A meeting last year between President Donald Trump’s team and a Russian lawyer was a “nothing meeting,” White House chief of staff Reince Priebus said Sunday.
The New York Times reported Saturday that Donald Trump Jr. had arranged a meeting two weeks after the Republican National Convention with a Russian lawyer who had ties to the Kremlin. Then-campaign chairman Paul Manafort and Trump’s son-in-law, Jared Kushner, also attended the meeting.
Priebus told host Chris Wallace on “Fox News Sunday” that he doesn’t know much about it but described it as a “short” meeting about Russian adoption that only lasted 20 minutes.
“It was a nothing meeting,” Priebus said. “I don’t know much about it other than it seems to be on the end of the Trump individuals a big nothing burger but may spin out of control for the DNC and the Democrats.”
Priebus said he has “no idea” why the three individuals wanted to meet about Russian adoption but suggested it wasn’t out of the ordinary. “Talking about issues of foreign policy, issues related to our place in the world, issues important to the American people like adoption is not unusual,” he said.
He also addressed reports that the president had accepted Russian President Vladimir Putin’s denial of meddling in the 2016 campaign, telling Wallace, “The president absolutely did not believe the denial of President Putin.”
Trump and Putin met for more than two hours at the G-20 summit in Hamburg, Germany, on Friday. Priebus said Trump opened the discussion with Russia’s meddling and “went after that issue at least two separate times.”
“This was not just a five-minute piece of the conversation,” he continued. “This was an extensive portion of the meeting, and after going at with President Putin more than once — two times, maybe even three times — the president at that point, after spending a large part of the meeting on the subject, moved on to other topics.”
Asked if Trump believed that the Kremlin meddled in the election, Priebus said Trump has answered that question on several occasions.
“He said they probably meddled in the election. They did meddle in the election,” Priebus said. “The one thing that he also says, which drives the media crazy but it’s an absolute fact, is that others have as well. And that’s true.”
Discussing health care with Wallace, Priebus says Trump expects repeal-and-replace to pass at some point, though perhaps not before the summer recess.