Monday 24 July 2017

Trump lashes out as new details emerge of meetings with Russians

President Donald Trump walks with his grandchildren, Arabella and Joseph Kushner, at the White House yesterday. Photo: AP
President Donald Trump walks with his grandchildren, Arabella and Joseph Kushner, at the White House yesterday. Photo: AP

Nick Allen in Washington

DONALD TRUMP has branded Democrats "hypocrites" over calls for an investigation into his administration's contacts with Russia, posting a photograph on the internet of one of the opposition party's leaders sharing doughnuts and coffee with Vladimir Putin.

It came after half a dozen of his officials and advisers were revealed to have met Sergey Kislyak, the Russian ambassador to Washington, in the six months before Mr Trump took office.

Mr Trump responded by posting a picture on Twitter showing Chuck Schumer, the Democratic leader in the US Senate, smiling alongside Mr Putin during his trip to New York in 2003.

The president said: "We should start an immediate investigation into Senator Schumer and his ties to Russia and Putin. A total hypocrite!" Mr Schumer said he would "happily talk under oath" about his encounter with Mr Putin, and asked Mr Trump: "Would you?"

It came as Jared Kushner, the president's son-in-law and senior adviser, became the latest figure drawn into the web of entanglements with Russian officials. The 36-year-old husband of Mr Trump's daughter Ivanka, was present at a previously undisclosed meeting between Michael Flynn, Mr Trump's former national security adviser, and Mr Kislyak at Trump Tower in New York in December.

Mr Flynn resigned last month after it emerged he had misled vice president Mike Pence about the extent of his communications with Mr Kislyak.

In the December meeting, the Russian diplomat reportedly entered Trump Tower by a back entrance and spoke for between 10 and 20 minutes.

The White House said the intention was to "establish a line of communication" with the Russian government.

One official called it an "inconsequential hello" and said Mr Kushner had not met Mr Kislyak since.

On Thursday, Jeff Sessions, the attorney general, recused himself from any future investigation examining communications between Trump officials and Moscow after it was revealed he had himself spoken twice to Mr Kislyak and not revealed it during the confirmation hearing for his new post. Mr Sessions was accused of "lying under oath" by Democrats in Congress who called on him to resign.

Several other Trump campaign staff - national security advisers JD Gordon and Walifd Phares, and former foreign policy adviser Carter Page - also spoke with Mr Kislyak at the Republican National Convention in Cleveland last July, it emerged.

Senior intelligence officials told CNN that Mr Kislyak, a career diplomat and one-time Russian envoy to Nato, was suspected of being one of Russia's top espionage recruiters in Washington.

The Kremlin furiously denied that Mr Kislyak was a spy. Maria Zakharova, a spokesman for the Russian Foreign Ministry, said: "Recruiting? Oh my God! Stop spreading lies and false news. He is a well-known, world-class diplomat."

Sergey Lavrov, Russia's foreign minister, said Mr Kislyak was doing his job meeting senior US officials and compared the intense interest in him to a "McCarthyite" witch hunt.

Meanwhile, it emerged that Mike Pence, the US vice president, used a private email account to discuss matters of homeland security when he was governor of Indiana, and was hacked shortly before he became Mr Trump's running mate.

Mr Pence communicated with advisers in Indiana through a personal AOL account during his four-year term, it has emerged. He discussed issues including security gates at the governor's mansion and how the state should respond to global terror attacks.

One email on his private account was from his homeland security adviser giving an update from the FBI on a group of arrested terror suspects.

Last June, the account was hacked by an internet scammer who sent a message to Mr Pence's contacts falsely claiming the governor and his wife were stranded in the Philippines and needed money.

During the ensuing presidential campaign Mr Pence frequently criticised Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton over her use of a private email server when she was President Barack Obama's Secretary of State.

Telegraph.co.uk

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