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)
Trump Organization planning ‘high-end’ retirement community — with 225 properties — on foreign soil: report
The Trump Organization is planning a massive real estate development, according to a new report by Martyn McLaughlin in The Scotsman.
"In what would be one of the most ambitious and expensive foreign projects undertaken by Donald Trump’s family business since he assumed the presidency, his company has commissioned a detailed masterplan to develop as many as 225 properties, as well as leisure facilities and shops, on an expanse of rolling farmland adjacent to Turnberry’s lauded Ailsa course, a four-time host of golf’s Open Championship," the Scottish newspaper reported.
WATCH: Video shows how Trump makes his caddie hang on to the back of the golf cart
Despite the ongoing coronavirus pandemic and economic catastrophe, the leader of the free world spent the weekend golfing at his private, for-profit golf course in Virginia.
For the second day in a row, Donald Trump's presidential motorcade traveled to Trump National Golf Club in Sterling, Virginia.
"Today marks the president’s 86th day trip to Sterling," reported HuffPost correspondent S.V. Dáte, who was the White House pool reporter for print covering the day's events.
NRA slammed for saying AR-15 rifles are just ‘an everyday gun for everyday citizens’
The debate over firearms in America heated up over the weekend as AR-15 trended nationwide on Twitter.
The discussion followed a tweet by the National Rifle Association praising firearms platform, which are widely referred to as assault rifles.
"The AR-15 is the modern day musket," the NRA tweeted. "An everyday gun for everyday citizens."
David Hogg, who co-founded "A March for Our Lives" after surviving a mass shooting at his high school in Parkland, Florida was one of man people who slammed the NRA.
6 minutes 20 seconds Is all it took for the shooter at my high school to fire over 100 rounds from his AR-15 to shoot 34 people.