U.S. President Donald Trump dictated a statement, later shown to be misleading, in which his son Donald Trump Jr. said a meeting he had with a Russian lawyer in June 2016 was not related to his father's presidential campaign, the Washington Post reported on Monday.
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Trump Jr. released emails earlier in July that showed he eagerly agreed last year to meet a woman he was told was a Russian government lawyer who might have damaging information about Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton as part of Moscow's official support for his father. The New York Times was first to report the meeting.
The Washington Post said Trump advisers discussed the new disclosure and agreed that Trump Jr. should issue a truthful account of the episode so that it "couldn't be repudiated later if the full details emerged."
The president, who was flying home from Germany on July 8, changed the plan and "personally dictated a statement in which Trump Jr. said he and the Russian lawyer had 'primarily discussed a program about the adoption of Russian children,'" the Post said, citing unnamed people with knowledge of the deliberations.
Donald Trump could be guilty of obstruction of justice and should resign if reports alleging he dictated his son’s misleading statement on a meeting with a Russian lawyer are found to be true, George W Bush’s former chief ethics lawyer has said.
“We have repeated instances of obstruction of justice, this being yet one more,” Richard Painter told Brian Williams on MSNBC’s The 11th Hour.
“And I have to say, this does look more and more like a cover-up, but it really is one of the most psychologically deranged and incompetent cover-ups in political history.”
It said the statement, issued to the New York Times as it prepared to publish the story, emphasized that the subject of the meeting was "not a campaign issue at the time."
The White House did not immediately respond to a Reuters request for comment on the Post story, nor did Trump's outside counsel Marc Kasowitz and Donald Trump Jr.'s attorney, Alan Futerfas.
U.S. investigators are probing whether there was collusion between the Kremlin and Trump's Republican presidential campaign.
U.S. intelligence agencies have concluded that Moscow sought to hurt Clinton and help Trump in the 2016 election. Russia denies any interference, and Trump has denied collusion with Russia.
The president applauded his son's "transparency" after he released the email exchanges on July 11.
"It remains unclear exactly how much the president knew at the time of the flight about Trump Jr.'s meeting," the Washington Post said.