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Politics In The News: President's Tweet On Trump Tower Meeting

Aug 6, 2018
Originally published on August 6, 2018 6:06 am
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DAVID GREENE, HOST:

So that infamous 2016 meeting at Trump Tower in New York when a Russian operative met with members of President Trump's campaign team - why did that meeting happen? Well, President Trump offered an explanation yesterday in a tweet. Quote, "this was a meeting to get information on an opponent." Of course a year ago, Trump said the meeting was primarily to discuss the adoption of Russian children. So where is the truth, and why is this something President Trump would even want to focus on right now?

Good questions to ask NPR's Tamara Keith, who has followed all these twists and turns. Good morning, Tamara.

TAMARA KEITH, BYLINE: Good morning.

GREENE: So has President Trump changed the story of this meeting?

KEITH: Well, President Trump changed the story of this meeting a little more than a year ago. Then there was some silence, and now he's back to really the talking point that he and his team had settled on back in July of 2017. I want to take you back in time to try to tell you how we got here. So at first the White House and Donald Trump Jr. claimed that that meeting at Trump Tower was just about adoptions. That explanation did not last very long because then emails about that meeting came out.

Donald Trump Jr. ultimately released this email chain where the meeting was offered as, quote, "offering official documents and information that would incriminate Hillary and her dealings with Russia." It was later described in the offer as, quote, "part of Russia and its government's support for Mr. Trump." So then the president was at a press conference with the French president. He was asked about this, asked about Donald Trump Jr.'s decision to take the meeting. And this is what he said.

(SOUNDBITE OF PRESS CONFERENCE)

PRESIDENT DONALD TRUMP: I do think this. I think from a practical standpoint most people would have taken that meeting. It's called opposition research or even research into your opponent.

KEITH: At the time campaign professionals from both sides of the aisle said, no, they would not have taken that meeting. They would have called the FBI.

GREENE: Why is Donald Trump talking about this right now? Why would he want to bring this up? Why would he want all of us to be focusing on it?

KEITH: Now, we can't be a hundred percent certain about what motivates any one given tweet. But The Washington Post over the weekend had a story saying that President Trump was privately stewing about Robert Mueller's special counsel investigation and that he was worried that his son could be at legal peril because of that Trump Tower meeting. The president has been tweeting at a pretty high frequency about the Mueller investigation recently, and in part that's probably because his former campaign chairman Paul Manafort is currently on trial.

GREENE: Well, I want to ask you about that trial. But before we leave Trump Tower, I mean, could this be causing some heartburn for the president's lawyers, and maybe actually these tweets catching Robert Mueller's eye a bit?

KEITH: Well, lots of things cause heartburn for President Trump's lawyers. That Twitter account is not something that any lawyer would choose to have. But it is a fact of life of President Trump. It's how he operates.

GREENE: OK, so the Manafort trial - we're going into the second week. This is the first trial to come out of Mueller's investigation. There could be some pretty big moments this week.

KEITH: Right. We are expecting prosecutors to call Rick Gates to testify. He is Paul Manafort's former right-hand man. They were indicted together. But then Gates pled out, and he's been cooperating with prosecutors.

GREENE: All right, NPR White House correspondent Tamara Keith - she also hosts the NPR Politics Podcast. Tamara, always good to talk to you. Thanks.

KEITH: You're welcome. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.