ABC News(WASHINGTON) — White House press secretary Sean Spicer held an off-camera briefing for the first time in weeks, in which he appeared to mischaracterize the motivation for Donald Trump Jr.’s controversial meeting with a Russian lawyer during the campaign.
Since news of that June 9, 2016, meeting broke last week, Donald Trump Jr. has both released multiple statements about the meeting and published the emails that showed the planning that went into the meeting. In the emails, and as repeated in his statements, it is clear that the reason Trump Jr. went to the meeting — along with then-campaign manager Paul Manafort and then-campaign adviser Jared Kushner — was in the hopes of obtaining damaging information about his father’s then-opponent Hillary Clinton.
Spicer’s statement on Monday, however, did not reflect that information.
“There was nothing as far as we know that would lead anyone to believe that there was anything except for discussion about adoption and the Magnitsky Act,” Spicer said, “but I would refer you back to counsel on that one.”
Unanswered questions about Russian lawyer’s meeting with Donald Trump Jr.
In the first statement that Donald Trump Jr. released about the meeting on July 8, he described it as a “short introductory meeting … about the adoption of Russian children that was active and popular with American families years ago.” He added more details in a subsequent statement released on July 9, however, noting that he was asked to have the meeting “with an individual who I was told might have information helpful to the campaign.” The statement goes on to describe how the Russian lawyer “changed subjects” and her “true agenda” was to talk about adoption policy.
Monday marked Spicer’s return to the podium for the first time since June 26. The press secretary ceded the task to principal deputy press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders in the interim.
Asked about the rumors surrounding his job on June 20, Spicer responded, “I’m right here.”
“It’s no secret we’ve had a couple vacancies, including our communications director is gone for a while,” Spicer added. “We’ve been seeking input from individuals as far as ideas that they have. We’ve been meeting with potential people that may be of service to this administration. I don’t think that should come as any surprise. But we’re always looking for ways to do a better job of articulating the president’s message and his agenda, and we’ll continue to have those discussions internally.”
Monday’s briefing was again held off camera, continuing a trend that has been carried out throughout the month of July. The last on-camera briefing was held on June 29.
Sanders was asked about the choice to limit the public’s viewing of the press conference last week.
“We’re always looking at different approaches and different ways to communicate the president’s message and talk about the agenda,” she said. “This is one of the many ways we choose to do that.”
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