Trump lawyer defends Don Jr. meeting, says Secret Service allowed it

One of President Donald Trump's personal lawyers defended a meeting that the president's son had with Russian nationals during the 2016 campaign, suggesting the fact that the Secret Service allowed the meeting showed it was not "nefarious."

"Well, I wonder why the Secret Service, if this was nefarious, why the Secret Service allowed these people in. The president had Secret Service protection at that point, and that raised a question with me," Jay Sekulow, a member of Trump's legal team, said on Sunday on the ABC news program "This Week."

Trump's son, Donald Trump Jr., acknowledged meeting with a Russian lawyer in New York City during the 2016 presidential campaign after he was told she might have damaging information about his father's rival, Democratic candidate Hillary Clinton.

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PARIS, FRANCE - JULY 13: U.S. President Donald Trump and first lady Melania Arrive At Orly Airport on July 13, 2017 in Paris, France. President Trump and the first lady are in France to attend the Bastille day celebrations. (Photo by Pierre Suu/Getty Images)
US President Donald Trump (R) waves as he disembarks form Air Force One with First Lady Melania Trump upon arrival at Paris Orly airport on July 13, 2017, beginning a 24-hour trip that coincides with France's national day and the 100th anniversary of US involvement in World War I. Donald Trump arrived in Paris for a presidential visit filled with Bastille Day pomp and which the White House hopes will offer respite from rolling scandal backing home. / AFP PHOTO / SAUL LOEB (Photo credit should read SAUL LOEB/AFP/Getty Images)
US President Donald Trump waves as he disembarks form Air Force One with First Lady Melania on July 13, 2017 at Paris' Orly airport, beginning a 24 hour trip that coincides with France's national day and the 100th anniversary of US involvement in World War I. Donald Trump arrived in Paris for a presidential visit filled with Bastille Day pomp and which the White House hopes will offer respite from rolling scandal backing home. / AFP PHOTO / Thomas SAMSON (Photo credit should read THOMAS SAMSON/AFP/Getty Images)
US First Lady Melania Trump (C) speaks with people during a visit to the Necker Hospital in Paris, on July 13, 2017. US President arrived in Paris for a presidential visit filled with Bastille Day pomp and which the White House hopes will offer respite from rolling scandal backing home. / AFP PHOTO / Martin BUREAU (Photo credit should read MARTIN BUREAU/AFP/Getty Images)
Brigitte Macron, wife of French President Emmanuel Macron, and U.S. First Lady Melania Trump attend a welcoming ceremony at the Invalides in Paris, France, July 13, 2017. REUTERS/Kevin Lamarque
U.S. First Lady Melania Trump visits the Necker Hospital for children in Paris, France, July 13, 2017. At L, Martin Hirsch, Director of Paris' public assistance hospitals AP-HP. REUTERS/Philippe Wojazer
French President Emmanuel Macron, his wife Brigitte Macron, U.S. President Donald Trump and First Lady Melania Trump attend a welcoming ceremony at the Invalides in Paris, France, July 13, 2017. REUTERS/Yves Herman TPX IMAGES OF THE DAY
U.S. President Donald Trump and First Lady Melania Trump arrive aboard Air Force One at Orly airport near Paris, France, July 13, 2017. REUTERS/Kevin Lamarque TPX IMAGES OF THE DAY
French President Emmanuel Macron (2L) poses next to his wife Brigitte Macron (L), US President Donald Trump and Us First Lady Melania Trump outside the Army Museum during a ceremony at Les Invalides in Paris, on July 13, 2017. / AFP PHOTO / POOL / Michel Euler (Photo credit should read MICHEL EULER/AFP/Getty Images)
US First Lady Melania Trump (up L) and French president's wife Brigitte Macron (R), talk as French President Emmanuel Macron (2ndR) and US President Donald Trump arrive, during a welcome ceremony at the Invalides in Paris, on July 13, 2017. / AFP PHOTO / POOL / YVES HERMAN (Photo credit should read YVES HERMAN/AFP/Getty Images)
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According to emails released by Trump Jr. last week, he eagerly agreed to meet the woman, who he was told was a Russian government lawyer. The woman, Natalia Veselnitskaya, said she is a private lawyer and denies having Kremlin ties.

On Friday, NBC News reported that a lobbyist who was once a Soviet counter-intelligence officer participated in the meeting, which was also attended by Trump's son-in-law, Jared Kushner, and the president's former campaign manager, Paul Manafort.

Sekulow's comments drew quick criticism, including from Frances Townsend, who advised Republican former president George W. Bush on homeland security.

"Ok let's try to deflect blame & throw those in @SecretService who protect @POTUS @realDonaldTrump @FLOTUS & family under the bus," she said on Twitter.

The Secret Service's mission is to protect the physical safety of the U.S. president. The agency also provides protection for presidential candidates, though its role in vetting people who meet with the candidates is limited to ensuring that they do not pose a physical threat.

A federal special counsel and several congressional panels are investigating allegations by U.S. intelligence agencies that Russia meddled in the 2016 U.S. presidential election, as well as potential connections between Russian officials and the Trump campaign.

Moscow has denied any interference and the president and Trump Jr. have denied any collusion.

(Reporting By Caren Bohan; Editing by Andrea Ricci)

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