President Donald Trump said Sunday that the meeting between his son, Donald Trump Jr., and a Russian lawyer in June 2016 was “to get information on an opponent,” seemingly contradicting a statement from more than a year ago that the meeting focused on a Russian adoption program.
“Fake News reporting, a complete fabrication, that I am concerned about the meeting my wonderful son, Donald, had in Trump Tower,” he tweeted Sunday morning.
“This was a meeting to get information on an opponent, totally legal and done all the time in politics — and it went nowhere,” he tweeted, defending the meeting and appearing to refer to political opposition research done by campaigns.
It is illegal for campaigns to accept help from a foreign government or from foreign nationals.
The tweet was a significant departure from a statement dictated by the president and issued by Trump Jr. last July regarding the purpose of the Trump Tower meeting between Trump Jr., campaign officials and a Kremlin-linked lawyer.
“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,” that statement said, adding that it was "a short introductory meeting."
Meanwhile, Trump’s attorney Jay Sekulow said Sunday that he “had bad information” at the time when he gave a previous statement that the president had nothing to do with Trump Jr.’s original response to reports of the Trump Tower meeting. His attorneys have since said Trump dictated the statement on behalf of his son.
“Over time, facts develop,” he said on ABC’s “This Week.”
In his Sunday morning tweets, Trump went on to reiterate that he did not know in advance about the meeting after news reports that Michael Cohen had asserted that Trump knew in advance about that meeting. That would contradict Trump Jr.’s congressional testimony in May 2017.
Trump Jr. also testified in September that regarding potential damaging information on then Democratic-candidate Hillary Clinton, “To the extent they had information concerning the fitness, character or qualifications of a presidential candidate, I believed that I should at least hear them out.”
Trump went on to criticize special counsel Robert Mueller's Russia probe and its investigators, renewing his claim that the FBI and Department of Justice should be investigated instead.
“Why aren’t Mueller and the 17 Angry Democrats looking at the meetings concerning the Fake Dossier and all of the lying that went on in the FBI and DOJ?” the president said in another tweet. “This is the most one sided Witch Hunt in the history of our country. Fortunately, the facts are all coming out, and fast!”
Trump and his supporters have claimed the Russia investigation was improperly launched based on a speculative opposition research document paid for by Democrats, the so-called "Trump dossier" compiled by former British spy Christopher Steele, which alleges collusion between the Trump campaign and Russia.
The dossier formed part of the evidence used to meet a surveillance warrant's legal burden to authorize electronic surveillance of Trump's former aide Carter Page. However, people who have read the supporting documents for the FISA warrants, including Rep. Adam Schiff, the ranking Democrat on the House Intelligence Committee, say they contain secret evidence establishing ties between Page and Russians — evidence that goes beyond what was included in the dossier.