Illinois Intelligencer - Monday 17th July, 2017
WASHINGTON, U.S. - As lawmakers and the rest of the country continue to raise questions about the implications of Donald Trump Jr.’s infamous meeting with a Russian lawyer in 2016, the controversy grew, even more, murkier on Sunday.
Now in its second week, the scandal continues to expand, with the list of attendees in Trump Jr.’s meeting doubling from the earlier four members reported to eight people that have now revealed to have been present in the meeting in which the President’s son was promised dirt on his father’s rival in the presidential race.
On Sunday, a lawyer for President Trump made a full-court defense, appearing on all five major Sunday news shows to insist Trump was not aware of the meeting until recently and stressed that the meeting did not violate any laws.
Speaking on Fox News Sunday, Trump's outside attorney Jay Sekulow said, "Nothing in that meeting that would have taken place even if it was about the topic of an opposition research paper from the Russian lawyer is illegal or a violation of the law."
At the same time, the vice chairman of the Senate Intelligence Committee said news of the meeting elevates the panel's Russia investigation to a new level.
Sen. Mark Warner (Va.), the top Democrat on the Senate Intelligence Committee has raised questions about Trump Jr.'s meeting and said he wants to hear from everyone involved to get the story straight.
He said that it is hard to believe Trump wasn't told about the meeting during the campaign.
Speaking on CNN, Warner said, “It’s a little unbelievable that neither the son nor the son-in-law ever shared that information with their dad, the candidate.”
Trump too has, repeatedly denied knowing about the meeting until recently.
His attorney has insisted, “He said he has had no meetings, was aware of no meetings with Russians, was not aware of this one until really right before it all broke.”
Sekulow also implied that the Secret Service could ultimately be at fault if there was anything wrong with the meeting because they let the attendees into Trump Tower.
He said, “I wonder why the Secret Service, if this was nefarious, why the Secret Service allowed these people in. The President had Secret Service protection at that point, and that raised a question with me.”Warner said, “The level of credibility from the senior levels of this administration really is suspect, and I think suspect regardless of what political party you belong to.”
Warner said that he believes news of the meeting moves the Senate Intelligence Committee's investigation "to another level."
Speaking later on CBS, he said, “This is the first time that the public has seen in black and white on the email thread clear evidence that the Russians — and particularly there was a Russian government effort to try to undermine [Hillary] Clinton, help Trump. And what was remarkable was you saw not only willingness but actually glee from the president's son as well as involvement of the campaign manager and the president's son-in-law to say in effect, 'Yes, bring it on.'"
Warner added that Trump Jr. hasn't been forthcoming about his meeting, noting the president's son has changed his story throughout the week.
After revelations continued to pour out of the mainstream media after the first expose, Trump Jr. ultimately revealed a chain of emails exchanged during the organization of the meeting.
Warner clarified that he would want to hear from everyone who was at the meeting to get their "version of the story."
He said, “I think we may find out there may have been other meetings as well. We don't know that yet. But what we've seen is a constant effort to hide contacts with Russians."
Warner pointed out that this latest revealed meeting plays into this larger context of the campaign's apparent attempts to hide contacts with Russians.
He further said that Trump's son-in-law Kushner had to amend his federal disclosure form several times to add to the list of foreign contacts.
He added it seems "strange" that he "conveniently forgot" to put the contacts in his initial filing.
Further, on Sunday, Rep. Adam Schiff (D-Cailf.) also said he doesn't think people can rely on what Trump Jr. says, pointing out that the uncertainty of his witness raises questions about the president as well.
Schiff, who is the top Democrat on the House Intelligence Committee said in an interview with ABC, “We can’t accept anything Don Jr. says, and of course, and we can’t accept much the president says about this either, because he has a similar record of not being forthcoming when it comes to Russia.”
First reported last weekend, the meeting was assumed to have included Trump Jr., White House adviser Jared Kushner, then-campaign chairman Paul Manafort and a Russian lawyer.
Since then, new details have continued to surface about the interaction, even as the White House continues to deny the Trump campaign coordinated with Moscow during the presidential election.
However, as the week progressed, two others stated publicly that they attended the meeting between Trump officials and the Russian lawyer, including the publicist who arranged the event, Rob Goldstone, and a Russian-American lobbyist, Rinat Akhmetshin.
A seventh person, translator Anatoli Samachornov, attended the meeting as well.
An eight person, described as a representative for the Russian family who asked Goldstone to arrange the meeting also was in attendance.
The emails Trump Jr. released on Twitter showed that the emails addressed to him from the publicist Rob Goldstone, who acted as an intermediary to set up the meeting read, the information “would incriminate Hillary and her dealings with Russia and would be very useful to your father.”
Goldstone also wrote, “This is obviously very high level and sensitive information but is part of Russia and its government's support for Mr. Trump.”
Some lawmakers, expressing concern over the Trump Jr. meeting, have called it a “smoking gun in the Russia probe.”
Currently, there are several investigations looking into Russian meddling in the 2016 presidential race.
On Sunday, Trump, yet again, blamed the media in a series of tweets accusing the fake news of "distorting democracy."
He said, “Hillary Clinton can illegally get the questions to the debate & delete 33,000 emails but my son Don is being scorned by the Fake News Media?"
In a subsequent tweet, he said, "With all of its phony unnamed sources & highly slanted & even fraudulent reporting, #Fake News is DISTORTING DEMOCRACY in our country!"
Earlier on Saturday, it was revealed that Donald Trump's campaign paid $50,000 to the law office now representing Donald Trump Jr. a little more than a week before news of the unreported meeting surfaced.
According to a filing with the Federal Election Commission on Saturday, a payment was made to the Law Offices of Alan S. Futerfas, dated June 27.
While the disclosure doesn’t mention who Futerfas was hired to represent, the payment was described as covering "legal consulting" fees.
The payment was made to Futerfas' firm days before the story about the meeting broke.
On Monday, Futerfas was however revealed as Trump Jr.'s lawyer after a New York Times report detailed the meetings.
Separately, reports revealed that the campaign also paid more than $538,000 to Jones Day, the law firm that represented Trump's campaign during the election.
The campaign also paid $89,561 for "legal consulting" to The Trump Corporation, owned by the president, on June 30.
According to Saturday's disclosures, in the second quarter of 2017, Trump's re-election campaign raised about $8 million and spent $4.4 million.
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