Trump heads to Asia amid a sea of trou­bles

Rus­sian poll med­dling probe hots up

Saturday Star - - NEWS -

WASHINGTON: Be­set by chal­lenges at home, President Don­ald Trump yes­ter­day em­barked on the long­est trip to Asia by a US president in more than a quar­ter of a cen­tury, look­ing for help to pres­sure North Korea to stand down from a nu­clear cri­sis.

Trump’s tour of Ja­pan, South Korea, China, Viet­nam and the Philip­pines un­til Novem­ber 14 takes him out of Washington as it is pre­oc­cu­pied with sev­eral is­sues.

Th­ese in­clude an in­ten­si­fy­ing fed­eral in­ves­ti­ga­tion into Rus­sian med­dling in last year’s elec­tion, New York’s re­cov­ery from an at­tack that killed eight peo­ple and de­bate over a tax­cut plan that if ap­proved by Congress would be his first ma­jor leg­isla­tive vic­tory.

The trip comes just days af­ter Trump’s for mer cam­paign man­ager, Paul Manafort, was in­dicted in the in­ves­ti­ga­tion into Rus­sian med­dling in the 2016 pres­i­den­tial elec­tion. His at­tor­ney-general Jeff Ses­sions faces Demo­cratic calls to ap­pear be­fore Congress again to clar­ify his pre­vi­ous tes­ti­mony about the cam­paign’s Rus­sia con­tacts.

Amid the furore caused by the rev­e­la­tions, the Krem­lin said yes­ter­day a meet­ing be­tween Trump and Rus­sian president Vladimir Putin was be­ing dis­cussed and Trump said it might hap­pen.

“We may have a meet­ing with Putin. He is very im­por­tant be­cause they can help us with North Korea. They can help us with Syria. We have to talk about Ukraine.”

Court doc­u­ments made pub­lic on Mon­day also dis­closed a Trump cam­paign for­eign pol­icy ad­viser, Ge­orge Pa­padopou­los, pleaded guilty last month to ly­ing to the FBI. They cited a March 2016 meet­ing, at­tended by Trump and Ses­sions, in which Pa­padopou­los of­fered to help ar­range a meet­ing be­tween can­di­date Trump and Putin.

While tweet­ing about de­vel­op­ments this week, Trump told The New York Times on Wed­nes­day that he was “not an­gry at any­body” over the case and there was noth­ing to sug­gest any col­lu­sion by his cam­paign and Rus­sia. His ex­tended ab­sence has alarmed al­lies who, af­ter see­ing a health­care re­for m bid fiz­zle, worry the tax ef­fort could suf­fer with­out him to keep mo­men­tum go­ing.

The last time a US president was in Asia for so long was in late 1991 and early 1992 when Ge­orge HW Bush be­came ill at a Ja­panese state din­ner.

Trump will visit Ja­pan and South Korea in search of a united front against North Korea be­fore go­ing to Beijing, where he will push Chi­nese president Xi Jin­ping to get tougher on Py­ongyang.

He will at­tend the Asi­aPa­cific Eco­nomic Co-op­er­a­tion sum­mit in Danang, Viet­nam, make a state visit to Hanoi and end his trip with the As­so­ci­a­tion of South East Asia Na­tions sum­mit in Manila. – Reuters

PIC­TURE: AP

US President Don­ald Trump speaks to re­porters be­fore de­part­ing for Asia yes­ter­day.

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