As Russia Scandal Envelops His Son, Trump Again Decries 'Witch Hunt' on Twitter - NBC New York
President Donald Trump

President Donald Trump

The latest news on President Donald Trump's first year as president

As Russia Scandal Envelops His Son, Trump Again Decries 'Witch Hunt' on Twitter

Donald Trump Jr. was "was open, transparent and innocent" in revealing that he was eager to accept information from the Russian government, the president said

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    Donald Trump, Jr. has released emails detailing his meeting with a Russian attorney who promised compromising information on then-Democratic candidate for president, Hillary Clinton. He said he released the exchanges "in order to be totally transparent." (Published Tuesday, July 11, 2017)

    The snowballing revelations about Donald Trump Jr.'s meeting with a Russian lawyer during last year's presidential campaign have broadsided the White House, distracting from its agenda as aides grapple with a crisis involving the president's family.

    The public has not laid eyes on the president since his return from Europe Saturday. But in private, Trump has raged against the latest Russia development, with most of his ire directed at the media, not his son, according to people who have spoken to him in recent days.

    On Wednesday morning, Trump tweeted that his son was "open, transparent and innocent," again referring to the investigation as "the greatest Witch Hunt in political history."

    Trump has often refered to the Russia investigation as a "witch hunt." His nominee to lead the FBI, Christopher Wray, was asked about that phrase during a Senate confirmation hearing. 

    Trump's FBI Director Nominee Comments on Trump Jr.’s Emails

    [NATL] Trump's FBI Director Nominee Christopher Wray Comments on Donald Trump Jr.’s Emails

    FBI Director nominee Christopher Wray testified to the Senate judiciary committee June 12, 2017, that Donald Trump Jr.'s June 2016 emails about a meeting with a Russian lawyer are "the kind of thing the FBI would want to know."

    (Published Wednesday, July 12, 2017)

    "I do not consider (former FBI Director Robert) Mueller to be on a witch hunt," Christopher Wray told Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-SC.

    In another tweet, the president questioned the sources of the media reporting on the story, despite the fact that his son personally released four pages of emails in which he communicates with an associate claiming to be arranging a meeting with a Russian government lawyer.

    The bombshell revelation that Trump Jr. was eager to accept information from Moscow landed hard on weary White House aides. While staffers have grown accustomed to a good news cycle being overshadowed by the Russia investigations, Trump aides and outside advisers privately acknowledged that this week's developments felt more serious.

    In the emails, the intermediary says the attorney has negative information about Democrat Hillary Clinton that is part of the Russian government's efforts to help Trump in the campaign. The then-candidate's son responds: "I love it."

    This new setback raises new questions about whether the Trump campaign coordinated with Moscow during the election, a charge the president has denied for months. And it points those questions more directly at the inner circle of Trump's own family.

    As has been the pattern for Trump's White House, the controversy has sparked a new round of recriminations among the president's team. Nearly a dozen White House officials and outside advisers spoke on the condition of anonymity in order to discuss the mood in the West Wing.

    Donald Trump Jr. Admits He Met With Russian Lawyer

    [NATL] Donald Trump Jr. Admits Meeting With Russian Lawyer During Election

    Donald Trump Jr. has acknowledged he was promised information about Hillary Clinton that might be helpful to his father’s presidential campaign in a meeting with a Russian lawyer. The lawyer, Natalia Veselnitskaya, gave “no meaningful information,” Trump Jr. said, adding that his father, President Donald Trump, had no knowledge of the meeting.

    (Published Monday, July 10, 2017)

    The president, in conversations with confidants, has questioned the quality of advice he has received from senior staff, including chief of staff Reince Priebus. However, Priebus has been a frequent target of criticism for months and even those taking aim at him now said it did not appear as though a shakeup was on the horizon.

    There has also been a difference of opinion within the West Wing as to how to handle the crisis, with some aides favoring more transparency than others. Some of the unhappiness centers on Trump's legal team, which is led by New York attorney Marc Kasowitz.

    An unusual statement Saturday night from the legal team's spokesman Mark Corallo appeared to claim Trump Jr., Kushner and Manafort were duped into meeting with the Russian lawyer, and was viewed as particularly unhelpful by senior White House officials.

    The president, again on Twitter, pushed back Wednesday on the narrative of a dysfunctional administration, writing that the White House "is functioning perfectly" and claiming that "I have very little time for watching T.V."

    At least 10 of the president's tweets since Monday have been about TV shows or links to videos from the Fox News Channel.

    The revelations come at a pivotal moment for Trump and the Republican Party, as GOP senators race to finish work on a health care overhaul that has divided the party. Trump has largely stayed on the sidelines of the policy negotiations on the measure, but has still publicly pressed GOP senators to wrap up work on legislation this summer and fulfill one of the party's central promises to voters.

    Protesters Removed From Senate Health Care Bill Hearing

    [NATL] Health Care Bill Protesters Forcibly Removed From Senate Finance Committee Room

    Protesters chanting "No cuts for Medicaid, save our liberty!" were forcibly removed from the Senate Finance Committee room Monday as lawmakers attempted to convene a hearing into the Republican Graham Cassidy health care bill.

    (Published Monday, Sept. 25, 2017)

    On Capitol Hill, some Republican lawmakers cast the Russia controversy as a distraction from the health care debate.

    "We ought to be disciplined and not be distracted by things that may be legitimate but not right now in our lane," said Sen. Thom Tillis of North Carolina.

    The matter has also distracted from a brief stretch in which some White House advisers believed they were finding their footing.

    Trump aides, who view clashes with the media as central to the president's agenda, were emboldened when three journalists from CNN resigned after the network withdrew a story about a Trump ally. Trump's allies were also heartened by his trip to Europe last week, feeling that his speech saluting national pride in Poland was a high point of his presidency and believing that he held his own during meetings with foreign leaders at an international summit in Germany.

    But the afterglow of Trump's trip quickly vanished, replaced once again with questions about the swirling federal and congressional investigations into Russia's election meddling.

    And Trump allies took notice Tuesday when Vice President Mike Pence distanced himself from the revelation by the president's son. In a statement, Pence spokesman Marc Lotter said the vice president "was not aware of the meeting," adding Pence was "not focused on stories about the campaign especially those pertaining to the time before he joined the campaign."

    North Korean Minister: Trump Tweet Declared War

    [NATL] North Korean Foreign Minister: 'The United States Declared War'

    North Korea's top diplomat says President Donald Trump's tweet that leader Kim Jong Un "won't be around much longer" amounted to a declaration of war against his country.

    Foreign Minister Ri Yong Ho told reporters Monday that what he called Trump's "declaration of war" gives North Korea "every right" under the U.N. Charter to take countermeasures, "including the right to shoot down the United States strategic bombers even they're not yet inside the airspace border of our country."

    Ri Yong also said that "all options will be on the operations table" for the government of the Democratic People's Republic of Korea.

    Ri referred to Trump's tweet Saturday that said: "Just heard Foreign Minister of North Korea speak at U.N. If he echoes thoughts of Little Rocket Man, they won't be around much longer!"

    (Published Monday, Sept. 25, 2017)

    Pence was named Trump's running mate in the middle of July 2016, several weeks after the meeting involving the president's son.

    Trump Jr, who is running the family business with his brother, huddled with friends and close business associates after the first stories dropped, his mood shifting from worry to defiance over the story's lifespan, according to confidants. He has told those close to him that while he realizes the optics of the meeting aren't ideal, he has echoed his father in believing that the media have overblown the matter and, despite some opposition among his allies, has said he wants to publicly fight back.

    But White House aides struggled with bringing forth a strong defense against the scandal that also touched Jared Kushner, the president's son-in-law and senior adviser who attended the 2016 meeting. Though Sanders called charges of collusion "ridiculous," the White House press briefing remained off-camera for the second consecutive day, limiting the power of her pushback.

    And the president himself was slated to stay out of sight. He had no public events scheduled for Wednesday until he leaves for another overseas trip, this time to France.