Deputy White House Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders insisted again on Monday that there was no collusion between the Trump campaign and the Russian government in the 2016 election.
The denial came after bombshell revelations over the weekend that Donald Trump Jr. had met with a Russian lawyer tied to the Kremlin alongside White House aide Jared Kushner and then-campaign manager Paul Manafort, first reported by The New York Times. Representatives for Trump Jr. and Kushner confirmed on Saturday the meeting occurred, and on Sunday,saying they had been promised information "helpful to the campaign."
Further, Trump Jr. said the lawyer, Natalia Veselnitskaya, promised information about "individuals connected to Russia were funding the Democratic National Committee and supporting [Hillary] Clinton." But he said Veselnitskaya's statements were "vague, ambiguous and made no sense." Trump Jr. said they then discussed a disbanded Russian adoption program, which Trump Jr. had earlier said was the purpose of the meeting.
Sanders insisted that there was nothing abnormal about the "very short meeting." But CBS News' Major Garrett then pressed Sanders of the administrations numerous "blanket denials" that campaign officials had "any meetings, under any circumstances" with Russian officials.
Garrett noted that the original explanation for the meeting between Trump Jr. and the Russian lawyer "was amended within 24 hours."
"How are we to take all of these blanket denials that have occurred through the transition and now when it has been proven and recognized by the president's attorney and [Trump Jr.] that those blanket denials were not factual?" Garrett asked.
Sanders responded that there had been no collusion between the Trump campaign and the Russian government. Garrett noted that this was a "different question," and that the question had originally been about contacts between the Trump campaign and Russian officials, which was met with "blanket denials."
"Now we have a whole pattern of lots of different meetings that have to be confirmed later, and those original questions were not about collusion, Sarah, they were just about contacts," Garrett said.
Sanders said the "whole premise" of the journalists' questions were implying collusion, but she insisted "the point we've tried to make, over and over again, and that we will continue to make, is that there wasn't [collusion]."
The Trump campaign repeatedly said that there were no contacts between their team and Russian officials.
When asked in December by CBS News' John Dickerson on "Face the Nation" if anyone involved in the Trump campaign had "any contact with Russians trying to meddle with the election," Trump adviser Kellyanne Conway
A month later, incoming Vice President Mike Pence. "Well, of course not," he replied when Dickerson asked Pence the same question he had asked Conway.
In addition, Sanders and White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer have both said that there were no meetings between the Trump campaign and Russian officials.