Trump goes back on offensive
Secret Service denies it vetted Trump Jr meet
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.
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)