The U.S. Secret Service denied the bizarre suggestion made by Jay Sekulow, a member of President Donald Trump's legal team, that the agency vetted the meeting between Donald Trump Jr., and a Russian lawyer in June 2016, according to Reuters.
In what was the latest excuse to downplay the controversy surrounding the meeting, Sekulow falsely asserted that the Secret Service was protecting Trump — and what exactly the agency's role was — at that time.
"Well, I wonder why the Secret Service, if this [meeting] was nefarious, why the Secret Service allowed these people in. The president had Secret Service protection at that point, and that raised a question with me," Sekulow said on ABC's "This Week" on Sunday.
Except Trump's son was not under protection from the Secret Service at that point in time, Reuters reported.
"Donald Trump, Jr. was not a protectee of the USSS in June, 2016. Thus we would not have screened anyone he was meeting with at that time," Mason Brayman, a spokesperson for the Secret Service told Reuters in an emailed statement on Sunday afternoon.
The role of the Secret Service was also misrepresented by Sekulow because at that point in time the agency was only protecting physical dangers. "At that stage, we would only screen for physical threats, we were not at the stage to be in a counterintelligence posture," Jonathan Wackrow, 14-year Secret Service veteran who served on former President Barack Obama's detail told the Huffington Post.
The Huffington Post elaborated:
The Secret Service was conducting physical checks (magnetometers) for anyone entering Trump’s office space and apartment (with some exceptions), but they were only checking names of people meeting with his father and those names were only checked to ensure that they wouldn’t have presented a physical threat to Trump (for example, a prior conviction for assault), not a possible counterintelligence threat.
Trump's son-in-law Jared Kushner, and former campaign manager, Paul Manafort, also attended the meeting where the three had met with Russian lawyer, Natalia Veselnitskaya, in hopes of receiving "very high level and sensitive information" about political opponent Hillary Clinton as part of a Russian effort to assist the Trump campaign.