July 13, 2017

Trump defends son over Russian lawyer meeting

Trump defends son over Russian lawyer meeting


President Donald Trump on Thursday defended his son Donald Jr, who is under fire for accepting a meeting with a Moscow lawyer during the US election campaign last year.


The scandal over Donald Jr’s willingness to meet the lawyer has put Trump’s top aides in legal jeopardy, cast a pall over his efforts to remake the political agenda and may yet imperil his presidency.

But the president stood by his son during a visit to Paris, in his first public remarks about the scandal.

“My son is a wonderful young man. He took a meeting with a Russian lawyer. Not a government lawyer, but a Russian lawyer,” Trump said.

He added: “From a practical standpoint, most people would have taken that meeting.”

Despite ongoing controversy over alleged Kremlin ties, Trump told reporters accompanying him during his flight to France that he would be willing to invite Russian President Vladimir Putin to the White House.

Trump said he would “at the right time. I don’t think this is the right time, but the answer is yes, I would.”

The US president was in Paris at the invitation of French President Emmanuel Macron, with both men talking of a newfound friendship.

Macron rolled out the red carpet, hoping to improve relations and persuade the US president to change his mind about withdrawing from the global Paris agreement on climate change.

Macron said earlier that he had a “strong disagreement” over the deal with Trump, who hopes to renegotiate the agreement

The US president said cryptically: “Something could happen with respect to the Paris accord. We’ll see what happens.”

But the tone of their press conference and warm body language was at odds with broader concerns about the transatlantic relationship since Trump’s victory in November last year.

Macron, only 39 years old and elected in May, said he looked forward to a “dinner between friends” later Thursday when he and his wife will enjoy a Michelin-starred meal with the Trumps in a restaurant up the Eiffel Tower.

The US president praised Macron as a “great president”, saying “he is going to run this country right.”

“The friendship between our two nations and ourselves is unbreakable,” Trump said after talks at the French presidential palace focused on joint US-French efforts to fight terrorism in the Middle East and Africa.

Macron had warned on the eve of Trump’s arrival that “the Western world is fracturing since the American election” and that the world order established after World War II was under threat.

– Bridge-building –

As part of Macron’s charm offensive, Trump will be guest of honour during celebrations for France’s national day on Friday, which will also celebrate the 100th anniversary of US involvement in World War I.

Earlier, Macron gave Trump a personal tour of Napoleon’s tomb at the Invalides military complex in central Paris, before the two men headed for talks.

Again the body language was warm, with Trump complimenting Macron’s wife and even giving the French leader a lift back to the presidency in his eight-tonne car, known as The Beast.

“You know, you’re in such great shape… beautiful,” Trump told 64-year-old Brigitte Macron, who was sporting a white Louis Vuitton dress and stiletto heels, during their visit to the tomb.

– ‘Strategy a mystery’ –

Trump and Macron will watch Friday’s Bastille Day military parade together and marking the US entry to World War I in 1917.

More than 50,000 Americans died in what then-president Woodrow Wilson described as the “war to end all wars,” a conflict that forged the transatlantic alliance in steel.

Foreign affairs expert Bertrand Badie of Sciences Po university in Paris told AFP he was very doubtful Macron would be able to influence Trump in the future.

“It’s very difficult to play chess with a man whose strategy is a complete mystery and whose only consistency is his pursuit of American national interest,” he said.

Nearly 11,000 police officers will be on duty, with France in its highest state of alert after a string of terror attacks since 2015 that have killed more than 300 people.

And in early July, police charged a 23-year-old suspected far-right activist with plotting to assassinate Macron at the Bastille Day parade.