On the very same day that Trump’s new chief of staff takes on the job, he gets his first crisis. The Washington Post is reporting that the false characterization of the meeting between Russian government-sent individuals and the Donald Trump campaign, including Donald Trump Jr. and son-in-law Jared Kushner, was crafted by Donald Trump himself.
Flying home from Germany on July 8 aboard Air Force One, Trump personally dictated a statement in which Trump Jr. said he and the Russian lawyer had “primarily discussed a program about the adoption of Russian children” when they met in June 2016, according to multiple people with knowledge of the deliberations. The statement, issued to the New York Times as it prepared a story, emphasized that the subject of the meeting was “not a campaign issue at the time.”
We quickly learned that first characterization was entirely false; the meeting was arranged after an email promising damaging information about Trump opponent Hillary Clinton—and specifically highlighting the effort as “part” of Russian government “support” for Trump. “Adoption” was only mentioned because the Russians meeting with the Trump team sought Trump assistance in lifting sanctions against Russia; Putin had halted “adoptions” of Russian children by American parents in retaliation for those sanctions.
The news that the original effort to mislead the public about the contents of the meeting came from the sitting president paints the effort in a new light. Lying to the public about the meeting may not be illegal, but:
“This was … unnecessary,” said one of the president’s advisers, who like most other people interviewed for this story spoke on the condition of anonymity to discuss sensitive internal deliberations. “Now someone can claim he’s the one who attempted to mislead. Somebody can argue the president is saying he doesn’t want you to say the whole truth.”
It’s not a question of whether someone could “argue” it; according to the Post’s sources, the original “strategy” was for Donald Trump Jr. to release a statement more truthfully recounting the meeting, but Trump himself blocked that effort and dictated a Trump Jr. statement to the contrary.
Have fun with that, former military general turned White House Chief of Staff John Kelly. Your president attempted to cover up a meeting between his campaign and Russian government-sent individuals seeking to manipulate the United States presidential election.