Trump 'weighed in' on son's statement about meeting with Russian lawyer: White House

"The president weighed in, as any father would," said Sanders.

ByABC News
August 1, 2017, 3:22 PM

— -- White House press secretary Sarah Sanders downplayed a report on Monday that President Donald Trump crafted a statement issued by Donald Trump Jr. in response to the revelation that the younger Trump met with a Russian attorney during the presidential campaign.

"The president weighed in, as any father would, based on the limited information that he had," said Sanders at Tuesday's press briefing after stating that the statement was "true" and contained no "inaccuracy."

On July 8, Trump Jr. responded to a New York Times story about the meeting by explaining that those in attendance "primarily discussed a program about the adoption of Russian children" and that before the encounter, he was not aware of the identity of the person he would be meeting. Later statements and additional reporting on the meeting provided additional context, including that Trump Jr. was told that the unnamed Russian attorney had incriminating information to share about Hillary Clinton.

Two senior-level sources confirmed to ABC News a Washington Post story on Monday that Trump personally dictated the July 8 statement on his son's behalf while returning to the U.S. from the G-20 summit in Germany aboard Air Force One.

The New York Times reported earlier in July that the president signed off on the initial statement from his son. One of Trump Sr.'s personal attorneys, Jay Sekulow, told ABC News on July 12 that the president "wasn't involved" in the formulation of the statement and "didn't sign off on anything."

On Tuesday, Sanders directly contradicted what Sekulow told ABC News, but she did not go so far as to concede that the president composed the statement.

"He certainly didn't dictate, but ... he, like I said, weighed in, offered suggestion, like any father would do," said Sanders.

She deflected a follow-up question about whether Trump Sr. was aware of the pretext of the meeting — that his son was told the information about Clinton was "part of Russia and its government's support" for Trump Sr.'s candidacy, to which Trump Jr. responded, "If it's what you say I love it" — instead reversing the premise of the story, claiming that the investigation into any connection between Russian election interference and the Trump campaign was deceptive.

"The only thing I see misleading is a year's worth of stories that have been fueling a false narrative about this Russia collusion and ... a phony scandal based on anonymous sources, and if we're going to talk about misleading, that's the only thing misleading about this entire process," said Sanders.

Asked whether she played a role in writing Trump Jr.'s statement, given her presence on the flight, she said, "I wasn't part of the conversation regarding the statement."

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