After Donald Trump Jr. all but revealed that he and the Trump campaign were engaged in active collusion with the Russian government yesterday, the White House was left reeling and in damage control mode.
President Trump initially offered a half-hearted defense of his son via a statement, saying:
"My son is a high-quality person and I applaud his transparency."
VP Pence's reaction was to distance himself from the campaign, saying in a statement:
Statement from @VPPressSec on Donald Trump Jr meeting and @VP's knowledge https://t.co/iYiyoWfHRx— Kasie Hunt (@Kasie Hunt)1499791357.0
Donald Trump Jr. meanwhile took to Sean Hannity Show on Fox News to try to set the record straight, passing the meeting off as just "opposition research."
EXCLUSIVE: @DonaldJTrumpJr talks about his 2016 meeting w/ a Russian lawyer. Tune in to #Hannity tonight at 10p ET… https://t.co/P3qhFy7dWV— Fox News (@Fox News)1499818291.0
President Trump offered more support this morning on Twitter in response to Don Jr's Sean Hannity Show appearance.
My son Donald did a good job last night. He was open, transparent and innocent. This is the greatest Witch Hunt in political history. Sad!— Donald J. Trump (@Donald J. Trump)1499854772.0
But the supportive words of the President would appear to belie the panic reportedly taking hold in the White House. Not only do the e-mails contradict months of denials by the Trump team about any collusion with Russian actors, but it betrayed an attempt to deceive the public about the initial meeting. The statement that went out to The New York Times on Saturday, which the President signed off on, read:
“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.”
As conservative stalwart Bill Kristol put it on Twitter:
WHOA. Don Jr.'s false statement Sat. was drafted by WH aides & seen by Trump. This wasn't Jr being dopey. This was an attempted WH cover-up.— Bill Kristol (@Bill Kristol)1499829239.0
But while Donald Jr. is not a member of the Trump administration, Jared Kushner is, and may face legal jeopardy for his cooperation with the meeting and knowledge about the attempts by the Russian government to impact the U.S. election in Trump's favor. That plus the fact that he failed to disclose the meeting on government documents.
Per The Times:
While Donald Trump Jr. has been the main focus of the controversy because he set up the meeting, Mr. Kushner faces potential trouble because he currently works in the White House and neglected to mention the encounter on forms he filled out for a background check to obtain a security clearance.
If The White House was hoping to put the Russia collusion story behind them with President Trump's meeting with Vladimir Putin last week, the events that transpired since have left that goal even further from reality.