Trump goes back on of­fen­sive

Se­cret Ser­vice de­nies it vet­ted Trump Jr meet

Arab Times - - INTERNATIONAL -

WASH­ING­TON, July 17, (AFP): US Pres­i­dent Don­ald Trump, fresh from a po­lit­i­cal hol­i­day in Paris, went back on the of­fen­sive Sun­day as a new poll showed his pop­u­lar­ity drop­ping amid doubts about Rus­sian elec­tion med­dling and deep­en­ing frus­tra­tions over stalled health care leg­is­la­tion.

In an early morn­ing tweet, Trump used some of his tough­est lan­guage against a fa­vored tar­get, the press, say­ing: “With all of its phony un­named sources & highly slanted & even fraud­u­lent re­port­ing, #Fake News is DISTORTING DEMOCRACY in our coun­try!”

Trump also sent one of his pri­vate lawyers, Jay Seku­low, onto five Sun­day talk shows to ar­gue that there was noth­ing il­le­gal about his el­dest son Don­ald Trump Jr.’s meet­ing last year with a Rus­sian at­tor­ney fol­low­ing a prom­ise of dam­ag­ing in­for­ma­tion on Demo­cratic ri­val Hil­lary Clin­ton.

“What took place at the meet­ing ... is not a vi­o­la­tion of any law, statute or code,” Seku­low told NBC’s “Meet the Press.”

He re­peated an ear­lier as­ser­tion that Trump is not the sub­ject of any cur­rent in­ves­ti­ga­tion into al­leged Rus­sian ef­forts to tilt last year’s elec­tion in the Repub­li­can’s fa­vor.

The con­certed push­back came as a Wash­ing­ton Post-ABC News poll near the six-month point in Trump’s ad­min­is­tra­tion showed him fac­ing sig­nif­i­cantly de­clin­ing ap­proval rat­ings, down from 42 per­cent in April to 36 per­cent to­day.

Sim­i­larly, the pres­i­dent’s dis­ap­proval rat­ing has jumped five points to 58 per­cent, ac­cord­ing to the sur­vey of 1,001 adults.

Trump re­sponded to the poll in a tweet, say­ing: “The ABC/Wash­ing­ton Post Poll, even though al­most 40% is not bad at this time, was just about the most in­ac­cu­rate poll around elec­tion time!”

Nearly half of re­spon­dents — 48 per­cent — said they “dis­ap­prove strongly” of the pres­i­dent’s per­for­mance

com­pounds in the states of New York and Mary­land af­ter then pres­i­dent Barack Obama in De­cem­ber or­dered the ban on ac­cess in re­sponse to sus­pected Rus­sian in of­fice, a low level never reached by ex-pres­i­dents Bill Clin­ton or Barack Obama, both Democrats, and reached only once by Ge­orge W. Bush, dur­ing his sec­ond term.

And 48 per­cent said they saw Amer­i­can global lead­er­ship weak­en­ing since Trump en­tered the White House, while 27 per­cent said it is stronger.

That would seem to show mixed re­sults, at best, from a se­ries of high­pro­file for­eign vis­its by Trump, in­clud­ing to Saudi Ara­bia and to a Group of 20 meet­ing in Ger­many, where he met with Rus­sian Pres­i­dent Vladimir Putin. Trump’s Bastille Day visit to Paris came a day af­ter the poll ended.

Two thirds of re­spon­dents said they do not trust Trump, or trust him only some­what, in ne­go­ti­at­ing with for­eign lead­ers.

Pop­u­lar­ity

Repub­li­cans’ leg­isla­tive strug­gles may also be weigh­ing on Trump’s pop­u­lar­ity. Twice as many of those sur­veyed pre­ferred the Oba­macare health pro­gram as those who fa­vored Repub­li­can plans to re­place it.

The US Se­nate will “de­fer” its work on re­peal­ing Oba­macare for a week as se­nior law­maker John McCain re­cov­ers from blood-clot surgery, the cham­ber’s Repub­li­can leader, Mitch McCon­nell, said Satur­day.

Mean­while, the US Se­cret Ser­vice on Sun­day de­nied a sug­ges­tion from Pres­i­dent Don­ald Trump’s per­sonal lawyer that it had vet­ted a meet­ing be­tween the pres­i­dent’s son and Rus­sian na­tion­als dur­ing the 2016 cam­paign.

Don­ald Trump Jr. has ac­knowl­edged that he met in New York with Rus­sian lawyer Natalia Ve­sel­nit­skaya af­ter he was told she might have dam­ag­ing in­for­ma­tion about his fa­ther’s ri­val, Demo­crat Hil­lary Clin­ton.

“Well, I won­der why the Se­cret Ser­vice, if this was ne­far­i­ous, why the Se­cret Ser­vice al­lowed these peo­ple in. The

med­dling in the US elec­tion.

“We con­sider it ab­so­lutely un­ac­cept­able to place con­di­tions on the re­turn of diplo­matic prop­erty, we con­sider that it pres­i­dent had Se­cret Ser­vice pro­tec­tion at that point, and that raised a ques­tion with me,” Jay Seku­low, a mem­ber of the pres­i­dent’s le­gal team, said on Sun­day on the ABC news pro­gram “This Week.”

In an emailed re­sponse to ques­tions about Seku­low’s com­ments, Se­cret Ser­vice spokesman Ma­son Bray­man said the younger Trump was not un­der Se­cret Ser­vice pro­tec­tion at the time of the meet­ing, which in­cluded Trump’s son and two se­nior cam­paign of­fi­cials.

“Don­ald Trump, Jr was not a pro­tectee of the USSS in June, 2016. Thus we would not have screened any­one he was meet­ing with at that time,” the state­ment said.

Trump’s at­tor­ney in­sisted Sun­day there was noth­ing il­le­gal in the meet­ing Trump’s el­dest son had with a Rus­sian lawyer dur­ing last year’s pres­i­den­tial cam­paign.

“Noth­ing in that meet­ing that would have taken place, even if it was about the topic of an op­po­si­tion re­search pa­per from a Rus­sian lawyer, is il­le­gal or a vi­o­la­tion of the law,” Seku­low said on “Fox News Sun­day,” a point he re­peated sev­eral times. He said the pres­i­dent did not at­tend the meet­ing and was not aware of it.

The at­tor­ney’s fo­cus on the law ap­pears aimed at mov­ing be­yond the shift­ing ac­counts of the meet­ing given by Trump Jr. At first, the June 2016 meet­ing was said to be about a Rus­sian adop­tion pro­gram. Then, it was to hear in­for­ma­tion about Clin­ton. Fi­nally, Trump Jr was com­pelled to re­lease emails that re­vealed he had told an as­so­ciate that he would “love” Rus­sia’s help in ob­tain­ing in­crim­i­nat­ing in­for­ma­tion about the Demo­cratic nom­i­nee.

The num­ber of peo­ple known to be at the meet­ing also changed over time. As re­cently as Fri­day, Ri­nat Akhmetshin, a Rus­sian-Amer­i­can lob­by­ist and for­mer Soviet mil­i­tary of­fi­cer, con­firmed his par­tic­i­pa­tion to The As­so­ci­ated Press.

must be re­turned without any con­di­tions and talk­ing,” Krem­lin spokesman Dmitry Peskov told jour­nal­ists.

He spoke as Thomas Shan­non, the US State Depart­ment’s third-in-com­mand, was set to host Rus­sia’s deputy for­eign min­is­ter Sergei Ryabkov in Wash­ing­ton later Mon­day.

Diplo­mats quoted by Rus­sian news agen­cies said the is­sue of the res­i­den­tial com­plexes would be on their agenda.

The talks be­tween Shan­non and Ryabkov were ear­lier sched­uled for June but Rus­sia can­celled them, cit­ing new US sanc­tions linked to the con­flict in Ukraine.

When Pres­i­dent Vladimir Putin and US coun­ter­part Don­ald Trump met for the first time at the G20 sum­mit in Ham­burg this month, the Krem­lin strong­man raised the ques­tion “quite un­am­bigu­ously,” Peskov said.

He added that “we still hope our Amer­i­can col­leagues will show po­lit­i­cal wis­dom and po­lit­i­cal will.”

Obama an­nounced the US was shut­ting down res­i­den­tial com­plexes in De­cem­ber at the same time as he ex­pelled 35 Rus­sian diplo­mats for spy­ing.

He said the mea­sures were in re­sponse to US in­tel­li­gence re­ports of Rus­sian hack­ing and an al­leged in­flu­ence cam­paign to sway the US pres­i­den­tial elec­tion in Trump’s favour, de­scrib­ing the com­pounds as used by Moscow for “in­tel­li­gence-re­lated pur­poses.” (AFP)

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