.. unlike other previously undisclosed meetings, this one was very, very clearly denied — and repeatedly — by both parties. It was also apparently denied in or at least omitted from their testimonies to congressional investigators.
Although someone like Attorney General Jeff Sessions may have a credible argument that his denials of contact with Russians were the results of misunderstandings, Stone’s and Caputo’s denials were ironclad.
“I didn’t talk to anybody who was identifiably Russian during the two-year run-up to this campaign,” Stone told The Post in April 2017. “I very definitely can’t think of anybody who might have been a Russian without my knowledge. It’s a canard.”
.. Stone reasserted this in a March interview with Chuck Todd. “I never had any contact with any Russians,” he said.
.. Caputo went a step further, saying in emphatic and unmistakable terms that he told the House Intelligence Committee that he had no contact with Russians.
.. “I spent my time in front of the committee detailing the fact that I had no contact with Russians, that I never heard of anyone with the Trump campaign talking with Russians, that I was never asked questions about my time in Russia, that I never even spoke to anyone about Russia, that I never heard the word ‘Russia,’ and we did not use Russian dressing,” he said in July.
.. These denials so contradict what we just found out, in fact, that neither man is trying to parse them to square them with the new information. Instead both — rather remarkably — contend that they simply forgot about the Greenberg proffer until special counsel Robert S. Mueller III reminded them last month. And now both are amending their testimony
.. And it’s pretty clear what’s happening here. This is something that, judging by their conversations with Mueller, they knew was going to come out eventually.
.. And now they have a narrative into which they can insert it, thanks to Trump’s baseless claims about the FBI “spying” on his campaignvia an informant.
.. it looks significantly more like there was a coverup than it did 24 hours ago.
For nearly a year, the denials from President Trump’s lawyers and spokeswoman were unequivocal. No, the president did not dictate a misleading statement released in his son’s name.
“He certainly didn’t dictate,” said the White House press secretary, Sarah Huckabee Sanders.
“The president was not involved in the drafting of that statement,” his lawyer Jay Sekulow told NBC News.
.. But in a confidential, hand-delivered memo to the special counsel, Mr. Trump’s lawyers acknowledged that, yes, Mr. Trump had dictated the statement.
.. Prosecutors are asking whether the statement was part of an effort by the president to obstruct a federal investigation.
.. it highlights a communication strategy that the White House has used repeatedly: deny facts, attack news outlets and dismiss journalism as “fake news.”
Late last year, for example, reporters revealed a White House plan to fire the secretary of state, Rex W. Tillerson, and replace him with the C.I.A. director, Mike Pompeo. Not so, Mr. Trump angrily replied, dismissing the stories as fake news. Ultimately, Mr. Trump fired Mr. Tillerson, replaced him with Mr. Pompeo and said he had been talking about doing so “for a long time.”
.. Rudolph W. Giuliani, the president’s personal lawyer, acknowledged as much in an ABC News interview this weekend, even as he blamed the string of false statements on faulty memory and incorrect assumptions. “This is the reason you don’t let the president testify,” Mr. Giuliani said. “Our recollection keeps changing, or we’re not even asked a question and somebody makes an assumption.”
.. But Mr. Trump’s team was asked the question, again and again, by multiple reporters. The answer was consistent. Then on Monday, Ms. Sanders refused to answer the question or address her previous denial. “I’m not going to get into a back-and-forth,” she said
.. But when approached by journalists, the younger Mr. Trump issued a statement that omitted all of that. Instead, the statement said that the meeting had primarily been about Russian adoption policy. When The Times reported that the president himself had “signed off on” the statement, Mr. Trump’s advisers pushed back hard.
“They’re incorrect,” Mr. Sekulow said on CNN.
“The New York Times is wrong?” he was asked.
“Yeah, I know, is that shocking that sometimes they make a mistake?” Mr. Sekulow said.
.. Then The Washington Post reported that Mr. Trump had not only approved it, but had personally dictated it. Mr. Sekulow responded, “Apart from being of no consequence, the characterizations are misinformed, inaccurate and not pertinent.”
.. The Times has since obtained a confidential memo to Mr. Mueller acknowledging that “the president dictated a short but accurate response to The New York Times article on behalf of his son, Donald Trump, Jr.”
.. Mr. Trump has for years held the view that fudging the facts with journalists is far from a federal offense, and has acknowledged as much in civil lawsuits. He has acknowledged practicing what he calls “truthful hyperbole,” and has waved away outright falsehoods, dismissing them as smart public relations.
.. After his firing, Mr. Tillerson delivered a barely veiled criticism of his former boss’s trustworthiness, declaring that American democracy was threatened by a crisis of integrity. “When we as people, a free people, go wobbly on the truth even on what may seem the most trivial matters, we go wobbly on America,”
.. Mr. Trump has said he is eager to sit for an interview. He told reporters in January that he expected to do so within “two to three weeks.”
That did not happen, and his lawyers are not sure it ever will.