Robert Mueller's investigation into Russia's election interference is honing in on the meeting orchestrated by Donald Trump Jr. with Russian nationals, NBC News is reporting. More specifically, Mueller has taken an interest in President Donald Trump's role in crafting his son's response to the news reports about the meeting.
The June 2016 encounter in Trump Tower between Trump Jr., Paul Manafort and Jared Kushner immediately set off red flags because of the Kremlin-connected individuals who also attended: Attorney Natalia Veselnitskaya and former Soviet intelligence officer Rinat Akhmetshin.
Hours after The New York Times broke the story, the president personally dictated a statement for his son, claiming that the meeting “primarily discussed a program about the adoption of Russian children.” The statement insisted the meeting was unproductive because the subject was "not a campaign issue at the time."
The Times later reported, however, that emails from Trump Jr. revealed that he believed the meeting would yield damning information on Hillary Clinton.
Three anonymous sources familiar with Mueller's probe told NBC News that prosecutors want to know if Trump knew about the meeting beforehand, and whether his statement was intentionally misleading.
The White House confirmed that Trump personally helped write the response to the Times' original report while he returned from the G20 meeting in Germany on Air Force One.
One source told NBC News that prosecutors are looking into whether the president "knowingly" made a false statement.
Earlier this month, Salon spoke with former White House ethics czar Richard Painter about Trump's role in the statement. Painter said that Trump may have put himself in legal jeopardy by exposing himself to obstruction of justice charges. In confirming his son's statement, Trump was boxing in a potential witness to the meeting, which could constitute witness tampering.
Ty Cobb, the attorney representing Trump's legal affairs involving Mueller's investigation, told NBC News that he assumed the statement would be of interest to federal investigators. Cobb, however, said that the statement was not "untruthful."
"It was not a bible of events leading up to and after the meeting," Cobb told NBC News.