As investigations into Russian interference in the presidential election continue, the revelation that Donald Trump Jr. and other senior members of the Trump campaign met with a Kremlin-affiliated lawyer last year has plagued the White House in recent weeks.
Here’s how the story from Trump Jr., White House officials, and the president’s lawyer has repeatedly shifted as further details of the meeting have emerged.
The (Shifting) Initial Explanations
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In his initial July 8 statement to the New York Times, which first broke the news of the meeting, Trump Jr. said only that the issue of adopting Russian children was “primarily discussed” in the “short introductory meeting.”
The following day, after another Times story, Trump Jr. offered a different explanation, conceding that he was told prior to the meeting the woman “might have information helpful to the campaign” but not elaborating further.
On July 11, after being contacted by the Times for comment, Trump Jr. finally released emails that clearly showed he had met with the lawyer after being explicitly told she was part of a Russian government attempt to support his father and oppose Hillary Clinton.
“So as far as you know, as far as this incident is concerned, this is all of it?” Fox News host Sean Hannity asked him that evening.
“This is everything. This is everything,” he said.
In the days that followed, it emerged there were multiple other people in the room that Trump Jr. had not mentioned, including a lobbyist/former Soviet military officer and a Russian property developer.
The (Shifting) Explanations For That First Explanation
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During Tuesday's press briefing, White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders claimed that Trump Jr.'s initial statement had been accurate.
“The statement that Don Jr. issued is true,” she said. “There’s no inaccuracy in the statement.”
However, this is highly misleading.
While Trump Jr.'s initial statement said Russian adoption was “primarily discussed” in the meeting, he did not specify that he thought the meeting would be about getting dirt on Clinton from Moscow.
The administration has also shifted its story on who was involved in authoring that first statement.
Sanders on Tuesday confirmed to reporters the president had been involved in drafting the statement — but, she said, he didn't “dictate” the statement as the Washington Post had reported; instead, he had “weighed in” on it, she said. She did not elaborate when asked to what extent the president “weighed in.”
“The president weighed in as any father would, based on the limited information that he had,” she said. “This is all discussion, frankly, of no consequence.”
That admission from Sanders contradicts what she and Trump's lawyer, Jay Sekulow, have been saying for weeks: that Trump had nothing to do with Trump Jr.'s statements about his meeting.
“The president wasn't involved in that,” Sekulow said on Good Morning America on July 12, the day after Trump Jr. released the emails.
Sekulow told Chris Cuomo on CNN the same thing. “I wasn't involved in the statement drafting at all. Nor was the president,” he said.
On July 16's episode of Meet the Press, Sekulow again said, “I do want to be clear — the president was not involved in the drafting of the statement and did not issue the statement.”
At a July 12 press briefing, Sanders also told reporters who asked if the president had helped craft Trump Jr.'s statement, “Not that I'm aware of, but I just don't know the answer to that.”
Sekulow did not immediately respond to a request for comment.