Admission that Trump played role in son’s original denial
A spokeswoman says the President, as she puts it, “weighed in” on Donald Junior’s statement denying a secret meeting was focused on acquiring information on rival Hillary Clinton.
When The Washington Post reported this week that the United States president personally dictated his son’s defence of his dealings with a Russian lawyer, the denial was swift.
Donald Trump’s attorney branded the claims misinformed, misleading and inaccurate.
But only days later, the White House has been forced to admit the President was involved in the wording of his son’s statement.
In it, Donald Trump Junior claimed the meeting was about the adoption of Russian children.
Emails have since revealed he eagerly agreed to meet the woman because she was offering what was described as damaging information about his father’s rival, Hillary Clinton.
And the emails revealed the offer was to be seen as part of Russia’s support for Donald Trump’s campaign to become president.
In conceding Mr Trump had a role in the original statement, White House spokeswoman Sarah Huckabee Sanders maintains it was still an accurate description of the meeting.
“The President weighed in, as any father would, based on the limited information that he had. This is all discussion, frankly, of no consequence. There was no follow-up. It was disclosed to the proper parties, which is how The New York Times found out about it to begin with. The Democrats want to continue to use this as a PR stunt and are doing everything they can to keep this story alive and in the papers every single day. The President, the American people — they voted America First, not Russia First, and that’s the focus of our administration. He certainly didn’t dictate, but, like I said, he weighed in, offered suggestion, like any father would do.”
The latest admission will ensure the investigation into allegations of Russian meddling continues to burden the Trump presidency.
Key Republican senator Lindsey Graham has given the White House a warning.
“When you put out misleading statements, it’s going to be hard to stop people looking into other things.”
And it comes as the US senate has confirmed former Justice Department lawyer Christopher Wray as head of the FBI.
His confirmation comes nearly three months after Donald Trump fired the agency’s previous director, James Comey.
Senate judiciary-committee chairman Charles Grassley says he is comfortable people in powerful positions will not be able to influence the investigations into Russian election meddling.
“This applies to the FBI director. Mr Wray was asked very directly what he would do if presented with the opportunity to influence these investigations in any way. He told the committee that he won’t condone tampering with investigations and that he would resign rather than unduly … be unduly influenced in any manner. Mr Wray’s record of service, and his reputation, give us no reason to doubt him.”
Mr Wray, a former Justice Department lawyer, will now take charge of the FBI’s sensitive investigation.
Tensions between the United States and Russia have been further heightened by new US sanctions on Russia and Russia’s ensuing cutting of the US diplomatic presence there.
Mr Tillerson says he and President Trump are not happy with how Congress imposed the sanctions.
“We were clear that we didn’t think it was going to be helpful to our efforts, but that’s the decision they made. They made it in a very overwhelming way. I think the President accepts that, and all indications are he will sign that … that bill. And then we’ll just work with it, you know? And that’s kind of my view is we’ll work with it, we got it, we can’t let it take us off track in trying to restore the relationship.”
Mr Tillerson says that relationship is at its lowest point since the Cold War.
“And it could get worse. And the question, I think, of the events of the last week or so is, ‘Is it getting worse, or can we maintain some level of stability in that relationship and continue to find ways to address areas of mutual interest and ways in which we can deal with our differences without those becoming open conflicts as well?'”