Trump defends son’s meeting with Russian lawyer

US president faces questions over Russia controversy during visit to France

US President Donald Trump has said that 'most people in politics' would have taken the meeting his son, Donald Jnr, took with Russian lawyers during the presidential election campaign. Video: the White House

 

US president Donald Trump has claimed the meeting that his son, son-in-law and then campaign manager held with a Russian lawyer in the hope of gaining damaging information about former Democratic candidate Hillary Clinton was “opposition research”.

Mr Trump’s new nominee to lead the FBI, Christopher Wray, has said that Donald Trump jnr should have contacted the FBI the moment lawyer Natalia Veselnitskaya contacted him in June 2016.

Speaking at a news conference with French president Emmanuel Macron in Paris, Mr Trump first evaded the question by saying he had “done a great service to the country” by appointing Mr Wray.

Mr Trump sacked the previous FBI director James Comey over the investigation into Russian intervention in the US presidential campaign.

Mr Trump sought to excuse his “wonderful” son, saying Ms Veselnitskaya was “not a government lawyer” and “it was a meeting that went very, very quickly … zero happened from the meeting.

“I think the press made a very big deal over something that really a lot of people would do.”

When Ms Veselnitskaya offered negative information about Mrs Clinton, in the midst of a scandal over the former secretary of state’s deleted emails, Mr Trump jnr responded “I love it”.

Mr Trump apparently sees nothing wrong with seeking information about a former high-ranking US official from a country with an adversarial intelligence service that targets the US.

“From a practical standpoint, most people would have taken that meeting,” he said. “It’s called opposition research. That’s very standard in politics. Politics is not the nicest business in the world.”

Climate accord

President Macron hopes to convince Mr Trump to return to the Paris climate accord, which he renounced on June 1st.

“Something could happen with respect to the Paris accord,” Mr Trump said, sounding like a man with commitment phobia. “We will see what happens…If it happens, that’ll be wonderful. And if it doesn’t, that’ll be okay too.”

When he was campaigning Mr Trump criticised France. He said “Paris is no longer Paris”, and blamed jihadist attacks on the French and German governments.

He reversed those statements on Thursday, effusively. “It’s going to be just fine because you have a great president,” he said, standing beside Mr Macron.

“You have somebody who’s gonna run this country right …You have one of the most beautiful cities in the world … You are going to have a very, very peaceful and beautiful Paris, and I’m coming back.”