A scramble by White House aides to respond to the brewing controversy over Donald Trump Jr.’s meeting with a Russian lawyer may have exposed those aides to special counsel scrutiny.
They can now be called on by investigators led by Special Counsel Robert Mueller to explain what they may have learned about the meeting that the President’s eldest son, Trump Jr., his son-in-law, Jared Kushner, and then-Trump campaign chairman Paul Manafort had with the Russian lawyer during the 2016 campaign.
White House aides and Kushner’s legal team began strategizing in late June over how to manage the disclosure of newly discovered emails setting up that meeting, according to sources close to Kushner’s legal team.
Trump Jr.'s Russia emails
Their public relations efforts culminated in a series of stumbles over the weekend in response to inquiries from The New York Times, which was working to publish a story about the meeting. Initial statements by Trump Jr., who organized the meeting, were undermined by more reporting from the paper.
Some of the President’s closest aides, who were traveling with him back from Europe, then helped strategize about a response for Trump Jr., according to people briefed on the matter. The Times first reported on the crafting of the statement.
A sensitive legal matter such as this would normally have been handled by the attorneys, given that it was about the Russia investigation.
But the President’s lawyer, Marc Kasowitz, who is designated to handle personal legal issues, was not traveling with the President and was largely uninvolved, according to the people familiar with the matter. The Times reported Wednesday that the President himself approved the statement, raising the possibility the President may have opened himself up to new legal issues not covered by attorney-client privilege. Jay Sekulow, the President’s attorney, denied that Trump was involved.
“I wasn’t involved in the statement drafting at all, nor was the President. I’m assuming that was between Mr. Donald Trump Jr., between Don Jr. and his lawyer. I’m sure his lawyer was involved, that’s how you do it,” said Sekulow in an interview on CNN’s New Day.
Kasowitz’s hiring was specifically intended to help shield White House aides from having to become witnesses in the ongoing investigation. As government employees, they aren’t supposed to be involved in the President’s personal matters.
The White House and lawyers for Kushner and Donald Trump Jr. d