Deputy White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders said Monday that Donald Trump Jr. did not collude with Russia to influence the 2016 election following reports he met with a Kremlin-linked lawyer offering damaging information on then-candidate for President Hillary Clinton in June 2016.
“I would certainly say Don Jr. did not collude with anybody to influence the election,” Sanders said during an off-camera White House press briefing.
“What about Flynn?” a reporter asked, referring to the ousted national security adviser who was forced to resign following revelations he mislead the vice president about speaking about sanctions with Russia’s ambassador to the United States toward the end of the Obama administration.
“To my knowledge,” Sanders began, and then repeated the same point.
Sanders said that “[t]he only thing I see inappropriate about the meeting was the people that leaked the information on the meeting after it was voluntarily disclosed.”
She added, responding to a question: “I don’t know of any other meetings with Don Jr., but I also haven’t had an extensive conversation with him.”
One reporter asked about the White House’s habit of issuing blanket denials about meetings between Trump associates and Russians, only to contradict the denials later.
“How are we to take all of these blanket denials that occurred through the transition and now when it has been proven and recognized by the President’s attorney and Don Jr. that those blanket denials were not factual?” the reporter asked.
“I think the point is that we’ve tried to make every single time — today and then and will continue to make — in those statements is that there was simply no collusion that they keep trying to create that there was,” Sanders said.
“But that’s a different question than what’s asked at the time and different than the statements were about,” the reporter pointed out. “Those original questions were not about collusion. They were about contacts.”
“They were originally about that,” Sanders interjected. “That’s the whole premise of what you’re asking in the question is whether or not the campaign colluded with Russia. That’s the premise of the entire scope of your questioning.”