The latest effort at an excuse that could justify Donald Trump Jr.’s meeting with a Russian lawyer last year was shot down mere hours after it was first raised. The Secret Service quickly denied the suggestion from President Donald Trump’s personal lawyer that it had somehow vetted the June 2016 meeting.
“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,” Secret Service spokesman Mason Brayman said in a statement.
The Secret Service issued the statement shortly after Trump lawyer Jay Sekulow raised the issue on one of his many Sunday morning talk show appearances. “Well, I wonder why the Secret Service, if this was nefarious, why the Secret Service allowed these people in,” Sekulow said on ABC’s This Week. “The president had Secret Service protection at that point, and that raised a question with me.”
At the time only then-candidate Trump had Secret Service protection, and even so, agents were more concerned about anyone who could physically harm the president, according to two sources who talked to the HuffPost. “At that stage, we would only screen for physical threats, we were not at the stage to be in a counterintelligence posture,” a 14-year veteran of the Secret Service explained. At the point when Trump Jr. held the meeting, the Secret Service was checking the names of anyone meeting with the candidate or entering his offices, but not to establish any possible counterintelligence threat. And even then, agents couldn’t actually stop people from entering Trump Tower if their concerns were overruled by anyone in the Trump campaign.
Emails released by Trump Jr. last week showed that he was eager to meet with Russian lawyer Natalia Veselnitskaya after he was promised compromising information about Hillary Clinton.