By Steve Holland
WASHINGTON (Reuters) – U.S. President Donald Trump said on Wednesday he did not fault his son Donald Trump Jr. for meeting with a Russian lawyer during the 2016 presidential election campaign and that he was unaware of the meeting until a few days ago.
Asked if he knew that his son was meeting with lawyer Natalia Veselnitskaya in June last year, the president told Reuters in a White House interview: “No, that I didn’t know until a couple of days ago when I heard about this.”
(Transcript highlights: http://reut.rs/2sRVuHc)
Trump Jr. eagerly agreed to meet the woman he was told was a Russian government lawyer who might have damaging information about Democratic rival Hillary Clinton as part of Moscow’s official support for his father’s campaign, according to emails the son released on Tuesday.
Seated at his Oval Office desk, Trump said he did not fault his son for holding the meeting, writing it off as a decision made in the heat of an upstart, non-traditional campaign.
“I think many people would have held that meeting,” Trump said.
“It was a 20-minute meeting, I guess, from what I’m hearing,” Trump said. “Many people, and many political pros, said everybody would do that.”
The emails were the most concrete evidence that Trump campaign officials might have been willing to accept Russian help to win the Nov. 8 election, a subject that has cast a cloud over Trump’s presidency and prompted investigations by the U.S. Justice Department and Congress.
Donald Trump Jr., in an interview with Fox News on Tuesday, said: “In retrospect, I probably would have done things a little differently.”
In the White House interview, the president said he directly asked Russian President Vladimir Putin if he was involved in what U.S. intelligence says was Russian meddling in the presidential campaign and that Putin had insisted he was not.
Trump said he spent the first 20 or 25 minutes of his more than two-hour meeting with Putin last Friday in Germany on the election meddling subject.
“I said, ‘Did you do it?’ And he said, ‘No, I did not. Absolutely not.’ I then asked him a second time in a totally different way. He said absolutely not,” Trump said.
Asked if he believed Putin’s denial, Trump paused.
“Look. Something happened and we have to find out what it is, because we can’t allow a thing like that to happen to our election process. So something happened and we have to find out what it is,” he said.
About Putin, he added: “Somebody did say if he did do it, you wouldn’t have found out about it. Which is a very interesting point.”
While U.S. intelligence agencies and even members of Trump’s Cabinet have said Russia meddled in the election, Trump has wavered on the subject, at times suggesting that other actors might have been involved.
Trump equivocated on whether he felt he could trust Putin. He said Putin and Chinese President Xi Jinping both look out for their countries’ interests, as he looks out for U.S. interests.
“I am not a person who goes around trusting lots of people. But he’s the leader of Russia. It is the second most powerful nuclear power on earth. I am the leader of the United States. I love my country. He loves his country,” Trump said.
As in the past, Trump said there was no collusion between his campaign and Russia.
“There was zero coordination. It’s the dumbest thing I’ve ever heard,” he said.
The Republican president said Democrats had used the accusations to justify Clinton’s loss in November, saying: “The White House is functioning beautifully despite the hoax made up by the Democrats.”
Although he and Putin were able to forge a ceasefire agreement in part of Syria, Trump said their interests collided over other issues. He said his U.S. military buildup and drive to increase U.S. energy production were in direct conflict with Putin, whose nation is dependent on energy exports.
Their differences made him wonder whether Putin really had supported him last year, as many news reports have suggested.
“It’s really the one question I wish I would have asked Putin: Were you actually supporting me?”
(Additional reporting by Roberta Rampton; Editing by Howard Goller and Peter Cooney)
US manufacturing sinks into recession amid Trump’s trade wars
US manufacturing sunk into recession in June after two consecutive quarters of declines amid President Donald Trump's bitter trade wars, a slowdown in China and other trading partners.
The decline comes as the United States enters its 11th year of economic recovery and occurs despite Trump's constant pledges to restore America to manufacturing greatness -- even though services now drive three quarters of the US economy.
Despite jumping in June, manufacturing fell by a 2.2 percent annual rate in the April-June period, and total industrial production lost 1.2 percent, in both cases the second consecutive quarterly decline, the Federal Reserve said Tuesday.
Meghan McCain baffles co-hosts by instantly contradicting herself on Fox News and Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez
Meghan McCain described "The Squad" of first-year Democratic lawmakers as the "face" of the party -- and then complained when co-host Sunny Hostin pointed out that's how Republicans and Fox News were trying to portray them.
Hostin called President Donald Trump a racist for telling the lawmakers -- Reps. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, Ilhan Omar, Ayanna Pressley and Rashida Tlaib -- to go back to their home countries, and co-host Joy Behar said he was "stupid" for launching those ugly attacks.
"I don't think he's stupid," McCain countered, "but I don't think he's politically astute at all because the politics of this -- on Friday night the progressives and Nancy Pelosi was full 'Gangs of New York'-style fighting with one another on Twitter. It was fascinating to watch."
Trump has ‘joined Andrew Johnson as the most racist president in American history’: historian
When President Donald Trump, over the weekend, told four congresswomen of color to go back to the countries they originally came from, it was obviously a rally-the-base strategy designed to appeal to the so-called “patriotism” of his far-right supporters. But, according to presidential historian Jon Meacham, Trump’s bigoted comments were the polar opposite of patriotic. This week’s true American patriots, according to Meacham, are the four congresswomen Trump attacked on Twitter: Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez of New York City, Rep. Ilhan Omar of Minnesota, Rep. Ayanna Pressley of Massachusetts and Rep. Rashida Tlaib of Michigan — and Trump is showing himself to be the most racist U.S. president since Democrat Andrew Johnson in the 1860s.