The answer is … yes, right? The Secret Service makes sure that people in proximity to the president (or, in this case, a presidential nominee) pose no threat to him. They don’t vet them for “nefariousness,” particularly if those people were invited by the president’s family to discuss cooperating on a project of mutual interest, which is basically the opposite of a threat. In fact, this talking point contradicts Jay Sekulow’s other key talking point this morning, that there was nothing illegal in Don Jr, Jared Kushner, and Paul Manafort holding a meeting with some Russians to discuss Hillary Clinton dirt. If that’s true, and it may well be, on what grounds could the Secret Service have said to Team Trump, “Sorry, you can’t meet with these people?”
Rinat Akhmetshin, the lobbyist who accompanied lawyer Natalia Veselnitskaya to the meeting, claims he basically strolled in off the street unharassed by security. If so, how much should we read into the Secret Service’s scrutiny or lack thereof of visitors to Trump Tower?
The Russian-American lobbyist who attended a controversial June 2016 meeting with Donald Trump Jr. said he was there by chance, as a result of a last-minute invite, and that he strolled into Trump Tower without anybody asking for proof of who he was.
“No one asked us for IDs,” Rinat Akhmetshin told Yahoo News in a brief telephone interview Friday. “We literally walked in” without any security check…
Akhmetshin said he was not expecting to attend any meeting at Trump Tower that day. In fact, he was dressed in jeans and a T-shirt when Veselnitskaya told him that she had a meeting scheduled and asked him to come along.
Funny coincidence: Akhmetshin, who attended by supposed happenstance, is known for being a skillful oppo researcher, the Russian version of which frequently involves hacking opponents’ emails. Hmmm.
Two clips here of Sekulow, one of him discussing the Secret Service angle and the other of him emphasizing that there was nothing illegal in holding a meeting and therefore nothing to cover up. Is that true, though? Revisit my analogy yesterday about chatting with a hit man to target someone before deciding against it. That might not be illegal — but you certainly wouldn’t want anyone to know. Also, Sekulow claims that the president wasn’t involved in any of Don Jr’s attempts to spin the meeting before the truth came out in the pages of the Times. Fair enough, but that contradicts the Times’s reporting, which claimed that Trump’s aides drafted Don Jr’s initial statement about the meeting last weekend and that the president himself signed off on it before it was released. Exit question: Why was Sekulow, Trump Sr’s lawyer, on the shows this morning doing damage control? Where was Don Jr’s, lawyer, Alan Futerfas?
Update: We only vet people who meet the president, says the Secret Service, not the president’s son.
In an emailed response to questions about Sekulow’s comments, Secret Service spokesman Mason Brayman said the younger Trump was not under Secret Service protection at the time of the meeting, which included Trump’s son and two senior campaign officials.
“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,” the statement said.
Right, but the meeting was held in Trump Tower. I read somewhere that Donald Sr was on the floor above where Don Jr’s meeting took place. The Secret Service would want to know who’s in the building, even if they weren’t prepared to stop a meeting due to “nefariousness,” right?