It was two years ago this month that top members of the Trump campaign hosted a private meeting in Trump Tower with a group of Russians. As regular readers know, the intended point of the gathering was for the future president’s operation to acquire anti-Clinton intelligence from Moscow, which Team Trump was eager to receive, bolstering allegations of cooperation between the Republican campaign and its benefactors in Moscow.
Last summer, after the meeting came to light, Donald Trump Jr. issued a written statement to the New York Times saying participants “primarily discussed” an adoption program, which was “not a campaign issue.” That statement was obviously deceptive and has reportedly drawn the interest of Special Counsel Robert Mueller.
Trump’s legal defense team later conceded that the president himself personally dictated the wording of his son’s dishonest statement.
This morning, Trump was offered an opportunity to shed additional light on the subject.
Q: Did you dictate the statement about [the Trump Tower meeting]?
TRUMP: Let’s not talk about it. You know what that is? It’s irrelevant. It’s a statement to the New York Times. The phony, failing New York Times. It’s not a statement to a high tribunal of judges. That’s a statement phony New York Times.
The president’s point wasn’t exactly subtle: lying in a written statement to a major news organization shouldn’t necessarily be seen as wrong.
Mueller and his investigators may have a very different perspective on this – because at face value, it suggests the president may have been personally involved in an attempted cover-up when describing one of the key moments in the overall scandal.
A New York Times analysis explained two weeks ago, “[A] Watergate-era precedent exists for Congress to consider lies to the public to be obstruction of justice in the looser context of impeachment proceedings. An article of impeachment that lawmakers approved against Nixon before he resigned included ‘making or causing to be made false or misleading public statements for the purpose of deceiving the people of the United States into believing’ there had been no misconduct.”
Or put another way, this may not be as “irrelevant” as Trump wants it to be.