In a bid to defend his oldest son, and by extension his entire administration, from allegations of collusion with the Russian intelligence, President Donald Trump’s personal lawyer Jay Sekulow spent his Sunday giving interviews to a bunch of different news channels, trying to spin The New York Times' bombshell revelations about Donald Trump Jr. into something less … conspiratorial.
Trump Jr. met with a Kremlin-linked lawyer back in 2016, just weeks after his father clinched Republican nomination, hoping to procure some dirt on Democratic candidate Hillary Clinton. Before the meeting, the president’s son purportedly found out the promised information was a part of Russian intelligence’s effort to help Trump’s candidacy.
Meanwhile, the president has maintained he had no knowledge of the meeting.
Now, meeting with an official or someone even linked to the Russian government for campaign assistance is illegal. However, Sekulow seems to believe otherwise.
“Nothing in that meeting that would have taken place, even if it was about the topic of an opposition research paper from a Russian lawyer, is illegal or in violation of the law,” he told Fox News.
Sekulow then went onto justify Trump Jr.’s actions by bringing the Secret Service into the middle of the fray.
“Well, I wonder why the Secret Service, if this was nefarious, why the Secret Service allowed these people in,” he asserted. “The president had Secret Service protection at that point, and that raised a question with me.”
To start things off: The Secret Service, which provides for the physical protection of the president and his immediate family, was not protecting any of Donald Trump’s children, including his eldest son, at the time of the meeting — thus, they did not clear the meeting.
“Donald Trump, Jr. was not a protectee of the USSS in June 2016. Thus we would not have screened anyone he was meeting with at that time,” the agency clarified in a statement to Reuters.
At the time, the agency officials were only protecting then-candidate Trump. Protection for Ivanka Trump was approved in September 2016, while the protocol for her brothers, Eric Trump and Trump Jr., came sometime after that. Before that, the agency only protected the Trump children when they were physically near their father.
Moreover, at the time of the meeting the Secret Service was merely checking names of the people entering Trump’s offices and apartment to ensure no one presented a physical threat to the candidate. The agents were not looking to establish possible counterintelligence threats. It is also important to note that even if a name had raised red flags, anyone with in the Trump campaign could have easily overruled the concerns.
According to the latest reports, Russian-American lobbyist and former Soviet military officer Rinat Akhmetshin attended the meeting between Trump Jr. and Russian lawyer Natalia Veselnitskaya, along with president’s son-in-law Jared Kushner and former campaign manager Paul Manafort.
The Trump-Russia scandal seems to get messier with each passing day — as do the Trump administration's excuses for it.
Thumbnail/Banner: Mike Segar/Reuters