During the 2016 presidential campaign Donald Trump Jr., son of the president, took a meeting with a Kremlin-connected Russian lawyer under the pretense that he had a chance of getting dirt on Hillary Clinton. In an email setting the meeting up, a friend of the Trumps said the information was part of a wider Russian government effort to help Trump. The revelation of this meeting last week has set Washington on fire with scandal and then justifications, President Donald Trump’s lawyer even tried to blame the Secret Service.
The Secret Service wasn’t happy.
Trump Jr. released the emails on Twitter last week, prompted by reporting by the New York Times. “I love it,” responded Trump to the possibility of getting dirt from the Russian government. Trump Jr.’s description of the meeting has changed as details get reported. And as questions swirled about the propriety of meeting with the Russians, the president’s personal lawyer Jay Sekulow, went on five news shows Sunday to defend Trump. One excuse Sekulow offered, was that the Secret Service should have vetted the Russians.
“Well, I wonder why the Secret Service, if this was nefarious, why the Secret Service allowed these people in,” Sekulow said on ABC's “This Week.” “The President had Secret Service protection at that point, and that raised a question with me.”
The Secret Service responded Monday, saying Trump Jr. was not in their purview at that time.
“Donald Trump Jr. was not a protectee of the (United States Secret Service) in June, 2016,” said the service to CNN in a statement. “Thus we would not have screened anyone he was meeting with at that time.”
Information about the meeting has grown since it was first reported, according to The Hill Sunday, as many as eight people could have been there. Two people that were confirmed to be there are Jared Kushner, the president’s son-in-law and now advisor and Paul Manafort who was in charge of running Trump’s campaign at the time.
Trump has taken to Twitter to defend his son.
“ Most politicians would have gone to a meeting like the one Don jr attended in order to get info on an opponent. That's politics! ” tweeted the president Monday.
Most politicians would have gone to a meeting like the one Don jr attended in order to get info on an opponent. That's politics!
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) July 17, 2017
Many right-wing pundits have defended the president’s son’s contact with Russians as opposition research, a term that describes a campaign’s digging up dirt on its opponents.
Trump’s administration is currently under several investigations for its ties to Russia throughout the campaign and transition. Bodies including both the House and Senate Intelligence Committees and the Department of Justice in the form of a Special Prosecutor are looking into the matter. Attorney General Jeff Sessions had to recuse himself from any investigations giving the reason that he was a member of Trump’s campaign. Sessions failed to disclose his own meeting with Russian officials on security clearance forms.