Donald Trump could be guilty of obstruction of justice and should resign if reports alleging he dictated his son’s misleading statement on a meeting with a Russian lawyer are found to be true, George W Bush’s former chief ethics lawyer has said.
“We have repeated instances of obstruction of justice, this being yet one more,” Richard Painter told Brian Williams on MSNBC’s The 11th Hour.
“And I have to say, this does look more and more like a cover-up, but it really is one of the most psychologically deranged and incompetent cover-ups in political history.”
Mr Painter’s comments come after the Washington Post reported on Monday that the US President crafted a statement, later shown to be misleading, in which his son Donald Trump Jr said a meeting he had with a Russian lawyer in June 2016 was not related to his father’s presidential campaign.
Mr Trump Jr released a string of emails in July, showing that he agreed last year to meet a woman he was told was a Russian Government lawyer who might have damaging information about Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton.
The emails made clear that the information would be handed to the Trump team “as part of Moscow’s official support for his father”.
The newspaper reported that Trump advisers agreed that Mr Trump Jr should issue a truthful account of exchange, so it “couldn’t be repudiated later if the full details emerged”.
However, it says the President changed the plan during a flight home from Germany on 8 July and “personally dictated a statement in which Trump Jr said he and the Russian lawyer had ‘primarily discussed a program about the adoption of Russian children’,” citing unnamed sources.
The newspaper said the statement, which was issued to The New York Times, emphasised that the subject of the meeting was “not a campaign issue at the time”.
“If this story is true, that the President of the United States intentionally drafted a false statement by his son in connection with a criminal investigation, I think that’s it,” Mr Painter said.
“He should do the dignified thing and resign his office if this story is true and give Mike Pence a chance to run the country and calm things down for a few years.”
Mr Painter said the President “is not living in the real world in connection with what's going on here with the Russia investigation and quite a few other things as well.
“It's an investigation that Donald Trump, as President, could have kept his hands off of. He didn’t have to tweet about it, didn't have to talk about it, didn't have to engage in obstruction of justice.
“He could have allowed this investigation to take its course and he chose not to. And this is a mistake, very similar to the mistake Richard Nixon made in connection with Watergate, but I have to say, it's a lot more psychologically deranged when you look at the tweets and the statements and the obsession with Hillary.”
US investigators are currently probing whether there was collusion between the Kremlin and Mr Trump’s election campaign.
Intelligence agencies have already concluded that Moscow sought to hurt Ms Clinton’s campaign, while helping Mr Trump in the 2016 election.
Russia has denied any interference in the election and Mr Trump has vehemently denied any collusion with the country.
Mr Painter warned that Mr Trump’s presidency has put the United States in a “very risky situation”.
“The signs of authoritarianism are staring us right in the face and if we don't acknowledge that there's a very risky situation and we continue to put up with this what we could find is that if we are in a war, or if the President wants to get us into a war in order to solidify his control, then he could very, very quickly try to make himself into an authoritarian president or dictator and this is not a safe situation for the United States,” Mr Painter said.
“Congress, Democrats and Republicans together need to get a handle on how to deal with Donald Trump.”
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