Trump Defends Trump Jr.: ‘I Applaud His Transparency’
President Trump on Tuesday praised his son, Donald Trump Jr., who is under fire for meeting with a Russian lawyer who claimed to have compromising information about Trump’s Democratic rival in the presidential race, Hillary Clinton.
“My son is a high-quality person and I applaud his transparency,” Trump said in a brief statement, which White House spokeswoman Sarah Huckabee Sanders read to reporters during an off-camera briefing.
Trump had previously remained silent on the growing controversy surrounding the meeting at the height of the campaign, which became public Saturday.
The revelation has shaken the White House, which for months has struggled to contain the fallout from a wide-ranging investigation into Russia’s election-meddling effort in 2016.
Sanders acknowledged that, “the president is, I would say, frustrated with the process of the fact that this continues to be an issue.”
“He would love for us to be focused on things like … the economy, on healthcare, on tax reform, on infrastructure and that’s the place that his mind is and that’s what he’d like to be discussing,” she said.
Sanders, however, did not dispute stunning new emails disclosed by Trump Jr. Tuesday detailing efforts to set up the meeting.
She was peppered with questions about the stunning disclosure during the 21-minute briefing, repeatedly referring reporters to attorneys representing the president and his eldest son.
The lawyers did not immediately respond to requests for comment.
Sanders did engage some questions about the meeting, saying it’s “ridiculous” to use the words “treason” or “perjury” to describe Trump Jr.’s behavior, as some critics have alleged.
The spokesman stood by her Monday claim that Trump Jr. did not collude with Russia’s efforts to interfere in the 2016 presidential election.
She said she was not able to say the last time the president spoke with his son and refused to say whether Trump now believes Russia interfered with last year’s election.
Sanders also denied that Vice President Pence was trying to distance himself from the Trump Jr. controversy by putting out a statement saying he is “not focused on stories about the campaign… especially those about the time he joined the ticket.”
“There is absolutely no distance between the president and the vice president,” she said.
Michael Flynn was fired in February as national security adviser in large part because he misrepresented his conversation with Russia’s U.S. ambassador to Pence. The vice president went on television and denied Flynn discussed sanctions with the Russian envoy, even though he did.
Donald Trump Jr. didn’t release the emails out of some altruistic sense of transparency, the New York Times obtained the emails and asked him for a comment from him before releasing them to the public.
Trump Jr. never responded to the request, and instead released the emails, most likely in a self-server move to get out in front of the story.
If it really was about transparency, Trump Jr. would have released the emails months before the New York Times broke this story.