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The Russia stuff gets weirder.
It’s a new wrinkle in the story about Donald Trump Jr.’s June 2016 meeting with a Russian lawyer to get dirt on Hillary Clinton, one that now ensnares Hicks. The Trump team originally downplayed the meeting as a discussion about the ban on the adoption of Russian children to U.S. parents, crafting a statement to that effect aboard Air Force One last July, after the New York Times questioned the president about the meeting.
The statement Trump and his advisors put out was untrue and Donald Trump, Jr. released the emails to prove it.
Mueller and his team have been looking for months at just how involved the president was in crafting the false statement. But according to people close to former Trump legal spokesman Mark Corallo, it’s not just the president that Mueller is looking into. Hicks, the White House communications director, allegedly worked with Trump and his son on the statement, and promised that Trump Jr.’s damaging digital paper trail “would never get out.”
Corallo is slated to be interviewed by Mueller’s team in the next two weeks about the Air Force One statement and about Hicks words on a conference call with the president the next day.
According to his account, Ms. Hicks responded that the emails “will never get out” because only a few people had access to them. Mr. Corallo, who worked as a Justice Department spokesman during the George W. Bush administration, told colleagues he was alarmed not only by what Ms. Hicks had said — either she was being naïve or was suggesting that the emails could be withheld from investigators — but also that she had said it in front of the president without a lawyer on the phone and that the conversation could not be protected by attorney-client privilege.
Corallo resigned from the Trump administration in the wake of revelations about the June 2016 Trump Tower meeting. According to Reuters, Corallo refused to impugn Mueller and was deeply disturbed by both the statement crafted aboard Air Force One and Hicks’ later statement.
Hicks’ lawyer, Robert P. Trout, vehemently denied Corallo’s allegations. “As most reporters know, it’s not my practice to comment in response to questions from the media. But this warrants a response,” he said in a statement to the Times. “She never said that. And the idea that Hope Hicks ever suggested that emails or other documents would be concealed or destroyed is completely false.”
It’s also possible Hicks was just speaking out naivety, as Corallo notes. Congress had already subpoenaed the records of then-Trump campaign manager Paul Manafort and Jared Kushner about the meeting.
The Hicks revelations are just the latest in the Russia probe, which has already indicted Manafort, former National Security Advisor Michael Flynn, foreign policy advisor George Papadopoulos and Rick Gates, Manafort’s business partner.
Read the Times report here.
Ellen Ioanes is the FOIA reporter at the Daily Dot, where she covers U.S. politics. She is a graduate of Columbia Journalism School, and her work has appeared in the Guardian, the Center for Public Integrity, HuffPost India, and more.