FBI Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s team is reportedly zeroing in on President Trump’s role in formulating the response to a New York Times article on a meeting between a Russian lawyer and Donald Trump Jr. last year.
NBC News reported Monday that investigators are looking to find out what Trump knew about the meeting, which took place at Trump Tower in June 2016, and if he sought to conceal its real purpose.
The meeting, involving Russian lawyer Natalia Veselnitskaya and members of the Trump team including Trump Jr., campaign chairman Paul Manafort, and Trump’s son-in-law Jared Kushner, was first reported by the New York Times in July.
Trump Jr. released a statement for the Times article saying:
It was a short introductory meeting. I asked Jared and Paul to stop by. 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 subsequently turned out to be misleading, when Trump Jr. himself later revealed that he had taken the meeting after he had been promised that there would be information that would “incriminate” Hillary Clinton — although Trump Jr. said no such information was forthcoming at the meeting.
There are conflicting accounts of President Trump’s role in formulating the initial statement to the Times. White House Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders said in the days after the article was published that Trump had “weighed in as any father would based on the limited information that he had.” She also said that there was “no inaccuracy” in the statement.
However, the Washington Post reported that Trump had personally dictated the statement on Air Force One on the way home from the G20 summit in Germany.
Consequently, NBC reported that Mueller’s team is looking to see whether or not Trump made a “knowingly false statement.”
“Even if Trump is not charged with a crime as a result of the statement, it could be useful to Mueller’s team to show Trump’s conduct to a jury that may be considering other charges,” an anonymous source “familiar with Mueller’s strategy” told NBC.
Attorney Ty Cobb, who was chosen by the White House to oversee the response to the Russia probe, told NBC that “the statement issued after the G20 is of interest, but I’m not aware of any crime associated with that. It was true at the time it was written and true now.”
Cobb told the outlet that the statement “was not a bible of events leading up to and after the meeting, but it was not untruthful.” He added that the president’s role in crafting the statement was “minimal.”
Adam Shaw is a Breitbart News politics reporter based in New York. Follow Adam on Twitter: @AdamShawNY