DNC coordinated with Ukraine, White House says amid Trump-Russia collusion claims
As Russian collusion accusations continue to surround the Trump administration, White House deputy press secretary Sarah Sanders says the Democratic National Committee (DNC) is actually the guilty party because it coordinated with Ukraine.
During a Monday press briefing, Sanders was asked whether President Donald Trump was concerned that his son, Donald Trump Jr., held a meeting with a Russian lawyer during the campaign.
In response, Sanders said that "Don. Jr. took a very short meeting from which there was absolutely no follow-up," before suggesting that the Democrats were actually the ones who coordinated with a foreign government.
"Frankly, I think something that may make sense is looking at the Democrat [sic] National Committee coordinated opposition research directly with the Ukrainian embassy," she said.
Sanders clarified that her statement was "not an accusation," instead stressing that it is an "on-the-record action they took."
"So if you’re looking for an example of a campaign coordinating with a foreign country or a foreign source, look no further than the DNC who actually coordinated opposition research with the Ukrainian embassy. And no one in this room to my knowledge really had a big problem with that."
However, the Ukraine embassy in Washington DC disputed Sanders' remarks.
“Unfortunately, White House spokeswoman Sarah Huckabee Sanders must have been misinformed about Ukraine and the DNC,” the embassy said in a statement, as quoted by the Washington Times.
“The Embassy of Ukraine in Washington did not coordinate with the DNC about opposition research. While some politicians who are not part of the Ukrainian government might have taken sides during last year’s elections in the US, the government of Ukraine did not,” it added.
Sanders' statements come after the New York Times reported that Donald Trump Jr. had held a meeting with Russian lawyer Natalya Veselnitskaya in Trump Tower on June 9, 2016, after she reportedly claimed to have damaging information about Hillary Clinton's campaign.
President Trump's son-in-law and top adviser Jared Kushner and then-campaign chairman Paul Manafort were also part of the meeting.
Trump Jr. has made no efforts to deny the meeting took place, stating that the attorney had initially said that she "had information that individuals connected to Russia were funding the Democratic National Committee and supporting Mrs. Clinton."
However, he then went on to say that "her statements were vague, ambiguous and made no sense. No details or supporting information was provided or even offered. It quickly became clear that she had no meaningful information.”
Meanwhile, the Kremlin said it had no prior knowledge of Veselnitskaya and was not aware of her meeting with Trump Jr.
“No, we don’t know who [Natalya Veselnitskaya] is, and obviously we can’t track the meetings of all Russian lawyers at home or abroad,” Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said on Monday.
President Trump was also unaware that the meeting took place, according to Mark Corallo, a spokesman for his legal team.
News of the meeting has provided further fuel for President Trump's critics, who have long claimed that he colluded with Russia during the 2016 presidential election, despite a lack of evidence.
President Trump is currently under a congressional investigation for the collusion claims, which both Washington and Moscow have adamantly denied.