WASHINGTON, U.S. - Frustrated with the all-consuming Russia scandal, the White House staff and Trump’s allies are voicing their anger at the handling of the Donald Trump Jr. meeting, behind closed doors.
A week after the controversy broke, a daily stream of revelations have continued to pour, gripping the Trump administration and giving the staff sleepless nights.
According to reports, officials have been worried after the president’s son acknowledged that he agreed to the June 2016 rendezvous in the hope that the lawyer would deliver incriminating information about Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton.
Members of Team Trump have acknowledged that the story was intrinsically bad for the administration.
Several insiders have reportedly expressed sympathy for the White House communications staff that had to improvise a response at short notice.
Others meanwhile are complaining that the inability to get in front of the story was a failure that exacerbated the political damage.
With fingers being pointed in every direction, there is so far, no clear consensus over who is to blame for that.
On Friday, another damaging revelation was made by a former Soviet counterintelligence officer turned lobbyist, who said that he had also attended the meeting with Trump Jr. last year.
Details of the controversial meeting have been largely covered in the mainstream media, but the presence of the man, identified as Rinat Akhmetshin, was the latest in the stream of revelations.
His presence had not been publicly known for several days after details of the encounter between Trump Jr. and Russian lawyer Natalia Veselnitskaya emerged.
The other people present in the meeting were President Trump’s son-in-law Jared Kushner and his then-campaign chairman Paul Manafort.
In his revelation, Akhmetshin told the Associated Press that the meeting was less significant than reports suggest.
He reportedly said, “I never thought this would be such a big deal, to be honest.”
Commenting on the revelation, Barry Bennett, who worked as a senior advisor to the 2016 Trump campaign said, “Obviously there are public relations strategies that could have prevented this from becoming a 10-day story as opposed to a one-day story.”
Bennett has reportedly argued that there was no underlying legal wrongdoing in the Trump Jr. meeting, even though it has proven so politically troublesome.
He said, “This is a meeting that they probably shouldn’t have had, but it wasn’t illegal, unethical or immoral.”
The revelations, including the email chain between Trump Jr. and the music publicist, Rob Goldstone, have reportedly attracted the attention of investigators working with Special Counsel Robert Mueller, the former FBI head who is probing the Russian controversy.
According to one Republican strategist with close ties to the White House the exchange “opens other doors” in the ongoing investigations.
The source quoted in reports said that the controversy also has the capacity to sap the time, energy and focus of White House staff.
He said, “It threatens the ability of White House staffers to function normally because many of them are wondering if they need to be getting lawyers.”
Meanwhile, Senator John McCain, R-Arizona said in a televised interview that Russian President Vladimir Putin "got away with" trying to change the result of the 2016 U.S. presidential election.
He stressed that there has been "no penalty" for those attempts.
McCain said, “We know that Russia tried to change the outcome of our election last November. And they did not succeed. But there was really sophisticated attempts to do so. So far they have not paid a single price for that."
He further said, "If you were Vladimir Putin, who I've gotten to know over the years, you're sitting there and you got away with literally trying to change the outcome not just of our election. French election. Tried to overthrow the government of Montenegro, a beautiful little country. And there has been no penalty whatsoever.”