Donald Trump and those around him have always denied accepting Russian help for their campaign. But now Donald Trump Jr. acknowledges he was open to it, Newsday’s Emily Ngo reports.
The admission came in response to a New York Times story that he was promised damaging information about Hillary Clinton before agreeing to meet with a Kremlin-connected Russian lawyer at Trump Tower in June 2016.
In a statement Sunday, Trump Jr. said an acquaintance from his dad’s 2013 Miss Universe pageant in Moscow told him that Natalia Veselnitskaya “might have information helpful to the campaign.” He listened and concluded she had “no meaningful information.”
Veselnitskaya changed the subject to her fight against a 2012 U.S. law that blacklisted suspected Russian human rights abusers. Moscow retaliated by banning U.S. adoptions of Russian children.
When Trump Jr. was first asked about the meeting on Saturday, he said it was mainly about adoptions. He mentioned nothing about Clinton.
There too: Kushner, Manafort
Also at the meeting: Trump’s son-in-law, Jared Kushner, and then-campaign chairman Paul Manafort. Both are under investigators’ scrutiny for their Russia contacts.
The encounter was disclosed to government officials in recent days, the Times reported, when Kushner revised the form he had submitted to obtain a security clearance. Initially, Kushner failed to disclose any foreign contacts.
Rob Goldstone, a music publicist who is friendly with Donald Jr., told The Washington Post he arranged the meeting at request of a Russian client whom he wouldn’t name.
Mark Corallo, a spokesman for Trump’s lawyer, said Trump was unaware of the meeting.
President Donald Trump and his team still haven’t gotten their stories in sync on whether he believed Vladimir Putin’s denial of election interference. A new cause for disbelief, and ridicule, came from this Trump tweet Sunday morning: “Putin & I discussed forming an impenetrable Cyber Security unit so that election hacking, & many other negative things, will be guarded.”
Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.): “Not the dumbest idea I’ve ever heard — but it’s pretty close.”
Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.): “Partnering with Putin on a ‘Cyber Security Unit’ is akin to partnering with Assad on a ‘Chemical Weapons Unit.’ ”
Rep. Adam Schiff (D-Calif.): “We might as well just mail our ballot boxes to Moscow.”
By Sunday night, Trump seemed less gung-ho about the idea, tweeting: “The fact that President Putin and I discussed a Cyber Security unit doesn’t mean I think it can happen. It can’t.”
See David M. Schwartz and Ngo’s story for Newsday.
Trump’s reversal came too late for Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin, who hailed the partnership on ABC as “a very significant accomplishment.”
It’s not just elections
Trump’s initial receptiveness to a joint U.S.-Russian cybersecurity effort was even more curious given he said it would fight “many other negative things.”
U.S. government officials say Russian government hackers were behind recent cyberintrusions probing the business systems of U.S. nuclear power and other energy companies, The Washington Post reported.
The Russian government targeted U.S. infrastructure in a wide-ranging campaign in 2014, the Post reported, and Russian hackers the following year disrupted the electric system in Ukraine, plunging 225,000 customers into darkness.
The take-away: Fading health
While Trump was at the G-20 conference, GOP efforts to repeal and replace Obamacare appeared to further unravel, writes Newsday’s Dan Janison.
Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell of Kentucky and other Republicans are openly acknowledging their effort can fail -- and that if it does, they will need to draft a bill with Democrats to keep Obamacare insurance markets afloat.
On the talk shows Sunday, Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas) said, “In my view, failure is not an option.” But Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) said of the GOP bill: “I think my view is it’s probably going to be dead.”
Case of the Mondays
Back in his digs, the president put out a stream of plaintive tweets early Monday. Four were retweets from his comforters at Fox & Friends, and a fifth from his promoter Sean Hannity at the same network -- variously attacking Hillary Clinton, Mayor Bill de Blasio and ex-FBI Director James Comey.
Also, Trump grieved that if Chelsea Clinton and not Ivanka Trump sat temporarily in the president's chair at the G-20 meeting last week, news media would have applauded.
Don’t see me in court
Trump lawyer Marc Kasowitz is trying to get a Manhattan judge to dismiss a lawsuit by former “Apprentice” contestant Summer Zervos, who says the president groped her a decade ago.
One argument is that a president is immune from suits in state courts during the time he serves as president because it would interfere with his responsibilities. Zervos alleges Trump defamed her by calling her story false, but Kasowitz described Trump’s statements as “heated campaign rhetoric” that is protected by the First Amendment.
What else is happening
- With the health care plan in trouble and little progress on a tax overhaul or an infrastructure program, Republicans in Congress may not be able to achieve any major legislative victories before their monthlong summer recess, The Washington Post reports.
- The Department of Veterans Affairs says more than 500 officials have been fired for misconduct since Trump took office. He promised a shake-up of the VA to improve care for vets.
- Walter Shaub, the outgoing director of the office of government ethics, said on ABC’s “This Week” that a White House statement accusing him of leaking information is “ridiculous.” It’s his responsibility to “engage the public,” Shaub said.
- Trump visited his golf course in Northern Virginia Sunday — his 37th trip to one of his own golf properties since he took office.
- Donald Jr. one-upped his dad’s tweet of a doctored WrestleMania video depicting him body-slamming a figure with the CNN logo for a face. Donald Jr. retweeted a video with his dad as a fighter pilot shooting a jet with the CNN logo out of the sky.
- Ivanka Trump caused a stir when she briefly sat in for her dad at a G-20 summit negotiating table. Trump praised her at a women’s economic empowerment event and said: “If she weren’t my daughter, it would be so much easier for her.”