President Donald Trump, according to his own lawyers, helped deceive the public about the now-infamous Trump Tower meeting between top campaign officials and a Kremlin-linked lawyer.
The revelation came in a 20-page memo obtained by the New York Times, which Trump attorneys John Dowd and Jay Sekulow sent to Special Counsel Robert Mueller on Jan. 29, 2018. The memo argues that the special counsel does not have the power to subpoena the president, and that White House officials and document production have already told Mueller and his team everything they could learn from interviewing Trump. The memo lists 16 topics Mueller’s team purportedly wants to discuss with the president, including “[t]he statement of July 8, 2017, concerning Donald Trump, Jr.’s meeting in Trump Tower.”
That meeting—first revealed by the Times—generated massive public outcry. The meeting brought Donald Trump Jr., Jared Kushner, and then-campaign chairman Paul Manafort together with Natalia Veselnitskaya, an attorney with close Kremlin ties.
The Trump campaign officials went into the meeting after being promised that Veselnitskaya and other Russians who attended with her would have damaging information on Hillary Clinton. But instead, Veselnitskaya pushed for the lifting of sanctions on Russian officials. Kushner, according to later Congressional testimony from one of the participants, was outraged that the Russian attendees didn’t bring Clinton dirt.
When the news of the meeting was breaking, Trump reportedly participated in drafting a statement saying the purpose of the meeting was to talk about adoptions.
“It was a short introductory meeting,” Donald Trump Jr. originally said. “I asked Jared and Paul 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’s lawyers, in the letter to Mueller’s team, confirmed all that reporting.
The letter even says there is documentation of the president’s role in putting together that initial misleading statement.
“You have received all of the notes, communications and testimony indicating that the President dictated a short but accurate response to the New York Times article on behalf of his son, Donald Trump, Jr.,” the lawyers wrote.
“The President is not required to answer to the Office of the Special Counsel, or anyone else, for his private affairs with his children,” the lawyers added. “In any event, the President’s son, son-in-law, and White House advisors and staff have made a full disclosure on these events to both your office and the congressional committees.”
This is the first public admission by an official spokesperson for the president that he played a role in drafting the misleading statement.
Jay Sekulow, one of the attorneys who signed the letter, told The Daily Beast that no one on the president’s legal team played a role in leaking it to the Times.
“We’ve maintained a consistent legal position throughout this entire inquiry,” he said. “We continue to have a professional and ongoing relationship with the Office of the Special Counsel, but we don’t release documents that we sent to them nor do we release internal documents.”
“The document reflects the positions we’ve been advocating since the outset of the inquiry,” he added.