President Donald Trump in a burst of Sunday tweets accused the news media of “distorting democracy” while also comparing the controversy surrounding his eldest son’s meeting with Russians for dirt on Hillary Clinton with two scandals that dogged her 2016 campaign.
“HillaryClinton [sic] can illegally get the questions to the Debate & delete 33,000 emails but my son Don is being scorned by the Fake News Media?” the president tweeted.
He was referring to questions Clinton received ahead of her Democratic primary debate against Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders and the mass removal of emails from the private server she had kept as secretary of state — both brought to light in Democratic Party emails hacked by what U.S. intelligence concludes is the Kremlin.
Trump, who spent the weekend at his Bedminster, New Jersey, golf club, also tweeted a reminder of his long-standing ire at the news media. “With all of its phony unnamed sources & highly slanted & even fraudulent reporting, #Fake News is DISTORTING DEMOCRACY in our country!” he wrote.
Trump Jr. last week revealed that he met in June 2016 with a Russian attorney who an intermediary promised had damaging information on Clinton. Then-Trump campaign chairman Paul Manafort and Trump son-in-law Jared Kushner also were present at the Trump Tower meeting.
News outlets in recent days had reported there was a second Russian representative in the room.
Trump Jr., the president, and administration officials have stressed that the meeting was brief, did not result in damaging revelations and took place before “Russia fever” had gripped the nation.
But Trump Jr. is expected to be called on to cooperate in congressional probes into Russian attempts to influence the 2016 election. He has said he is willing to do so.
The top Democrat on the House Intelligence Committee, Rep. Adam Schiff of California, noted on ABC News’ “This Week” that the WikiLeaks release of hacked Democratic Party emails occurred in the summer, a time that Trump Jr. wrote would be ideal for compromising information on Clinton.
Schiff focused on intent, saying “This is about as clear of evidence you could find of intent by the campaign to collude with the Russians, to get useful information from the Russians.”
Trump and his representatives have vehemently denied collusion between members of his team and Moscow.
The vice chairman of the Senate Intelligence Committee, Sen. Mark Warner (D-Va.), said on CNN’s “State of the Union” that he would “sure as heck want to talk to all of” the people in the room with Trump Jr. during the June 2016 meeting.
Jay Sekulow, an attorney for Trump, defended the president with appearances on all five of television’s major Sunday morning programs. He said on CNN that the president “was not aware of the meeting and did not attend the meeting.”
When questioned on whether Trump Jr. should have taken the meeting, Sekulow said: “It’s easy to do that in 20/20 hindsight, but not when you’re in the middle of a campaign.”
Sekulow, who also appeared on ABC’s “This Week,” said of the Russian representatives, “I wonder . . . if this was nefarious, why the Secret Service allowed these people in.”
Secret Service spokesman Mason Brayman told Reuters that Trump Jr. didn’t have Secret Service protection at the time, so agents could not have screened his guests.
Also on the Sunday morning shows, lawmakers debated the latest GOP health care bill. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) on Saturday announced that the vote originally set for this week would be delayed while Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) recovers from surgery to remove a blood clot above his left eye.
Health and Human Services Secretary Tom Price said on ABC that he doesn’t know if McConnell has the votes to pass the Senate bill.
Price stressed that a hurdle to selling the legislation is that it’s only one part of the puzzle in improving what Trump has said is a “failing” Affordable Care Act, though the administration has yet to make the other phases fully public.
“The challenge that we have is that the bill itself isn’t the entire plan,” Price said.
The delay in the vote is expected to give proponents of the bill more time to gather support, but one holdout, Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.), told CBS News’ “Face the Nation” that the “longer the bill’s out there, the more conservative Republicans are going to discover that it’s not repeal.”
Paul said it keeps the “fundamental flaw” of the ACA, the insurance mandates.
Sen. Susan Collins (R-Maine), speaking on CNN, is also a holdout.
“This bill would impose fundamental, sweeping changes in the Medicaid program and those include very deep cuts,” Collins said. “You can’t take more than $700 billion out of the Medicaid program and not think that it’s going to have some kind of effect.”
The White House has declared this week Made in America week, a White House spokeswoman told reporters Sunday. Asked later why a “health care week” hasn’t been planned, a senior administration official speaking on the condition of anonymity said, “Every day and every week, in a sense, is a health care week. It’s something that enormous White House and administration resources have been devoted to since day one.”