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Don Jr.'s Russia Statement Is Now an Issue in Mueller's Investigation

The special counsel plans to interview White House staffers who were present when Donald Trump Jr.'s initial statement about his meeting with a Kremlin-connected lawyer was crafted.

Drew Schwartz

Drew Schwartz

Photo by John Moore / Getty Images

Special counsel Robert Mueller is now looking into the statement that was crafted aboard an Air Force One flight in July regarding a meeting Donald Trump Jr. took with a Russian lawyer during the campaign, CNN reports. Mueller apparently has new questions after Trump Jr. told the Senate Judiciary Committee Thursday that he took the meeting to assess Hillary Clinton's "fitness" as a presidential candidate, according to the New York Times.

Just before a bombshell report brought the meeting between Trump Jr., Jared Kushner, Paul Manafort, and Kremlin-connected lawyer Natalia Veselnitskaya to light, the president's son issued a statement. That statement, which was reportedly dictated by President Trump on Air Force One around various White House staffers, claimed the meeting had been set up with Veselnitskaya to discuss "a program about the adoption of Russian children," the Washington Post reports.

After sources who were at the meeting challenged that claim, Trump Jr. tweeted that he'd heard the Russian lawyer had dirt on Clinton and that the Russian government wanted to hand it over to help President Trump's campaign. On Thursday, Trump Jr. issued another statement, telling the Senate Judiciary Committee he sought information on Clinton "concerning the fitness, character, or qualifications of a presidential candidate."

In order to understand what went into the crafting of the first statement, Mueller now wants to interview the aides who were present on Air Force One when Trump reportedly dictated it to Trump Jr., regarding the focus of the meeting. Sources close to Mueller's ongoing Russia probe told CNN that he's interested in "whether information was intentionally left out and who was involved."

"This was... unnecessary," one of the president's advisers told the Post in July of Trump's involvement in the statement. "Now someone can claim he's the one who attempted to mislead. Somebody can argue the president is saying he doesn't want you to say the whole truth."

Although the interviews have not yet been conducted, they could rope even more people into Mueller's probe of whether or not the Trump campaign colluded with Russia to win the 2016 election. Additionally, Mueller is focused on the question of obstruction of justice: whether Trump, or any of his associates, have tried to obfuscate efforts to peer into the collusion issue.

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