WORLD

US leader de­nies WP re­port he hid de­tails of sum­mit with Rus­sia

The Korea Times - - FRONT PAGE -

U.S. Pres­i­dent Don­ald Trump faced un­com­fort­able new ques­tions Sun­day about his re­la­tion­ship with Vladimir Putin de­spite his an­gry dis­missal of a re­port that he has kept top aides in the dark about his pri­vate con­ver­sa­tions with the Rus­sian leader.

WASH­ING­TON (AFP) — U.S. Pres­i­dent Don­ald Trump faced un­com­fort­able new ques­tions Sun­day about his re­la­tion­ship with Vladimir Putin de­spite his an­gry dis­missal of a re­port that he has kept top aides in the dark about his pri­vate con­ver­sa­tions with the Rus­sian leader.

Repub­li­can law­mak­ers gen­er­ally de­fended the pres­i­dent, say­ing he had been tougher on Rus­sia than his Demo­cratic pre­de­ces­sor Barack Obama, but some had ques­tions.

“I want to find out a lit­tle bit more about what hap­pened there,” said Se­na­tor Ted Cruz, on NBC’s “Meet the Press.” “I want to learn more than just the al­le­ga­tions in the press.”

But he said most Amer­i­cans out­side of Wash­ing­ton were not in­ter­ested in the sub­ject.

The Post re­ported that Trump has gone to un­usual lengths to keep his pri­vate talks with Putin se­cret, with­hold­ing de­tails from se­nior of­fi­cials and at one point even tak­ing away his own in­ter­preter’s notes.

That ac­count fol­lowed an­other in the New York Times that the FBI be­came so alarmed after Trump fired direc­tor James Comey in May 2017 that it opened a coun­ter­in­tel­li­gence in­ves­ti­ga­tion into whether he was act­ing on Rus­sia’s be­half.

Se­na­tor Lind­sey Gra­ham, a prom­i­nent Repub­li­can, told “Fox News Sun­day” that he does not trust the Times, but added that “if this really did hap­pen, Con­gress needs to know about it.”

‘Most in­sult­ing’ ques­tion

Trump, asked in an in­ter­view with Fox News late Sat­ur­day, “Are you now or have you ever worked for Rus­sia,” re­sponded: “I think that’s the most in­sult­ing thing I’ve ever been asked.” “I’m not keep­ing any­thing un­der wraps, I couldn’t care less. I mean, it’s so ridicu­lous,” he told Fox News host Jea­nine Pirro, without di­rectly deny­ing the Post story.

White House press sec­re­tary Sarah Sanders is­sued a state­ment call­ing the Post story “so out­ra­geously in­ac­cu­rate it doesn’t even war­rant a re­sponse.”

Democrats weren’t con­vinced, how­ever.

“You know, there’s so many ques­tions raised,” said Se­na­tor Dick Durbin, a top Demo­crat, on NBC’s “Meet the Press.”

“Why is he so chummy with Vladimir Putin, this man who is a for­mer KGB agent, never been a friend to the United States, in­vaded our al­lies, threat­ens us around the world, and tries his damn­d­est to un­der­mine our elec­tions, why is this Pres­i­dent Trump’s best buddy? I don’t get it.”

John De­laney, a Mary­land Demo­crat who has an­nounced a run for the White House, called Trump’s be­hav­ior to­ward Rus­sia “highly sus­pi­cious,” adding, “We haven’t had a pres­i­dent who has been as sup­port­ive of Vladimir Putin in decades.”

And Adam Schiff, the head of the House In­tel­li­gence Com­mit­tee, tweeted that Democrats on the com­mit­tee had sought last year to ob­tain in­ter­preters’ notes or tes­ti­mony about Trump’s pri­vate meet­ing with Putin in Helsinki, but Repub­li­cans voted them down.

“Will they join us now? Shouldn’t we find out whether our pres­i­dent is really putting ‘Amer­ica first?’” he asked.

In the Fox News in­ter­view, Trump said he did not care if de­tails of the July 2018 meet­ing were made pub­lic.

“Any­body could have lis­tened to that meet­ing, that meet­ing is up for grabs.”

Mueller probe looms

The re­ports come as Spe­cial Coun­sel Robert Mueller’s in­ves­ti­ga­tion looms large in the back­ground, punc­tu­ated by guilty pleas, con­vic­tions and in­dict­ments of for­mer Trump as­so­ciates.

These in­clude his for­mer na­tional se­cu­rity ad­vi­sor Michael Flynn; for­mer Trump cam­paign chief Paul Manafort; and Trump’s for­mer per­sonal lawyer Michael Co­hen.

Flynn pleaded guilty to ly­ing to in­ves­ti­ga­tors about his Moscow ties.

Manafort was con­victed of fi­nan­cial crimes re­lated to po­lit­i­cal work he did in Ukraine be­fore the 2016 elec­tion as well as wit­ness tam­per­ing. Co­hen was sen­tenced to three years in prison for mul­ti­ple crimes, in­clud­ing ly­ing to Con­gress.

Co­hen, who has agreed to tes­tify be­fore Con­gress on Feb. 7, has dis­closed that he ne­go­ti­ated to build a Trump ho­tel in Moscow up un­til his boss’s nom­i­na­tion as the Repub­li­can pres­i­den­tial can­di­date in 2016.

Manafort, mean­while, has ad­mit­ted to shar­ing polling data with a Rus­sian dur­ing the 2016 pres­i­den­tial race, ac­cord­ing to a court fil­ing in­ad­ver­tently made pub­lic by his lawyers. CNN re­ported that the in­tended re­cip­i­ents were two pro-Rus­sia Ukrainian oli­garchs.

AFP-Yon­hap

U.S. Pres­i­dent Don­ald Trump looks at Rus­sia’s Pres­i­dent Vladimir Putin as they take place for a fam­ily photo, dur­ing the G20 Lead­ers’ Sum­mit in Buenos Aires, Nov. 30, 2018.

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