Trump heads for the golf as Republicans grapple with more setbacks

Extra details of Trump jnr’s Russia meeting; travel ban and Obamacare repeal in doubt

Air Force One: President Trump and the first lady arrive in New Jersey on Friday to spend the weekend in Bedminster. Photograph: Kevin Lamarque/Reuters

Air Force One: President Trump and the first lady arrive in New Jersey on Friday to spend the weekend in Bedminster. Photograph: Kevin Lamarque/Reuters

 

Donald Trump returned to the United States from Paris on Friday, travelling directly to his golf club in Bedminster, New Jersey, as fresh details emerged about his son’s meeting with a Russian lawyer.

Rinat Akhmetshin, a Russian-born lobbyist who previously trained as a Soviet counterintelligence officer, said he attended a controversial meeting at Trump Tower, in New York, on June 9th last year. Emails released by Donald Trump jnr this week appear to confirm that the president’s eldest son attended the meeting in the expectation of receiving information about his father’s Democratic Party election rival Hillary Clinton. Also present at the meeting were Trump snr’s campaign manager at the time, Paul Manafort, the president’s son-in-law and senior adviser, Jared Kushner, and a Russian lawyer, Natalia Veselnitskaya.

Mr Akhmetshin, who has been a US citizen since 2009, was lobbying the United States at the time about the Magnitsky Act, which aimed to punish officials responsible for the death of Sergei Magnitsky, a lawyer, in a Moscow prison in 2009; it allows the US to withhold visas and freeze the assets of Russian officials believed to have been involved in human-rights violations.

He told the Associated Press news agency that the meeting was “not substantive” and he “actually expected more serious” discussion.

His presence, which had not previously been disclosed, brings to three the number of Russians at the meeting.

Travel-ban setback

Mr Trump’s travel ban meanwhile received another setback after a court in Hawaii ruled that grandparents of refugees and US citizens from the six countries named in the executive order halting travel from certain countries cannot be prohibited from coming to the United States.

Last month the US supreme court ruled that a limited version of Mr Trump’s controversial ban, first unveiled in January, could be implemented. It allowed applicants who could show a “bona fide relationship” with a “person or entity” in the United States to be exempt from the 90-day ban. Although the US state department took that to exclude grandparents from travelling, Judge Derrick Watson ruled late on Thursday that grandparents should not be barred.

He also ruled that refugees who already have links with resettlement agencies in the United States could enter the country. That could affect thousands of people who were waiting to come into the US. Attorney General Jeff Sessions said the Trump administration would appeal the decision to the United States supreme court.

Repeal and replace

With Mr Trump due to spend the weekend in Bedminster, at Trump National Golf Club, where the US Women’s Open is taking place, Vice-President Mike Pence, budget director Mick Mulvaney and health secretary Tom Price left Washington, DC, for Rhode Island, to attend the National Governors Association’s summer meeting, which healthcare reform is expected to dominate.

Mr Trump tweeted on Friday that he would be attending the golf.

On Thursday the majority leader in the United States Senate, Mitch McConnell, unveiled a revised proposal to repeal and replace Obamacare. But some senior Republican senators were still opposed to the Bill late on Friday, raising the possibility that Republicans may not have the 50 votes they need to debate it next week.

Senator Rand Paul of Kentucky, who believes the Bill does not go far enough to repeal Obamacare – Barack Obama’s Affordable Healthcare Act, which the former president signed into law in 2010 – has said he will not support the Bill, and Senator Susan Collins of Maine, a moderate, is also opposed.

Other senators have also expressed doubts about the Bill, with the result that it is unclear if it will make it even to debate stage next week.

Mr McConnell has already announced that the senate will delay its August recess by two weeks to make progress on Republicans’ legislative agenda.