Monday 24 July 2017

Trump: ‘A lot of people would do it’

  • US president defends son over Russian meeting
  • Trump Jr was ‘conducting opposition research’
French President Emmanuel Macron, his wife Brigitte, US President Donald Trump and US First Lady Melania at a dinner at Le Jules Verne Restaurant in the Eiffel Tower as part of US president’s 24-hour trip to Paris. Photo: Getty Images
French President Emmanuel Macron, his wife Brigitte, US President Donald Trump and US First Lady Melania at a dinner at Le Jules Verne Restaurant in the Eiffel Tower as part of US president’s 24-hour trip to Paris. Photo: Getty Images

Nick Allen

President Donald Trump said "most people in politics" would have acted similarly, as his son was called to testify in front of a Senate committee over a meeting with a Russian lawyer during the presidential election.

The extraordinary prospect of the president's eldest son, Donald Trump Jr, being publicly quizzed by senators about his connections to Russia could be realised as early as next week.

Russian attorney Natalia Veselnitskaya. Photo; AP
Russian attorney Natalia Veselnitskaya. Photo; AP

Chuck Grassley, the Republican chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee, confirmed he was sending a letter to Mr Trump Jr asking him to attend, and made clear the committee would issue a subpoena if necessary.

Mr Trump, speaking in Paris, defended his son as a "wonderful young man" and said what he had done was "very standard in politics", which was "not the nicest business in the world".

He said: "I think, from a practical standpoint, it's a meeting most people in politics probably would have taken. It's called opposition research or even research into your opponent. Zero happened from the meeting. A lot of people would do it."

Mr Trump Jr confirmed this week that he met lawyer Natalia Veselnitskaya at Trump Tower in New York on June 9 2016. He released emails that showed the meeting was set up by an acquaintance, Rob Goldstone, a British-born music publicist who represented a Russian pop star.

Donald Trump Junior. Photo: AP
Donald Trump Junior. Photo: AP

In the emails, Mr Goldstone told Mr Trump Jr that he would be meeting a "Russian government attorney" and could expect information damaging to Hillary Clinton, which was part of a Russian effort to support his father.

Miss Veselnitskaya has denied connections to the Kremlin, and Mr Trump Jr has said the meeting "went nowhere", so he did not tell his father about it.

Republican Senator Lindsey Graham, who sits on the Senate Judiciary Committee and will question Mr Trump Jr, promised to "pursue justice without favour" and added: "Were there other meetings? I'm going to go wherever the facts take us."

He added: "If any government tried to help my campaign I would say no because they're trying to destroy democracy. It's a pretty simple proposition in America. He's a relevant witness. This is a chance for Donald Trump Jr to tell his side of the story."

Paul Ryan, the Republican House Speaker, said: "Any witness who's been asked by Congress to testify should testify."

Mr Trump Jr has indicated that he is willing to co-operate with any investigations.

The controversy overshadowed the unveiling by Republicans in Congress of a new revised proposal to overhaul America's healthcare system.

Republicans have fought for seven years to dismantle ObamaCare former president Barack Obama's signature legislative achievement, which they argue is an expensive example of government overreach.

The latest Senate bill retained key taxes levied on the wealthy under ObamaCare in an attempt to assuage the concerns of moderate Republicans. The revised bill also included $45 billion for fighting America's opioid addiction epidemic.

Its fate still hangs in the balance amid internal disagreements between Republicans. Mr Trump said he would "very angry" if the bill does not pass.

Meanwhile, a new government analysis of Mr Trump's budget plan concluded it would result in a $720 billion deficit at the end of 10 years instead of the slight surplus promised.

A healthcare overhaul represents Mr Trump's first major legislative battle as president, and an inability achieve it, despite Republicans holding both chambers of Congress and the White House, would be a major setback.

A Congressional Budget Office report said the Trump administration's calculations relied on overly optimistic predictions of economic growth. (© Daily Telegraph, London)

Telegraph.co.uk

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