump Jr.’s June 2016 meeting with a Russian lawyer, claiming it was about adoptions — contradicting both Donald Trump Jr. and the president, who have both confirmed the true reason for the meeting.
During an off-camera briefing with reporters, Spicer claimed that “the president has made it clear through his tweet, and there was nothing as far as we know that would lead anyone to believe that there was anything except for a discussion about adoption,” referring to the original reason Trump Jr. gave for meeting with Russian lawyer Natalia Veselnitskaya.
Veselnitskaya has lobbied against the Magnitsky Act, a law passed by Congress in 2012 that imposed sanctions on Russian officials. In retaliation for the sanctions, the Kremlin imposed a ban on Americans adopting Russian children.
But both Trump Jr. and the president have affirmed that the real reason the younger Trump took the meeting was he was looking to obtain damaging information on campaign opponent Hillary Clinton.
The president’s tweet that Spicer referred to on Monday lays that out quite clearly, defending Trump Jr.’s meeting as “politics.”
As detailed in emails released by Trump Jr. himself last Tuesday in response to the New York Times uncovering the meeting, he clearly took the meeting after being offered information that he was told would “incriminate” Clinton and was “part of Russia and its government’s support for Mr. Trump.”
“If it is what you say I love it,” Trump Jr. replied to an email from music publicist Rob Goldstone.
Later Tuesday, Trump Jr. defended the meeting in an interview with Fox News’ Sean Hannity, saying that it was simply part of normal campaign business.
“Someone has information on our opponent. You know, things are going a million miles an hour. You know what it’s like to be on a campaign,” he told Hannity. “We’d just won Indiana but we’re talking about a contested convention. Things are going a million miles an hour again. And, hey, wait a minute. I’ve heard about all these things, but maybe this is something. I should hear him out.”
The president has also affirmed several times that the meeting was about Clinton. When asked about it last Thursday, he defended his son, claiming that “most people would have taken that meeting,” as it was “very standard” and part of “opposition research.”
The meeting is the clearest indication yet that the Trump campaign may have colluded with Russia to influence last year’s election, a possibility that is the subject of multiple investigations.
Despite both father’s and son’s insistence that the meeting was routine, many experts believe it violated campaign finance laws that make it illegal to solicit, accept or receive contributions and donations from foreign nationals. Legal experts say this generally includes political opposition research.
Republican political operatives told HuffPost last week that it would be unheard of for campaign veterans to take such a meeting, and that they would have reported it to the FBI.