Mark Corallo, who served briefly as a spokesperson for President Trump’s legal team, had a lot to say on an ABC News podcast about the infamous statement Trump helped draft from Air Force One mischaracterizing the June 2016 Trump Tower meeting.
According to Corallo, then-White House press aide Hope Hicks and later President Trump himself called him to lash out about the statement, which was released by Trump’s son Donald Jr. and falsely claimed the focus of the Trump Tower meeting was to discuss adoption. Hicks called Corallo the day the statement was drafted from Air Force One.
“She said, ‘I had the New York Times handled’ and I’m going, ‘You did? You work in the White House. This is a private matter,” Corallo said of the July 8, 2017 phone call.
“‘This is not the President’s conduct of his office. This is matters to do with him as a private citizen, really, not even him. This has to do with his son, son in law, and former campaign director,'” Corallo recalled telling Hicks, whom he said yelled at him about it.
“I said, ‘Well you know you’ve probably made yourself a witness in a federal criminal investigation. Way to go, young lady,'” Corallo told ABC News. He said that she called the next day, and then put the President on the line.
“He’s laying into me for, for you know, ‘Who approved this statement.’ I said, ‘Mr. President please talk to your lawyers about this. Don’t talk to me about this. Talk to your lawyers,'” Corallo said. He pointed out to ABC News that there would not be legal protections that would keep their conversation confidential since Corallo was neither a lawyer nor a White House official.
Corallo told ABC News that Hicks and Trump were “creating risk unnecessarily.”
“The idea that a 20-something press aide would put the President of the United States on the phone to talk about a federal criminal investigation, without his attorneys on the phone, to protect the privilege and that the President wasn’t aware of it was just astounding to me,” Corallo said. “And terrifying.”
Corallo told ABC News that he pointed out to Hicks that there were documents that would contradict the “inaccurate” claim that the Trump Tower meeting was about adoptions.
“She said, ‘Well nobody’s ever going to see those documents,'” Which you know made my throat dry up immediately,” he said. “And I just — at that point I just said, ‘Mr. President we can’t talk about this anymore. You got to talk to your lawyers.'”
Despite how “reckless” Trump and his circle was in how it handled the Trump Tower meeting and its fallout, Corallo denied that it amounted to obstruction of justice.
He said that they were driven by a desire to “avoid embarrassment” and “kill a news story.”
Corallo said that, in the moment, he was worried not about a criminal obstruction investigation, but rather “a potential impeachment down the road.”
Mueller’s team, whom Corallo praised extensively, asked him about the episode and suggested that Hicks had denied it, according to his interview with ABC News.