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Trump’s latest justification of 2016 meeting sets off flurry of new questions

President Trump offered a new reason for a controversial June 2016 meeting that has become a central question of special counsel Robert Mueller's investigation into Russian interference in the election. The president tweeted on Sunday that the meeting was "to get information on an opponent" and "totally legal" -- the latest justification in a year of shifting stories. Yamiche Alcindor reports.

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  • Nick Schifrin:

    President Trump is on vacation at his home in New Jersey, but, as Yamiche Alcindor reports, the president's comments on Twitter are raising new questions about his 2016 campaign and a controversial meeting with a Russian lawyer.

  • Yamiche Alcindor:

    An evolving explanation.

    On Sunday, President Trump offered a new reason for a controversial June 2016 meeting at Trump Tower.

    In the room, the president's son, Donald Trump Jr., son-in-law Jared Kushner, campaign chairman Paul Manafort, and a Russian lawyer with ties to the Kremlin, Natalia Veselnitskaya. At issue, what the meeting was about.

  • Mr. Trump tweeted:

    "This was a meeting to get information on an opponent. Totally legal and done all the time in politics. And it went nowhere. I didn't know about it."

    That justification was just the latest in a year of shifting stories. The meeting has become a central question of special counsel Robert Mueller's investigation into Russian interference in the 2016 election and possible ties to the Trump campaign.

    Last July, The New York Times first reported the meeting happened. Don Jr. responded with a statement saying: "We primarily discussed a program about the adoption of Russian children."

    Within days, a clarification, saying: "The information they suggested they had about Hillary Clinton, I thought, was political opposition research."

    And the president himself offered public support.

  • President Donald Trump:

    I do think this. I think, from a practical standpoint, most people would have taken that meeting. It's called opposition research or even research into your opponent.

  • Yamiche Alcindor:

    The president's involvement in his son's first statement has become a topic of debate.

    White House Press Secretary Sarah Sanders just days into the job said this a year ago.

  • Sarah Sanders:

    He certainly didn't dictate, but he — like I said, he weighed in, offered suggestion, like any father would do.

  • Yamiche Alcindor:

    But, in June, The New York Times published a letter written by the president's lawyers to Mueller. In it, the lawyers acknowledged that Mr. Trump did in fact — quote — "dictate that first misleading statement by Don Jr."

    The latest about-face from the president set off a flurry of new questions about his campaign.

    Trump's lawyer Jay Sekulow playing defense:

  • Jay Sekulow:

    The question is, how would it be illegal? I mean, the real question here is, would a meeting of that nature constitute a violation, the meeting itself constitute a violation of the law?

  • Yamiche Alcindor:

    New explanations have not stopped questions about the president's role and potential obstruction of justice.

    For the "PBS NewsHour," I'm Yamiche Alcindor.

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