President Donald Trump admitted his son’s meeting with a Russian lawyer in Trump Tower was intended to get dirt on “an opponent” during an early morning tweetstorm on Sunday.
“Fake News reporting, a complete fabrication, that I am concerned about the meeting my wonderful son, Donald, had in Trump Tower. This was a meeting to get information on an opponent, totally legal and done all the time in politics - and it went nowhere. I did not know about it!” the president wrote on Twitter Sunday morning.
It is Trump’s most straight-forward acknowledgment yet that his campaign was actively seeking information from a foreign nation on his then-opponent, Hillary Clinton. The Trump administration had initially denied the June 2016 Trump Tower meeting between Russian lawyer Natalia Veselnitskaya, Trump Jr., Paul Manafort, and Jared Kushner, was aimed at collecting information on Clinton.
But the President’s new assertion that the June 2016 meeting was “totally legal” and “done all the time in politics” is still wildly misleading. In fact, it is illegal for a campaign to accept help from a foreign government. And even if the Trump team didn’t get any useful information against Clinton, the tweet could make a case for attempted collusion, the New Yorker detailed in a piece on Sunday that argued the new tweet shows Trump’s defense is mostly focused on the fact that the attempted collusion didn’t work.
Even so, Trump’s public acknowledgment of the true purpose of the meeting represents a major turning point. Donald Trump Jr. had initially claimed in a statement, widely believed to have been dictated by his father aboard Air Force One, claiming the meeting was to discuss the adoption of Russian children. Trump’s new tweet directly contradicts that assertion, and it isn’t the first time he’s defended his son’s actions and the idea of collecting opposition research on a political opponent: he said the same in a tweet and a statement to the press a year ago. However, this is the first time he’s been so explicit in acknowledging the purpose of the meeting — “to get information on an opponent.”
Cover image: U.S. President Donald Trump and his son Donald Trump Jr. walk out onto the North Portico of the White House while departing on a trip to Wyoming to attend a Make America Great rally, on July 5, 2018 in Washington, DC. (Photo by Mark Wilson/Getty Images)