Here's what's happening:
- Earlier this week, Donald Trump Jr. released the email chain that set up his meeting with reportedly Kremlin-connected lawyer Natalia Veselnitskaya. "This is part of Russia and its government's support for Mr. Trump," said the person who set up the meeting, Rob Goldstone, who promised dirt on Hillary Clinton.
- Trump Jr. insisted on Fox News that the meeting was a waste of time and he never told his father about it. But new campaign finance reports suggest he hired a lawyer two weeks before revealing the emails regarding his meeting with the Russian lawyer.
- In interviews, Veselnitskaya has said she has no connections with the Russian government, and had no information on Clinton, although the Trump campaign "wanted it badly."
- Rinat Akhmetshin, a Russian-American lobbyist with possible ties to Russian intelligence was also present during the meeting.
- The person who set up the meeting is a former music publicist. Read more about him here.
- Trump, tweeting from his golf course, defended his son and blasted the media on Sunday.
- Meanwhile, Republicans on Capitol Hill are trying to salvage their Obamacare repeal-and-replace bill, and the Congressional Budget Office is expected to release a new evaluation of the draft bill's impact on Americans.
Here's what our president is tweeting about this morning, along with some ~helpful context~:
About those protesters: According to NJ.com — which covers the area around Trump's Bedminster course in Jersey — there were about 30 demonstrators.
Here are some photos:
In the first part of this tweet, Trump is referring to Donna Brazile, a former CNN contributor and Bill Clinton campaign adviser, who apparently emailed a Hillary Clinton campaign staffer a question that was expected to be asked at the CNN Democratic presidential town hall debate with Bernie Sanders in March.
The president seems to be drawing some kind of equivalency between Brazile's move — which is definitely unsavory but not illegal — and the potentially criminal probe into Russia's collusion into the 2016 presidential election.
Of course the 30,000 emails is in reference to the FBI investigation into Clinton's use of a personal email server while she was Secretary of State — which concluded there was no illegal activity, but that Clinton was "extremely careless." Trump, at one point on the campaign trail, asked Russia to find the emails that Clinton had deleted. (The major US intelligence agencies said Russia worked to tip the election in favor of Trump.)
Last week, Caputo testified before the House Intelligence Committee — one of the many federal authorities investigating whether Trump's campaign worked with Russia to tip the election in his favor — saying, "I had no contact with Russians and I never heard of anyone in the Trump campaign talking with Russians."
Caputo has a history of links to Russia. As The Washington Post put it on Sunday morning, he "lived in the country in the 1990s and working in 2000 as a contractor with the Russian conglomerate Gazprom Media to improve Putin's image in the United States."
Caputo left the Trump campaign last year after he tweeted "ding dong the witch is dead," an apparent reference to the ouster of former Trump campaign manager Corey Lewandowski.
Trump, before he was president, was the main pusher of the false conspiracy theory — which he said came from a "credible source" — that President Obama was not born in America. He later had to admit he was wrong.
Also remember the New York Times just reported that in private, Trump is chummy with reporters — much different than the way he blasts them in public. 🤔
President Trump's six-month approval rating drops to 36 percent, the lowest of any president in 70 years
President Donald Trump's six-month approval rating has fallen to 36 percent, the lowest of any president going back 70 years, according to an ABC News/ Washington Post poll released Saturday night.
Revelations that the president's son, Donald Trump Jr., met with a Russian attorney during the presidential campaign, as well as Trump's handling of the G20 summit and a 2-to-1 voter preference for the Affordable Care Act over the Republican healthcare bill appear to have contributed to the drop in the president's approval rating, according to the poll's findings. Trump's 36% approval rating is now four points lower than Obama's career low.
A plurality — 63% — of those polled said it was inappropriate for Trump's inner circle, including his son, son-in-law Jared Kushner, and then-campaign manager Paul Manafort, to meet with a Russian attorney during the 2016 presidential campaign.
Even as he administration persists in dismissing questions about Russian meddling in the presidential election, roughly 6 out of 10 people polled believe Russia tried to influence the campaign, and 67 percent suspect Trump campaign officials helped in that effort, according to the poll.
And despite the president's recent trips abroad, attending the G20 summit and making public appearances in Poland France, about half of those polled said that US leadership in the world has grown weaker under the Trump administration, compared to just 27% who said that it has grown stronger.
Asked to compare Trump's job performance during his first six months in office to that of past presidents, just 23% said the president was outperforming his predecessors. Half of Americans believe he's doing a worse job than most presidents.
Law firm representing Donald Trump Jr. in Russian probe was paid by Trump campaign two weeks earlier than announcement
A law firm representing Donald Trump Jr. in the ongoing Russia investigations was paid by the president's campaign committee two weeks before the firm confirmed it was representing him, the Washington Post reported Saturday.
Citing a new campaign finance report, the Post reported the law firm was paid $50,000 by the campaign on June 27, nearly two weeks before the New York Times reported Trump Jr., Jared Kushner and Paul Manafort met with a Russian attorney in Trump Tower in the middle of the presidential election.
On July 8, Trump Jr. released emails setting up the meeting with the attorney. In the emails, she was described as a lawyer for the Russian government with damaging information on Hillary Clinton. The emails were released after the Times contacted Trump Jr. about it's upcoming story disclosing the communication.
Attorney Alan Futerfas confirmed to the Post two days after the emails were released that his firm was representing Trump Jr. in the ongoing probe.
But the payment made to Futerfas' law firm could raise questions as to when President Trump and his campaign were made aware of the meeting. The president has said that he was not aware of the June 9, 2016 meeting during the campaign, and that Trump Jr., Kushner, and Manafort - all members of his campaign's inner circle at the time of the meeting - did not tell him about it.
On Friday, Trump's attorney Jay Sekulow told CNN that Trump was made aware of the meeting around the time that the New York Times first reported the story.
Fired FBI Director James Comey is writing a book
Former FBI Director James Comey, who was fired by President Donald Trump in May, is writing a book, the literary agency Javelin confirmed to BuzzFeed News Saturday.
News that the former FBI director, who was ousted from the agency in the midst of an investigation into the Trump campaign's connections to Russian meddling in the 2016 election, will be writing a book about his public service was first reported by The New York Times.
Javelin, a literary agency based in Washington, DC, confirmed to BuzzFeed News it was representing Comey for the future book, but declined to provide details.
The book is expected to be a look and guide of the principles that guided Comey during his career in public service, the Times reported. That is expected to include the four months as head of the FBI under the Trump administration, as well as his handling of the FBI's investigation into Hillary Clinton's email server.
Comey's sudden departure sparked the appointment of a special counsel to look into the Trump campaign's ties to Russia — an investigation that has since grown to include whether the president obstructed the FBI investigation by firing Comey. In an interview with NBC's Lester Holt, Trump said he fired Comey because of the agency's Russia probe.
Unsurprisingly, publishers have been eager to sign on to a possible book written by Comey, although the former FBI director has so far been reluctant to entertain offers, according to the Times.
President Trump's attorney insists he was not aware of Russian lawyer meeting until last week
President Trump did not learn that his son, son-in-law, and then-campaign manager met with a Russian attorney at Trump Tower during the presidential campaign until last week, his attorney told CNN's Anderson Cooper Friday.
Jay Sekulow, one of the attorney's retained by the president, declined to say when he and the president's other lawyers first learned about the June 9, 2016, meeting, but said Trump did not learn about it until the news broke last week.
"The president was not aware of it until very recently, that was right before it happened, which I guess it's last week," Sekulow said.
The meeting with Natalia Veselnitskaya, a Russian attorney with reported ties to the Kremlin, has been the first publicly known instance of Trump's inner circle meeting with Russian officials during the campaign.
Emails released by Donald Trump Jr. setting up the meeting describe her as a Russian government lawyer, although Veselnitskaya denied working for the Kremlin in an interview with the Wall Street Journal.
The emails also stated the Russian government was supportive of Trump and the meeting was part of an effort to aid his campaign by providing damaging information on Hillary Clinton.
When Cooper asked if any of the three people who attended the meeting from the campaign — Trump Jr., Paul Manafort, and Jared Kushner — had told the president that the Russian government was supporting the campaign, Sekulow repeated that he was not told of the meeting.
"The president was not aware of and did not participate," he said. "He only became aware of the meeting when we all did."
Veselnitskaya says she was in regular contact with Russian authorities — but wasn't working for Russian government
Natalia Veselnitskaya, the Russian attorney at the center of a meeting with Donald Trump Jr. and members of his father's presidential campaign, told the Wall Street Journal she was in regular contact with Russia's top prosecutor at the time.
Veselnitskaya, however, said she wasn't working for Russian authorities. Instead, she said she was working on campaigning against a US law that levied sanctions against Russian officials and a hedge-fund manager who backed the law.
"I personally know the general prosecutor," she told the Wall Street Journal. "In the course of my investigation about (the hedge-fund manager), I shared information with him."
The prosecutor's office, which is essentially Russian state media, said that they have no links to the meeting.
Veselnitskaya is known to have worked against the Magnitsky Act, which placed sanctions on Russians believed to have defrauded millions from a firm ran by William Browder. Bowder's attorney, Magnitsky, died in Russian custody.
During the June 9, 2016 meeting in Trump Tower with members of then-presidential candidate Donald Trump's campaign, Veselnitskaya said she was representing Aras Agalarov, a Russian developer who helped organize the 2014 Miss Universe pageant with Trump.
The two families, according to their social media accounts, appear to have several contacts over the years.
Rob Goldstone, a British publicist who reached out to Donald Trump Jr. via email to set up the meeting described Veselnitskaya as a Russian government attorney.
Veselntiskaya told the Wall Street Journal she is a private lawyer.
Seventh person who attended meeting with Trump team identified as Russian interpreter
Anatoli Samochornov, a Russian-born interpreter who has worked with the Kremlin-linked attorney Natalia Veselnitskaya, was also sitting in on the meeting with Donald Trump Jr., Paul Manafort, and Jared Kushner last year at Trump Tower, a New York Times reporter said Friday.
Samochornov has worked as a contractor with Veselnitskaya, a Russian attorney, for years. His presence, revealed for the first time Friday, means at least seven people are known to have participated in the meeting.
Reached by BuzzFeed News, Samochornov declined to comment.
"I am a freelance interpreter and an independent contractor," he said. "I am bound by non-disclosure agreements and am not able to comment on my clients."
New York Times reporter, Ken Vogel, broke the news Friday afternoon while speaking on MSNBC.
Samochornov also worked at the US State Department at some point as a translator, Vogel reported, and is known to have worked to overturn the Magnitsky Act, which was a top priority for Russian President Vladimir Putin.
"All these lines are kind of blurry as to who is this person," Vogel said.
—Salvador Hernandez and John Hudson
Russian translator won't comment when asked if he was at the meeting with Trump Jr
Because Veselnitskaya typically speaks through an interpreter, BuzzFeed News contacted Anatoli Samochornov, a Russian-born independent translator who has worked with Veselnitskaya in the past. When asked about the meeting reported meeting between Veselnitskaya, Donald Trump Jr., Jared Kushner, Paul Manafort and the unidentified person, he declined to comment, citing a non-disclosure agreement.
"I am a freelance interpreter and an independent contractor," he told BuzzFeed News. "I am bound by non-disclosure agreements and am not able to comment on my clients."
House Republicans defend Trump campaign's meeting with a lawyer reportedly linked to the Russian government
Republican members of the House of Representatives on Friday defended the Trump campaign for accepting a meeting with a lawyer reportedly linked to the Russian government.
California Rep. Dana Rohrabacher and Texas Rep. Louie Gohmert suggested Donald Trump Jr.'s meeting had been overblown with "sinister descriptions" and is being used as a "diversionary tactic."
"Everybody in this body, if they think that there could be information that's important for our country to know, from any foreigner, we should talk to them and find out what it is," Rohrabacher said on the House floor. "And it is not illegal to receive information from someone, especially if you are … engaged in an activity that's aimed at trying to secure understanding for policies that you plan to implement as a leader in the United States."
Rohrabhacher, a Republican who has been scrutinized because of his stances on Russia, suggested the public should only be "upset" if there was discussion of releasing false, negative information about Clinton, but not merely at the idea of seeking more information.
Gohmert was there to back him up.
"It appears very clear what they're saying is every member of the House who has ever met with someone from a foreign country and asked questions, whether they believe what they were given or not, is guilty of a crime and should be damned to hell for all eternity, is basically — is that my friend's impression?" Gohmert asked Rohrabacher, to which the Californian responded affirmatively.
"I don't find any crime or any harm in asking questions and getting answers, even from people for whom we have no respect," Gohmert said.
The exchange lasted several minutes before Rohrabacher moved on to discuss Bitcoin.
"Should I ever turn down a chance to talk to somebody who has information for me negative or positive about Russia? No, I shouldn't. And neither should the Trump campaign have ignored any opportunity to receive more information about what was being done by Hillary, perhaps, in the raising of the millions of dollars for the Hillary foundation," Rohrabacher said.
"Talking to anybody to get more information to help you make your decisions, that's a good thing and not a bad thing," he said.
Trump campaign's digital director to be interviewed by House Intelligence Committee
The Trump campaign's digital director for the 2016 election has accepted the House Intelligence Committee's request for an interview, he said in a statement on Friday.
Based on Brad Parscale's statement, the interview request is related to the committee's ongoing investigation into whether Trump's campaign colluded with Russia. Parscale is an adviser in the Trump family's inner circle, with an inherent understanding of the Trump brand.
"I am unaware of any Russian involvement in the digital and data operations of the 2016 Trump presidential campaign," Parscale said in a statement. "The only collaboration I am aware of in the Trump digital campaign was with staff provided to the campaign by Facebook, Google and Twitter."
"I look forward to sharing with them everything I know," Parscale said, calling it a "voluntary interview."
A Russian-American lobbyist, who is a former Soviet counter-intelligence officer, was also present during the Don Jr. meeting
A new report out on Friday reveals that a Russian-American lobbyist — who is a former Soviet counter-intelligence officer believed to have ties to Russian intelligence — was also present during the meeting between Donald Trump Jr. and Russian lawyer Natalia Veselnitskaya.
NBC News first reported this development on Friday but withheld the name of the lobbyist. Rinat Akhmetshin later confirmed to BuzzFeed News that he is the lobbyist who attended the meeting. He denies having current ties to Russian intelligence agencies.
Akhmetshin, who is currently not in the US, told BuzzFeed News that Veselnitskaya was the "face of the meeting" with Donald Jr., and was there to discuss the factors leading to the creation of the Magnitsky Act, which Veselnitskaya opposed. He said that Trump Jr. and Jared Kushner were "very disappointed" and "not interested" in this information.
The Associated Press also spoke with Akhmetshin. He told the outlet that Veselnitskaya brought documents to the meeting that she said showed "the flow of illicit funds to the Democratic National Committee." It was this information that she thought might help the Trump campaign.
"This could be a good issue to expose how the DNC is accepting bad money," Veselnitskaya said at the meeting, according to Akhmetshin. He said he thought she left the documents at Trump Tower.
William Browder, a hedge fund manager who is the main driver behind the Magnitsky Act, said he suspected the document Veselnitskaya reportedly left at the meeting was the same one she had been handing out around DC since launching her effort to repeal the act. The document, which is just over a page long and has been obtained by BuzzFeed News, outlines allegations against Browder, as well as against Ziff Brothers Investments, and their alleged financial activities in Russia.
Akhmetshin told the Washington Post on Friday that Veselnitskaya said the fund "seemed linked to the [Democratic National Committee]." Browder told BuzzFeed News that Veselnitskaya had concocted ties to the Democrats because he had in 2002 attended a conference of the Clinton Global Initiative, for which he had paid a $10,000 attendance fee, which was publicly listed on the group's website.
A lawyer for Trump Jr. confirmed the lobbyist's presence at the meeting, but said that Trump Jr. was unaware of the man's background at the time of the meeting.
"It's very simple," Trump Jr.'s lawyer Alan Futerfas told NBC News. "The person was described as a friend of Emin [Agalarov]'s and maybe as a friend of Natalia [Veselnitskaya]'s."
—Miriam Elder and Jessica Simeone
President Trump and President Macron have attended a Bastille Day parade in Paris and watched this military band's Daft Punk medley
Trump is the guest of honor for Paris's Bastille Day celebrations. Among the sights Trump appeared to enjoy was a military band performing a medley of songs by French electro-pop pioneers Daft Punk.
The parade saw US troops march alongside the French military to mark the 100th anniversary of the United States' entry into World War I.
Tanks, horses, and military vehicles drove down the city's famous Champs-Élysées avenue, as planes and helicopters flew overhead.
Later today, French President Emmanuel Macron will travel to the southern city of Nice to mark the one-year anniversary of the 2016 Bastille Day terrorist attack there.
Trump now says a full border wall with Mexico isn't necessary
President Trump significantly scaled back one of his key campaign pledges while en route to France, telling reporters there was no need to build a wall along the US–Mexico border where it's not needed.
"It's a 2,000-mile border, but you don't need 2,000 miles of wall because you have a lot of natural barriers. You have mountains. You have some rivers that are violent and vicious," Trump said while on Air Force One on Wednesday. "You have some areas that are so far away that you don't really have people crossing. So you don't need that."
Trump estimated the US would only need to build a wall along 700 to 900 miles of the border, and said the structure would need to be transparent so that people could avoid large sacks of drugs being thrown over from the other side.
Read more here.
Trump says he'd invite Putin to the White House — just not now
President Donald Trump says he's open to inviting Russian President Vladimir Putin to visit the White House, but only "at the right time."
"I don't think this is the right time, but the answer is yes I would," he said.
Trump made the comments to reporters traveling with him aboard Air Force One on Wednesday evening. The remarks were initially part of a lengthy off-the-record press conference, which the White House later decided to make public.
Trump said it would be "stupid" to vow to never extend an invitation to Putin, whose country was behind attempts to interfere in the 2016 election, according to multiple US intelligence agencies.
"The easiest thing for me to tell you is that I would never invite him," the president said.
"We will never ever talk to Russia. That all of my friends in Congress will say, 'Oh he's so wonderful, he's so wonderful.'"
"Folks, we have perhaps the second most powerful nuclear country in the world. If you don't have dialogue, you have to be fools. Fools," Trump said.
The president said although he and Putin did not discuss Russian sanctions at length, Trump is not willing to lift the current sanctions.
"I would never take the sanctions off until something is worked out to our satisfaction and everybody's satisfaction in Syria and in Ukraine," he said.
Trump also said he still didn't believe Putin wanted him to win the election.
"So, the next time I'm with Putin, I'm going to ask him: who were you really for? Because I can't believe that he would have been for me," Trump said. "Me. Strong military, strong borders."
Trump believes Paris is now safe, contrary to his previous remarks attributed to a friend "Jim"
During a news conference with French President Emmanuel Macron, President Trump was asked if he would stand by a previous statement he made in which he implied that Paris was not safe, attributing the sentiment to an unknown friend named Jim.
"You've mentioned a friend, Jim, who told you told you Paris is no longer Paris," the reporter said. "You were implying at the time that Paris was not safe anymore. You also said that France and Germany are infected by terrorism and, 'It's their fault, because he let people enter the territory.' Those are very strong words. Would you repeat them today? And do you still believe that France is not able to fight terrorism on its own territory?"
"You better let me answer that one first. That's a beauty," Trump joked to Macron.
Trump then told the reporter that Paris would be safe because of the new French president.
"You know what? It's going to be just fine, because you have a great president," Trump said. "You have somebody that's going to run this country right. And I would be willing to bet, because I think this is one of great cities, one of the most beautiful cities in the world, and you have a great leader now. You have a great president. You have a tough president."
Trump defended his son's meeting with a Russian lawyer as "opposition research"
At a press conference with French President Emmanuel Macron, Trump defended his son Donald Trump Jr.'s meeting with a Russian lawyer, saying, "It's called opposition research."
Trump dismissed the significance of the meeting, saying it was a "short meeting" and "zero happened from that meeting."
Here's his full response on the meeting.
As far as my son is concerned, my son is a wonderful young man. He took a meeting with a Russian lawyer, not a government lawyer but a Russian lawyer. It was a short meeting. It was a meeting that went very, very quickly, very fast. Two other people were in the room. I guess one of them left almost immediately and the other one was not really focused on the meeting. I do think this. I think from a practical stand point most people would have taken that meeting. It's called opposition research or even research into your opponent. I've had many people — I've only been in politics for two years, but I've had many people call up, oh, gee, we have information on this factor or this person or frankly, Hillary. That's very standard in politics.
Politics is not the nicest business in the world. But it's very standard where they have information and you take the information. In the case of Don, he listened. I guess they talked about as I see it they talked about adoption and some things. Adoption wasn't even a part of the campaign. But nothing happened from the meeting. Zero happened from the meeting. And honestly, I think the press made a very big deal over something that really a lot of people would do.
Now, the lawyer that went to the meeting, I say that she was in the halls of Congress also. Somebody said that her visa or her passport to come into the country was approved by Attorney General Lynch. Now maybe that's wrong. I just heard that a little while ago. I just heard that. She was here because of Lynch. I have a son who's a great young man, a fine person. He took a meeting with a lawyer from Russia. It lasted for a very short period. And nothing came of the meeting. And I think it's a meeting that most people in politics probably would have taken.
"You're in such good shape," President Trump tells Brigitte Macron
After arriving in Paris and visiting Les Invalides monument, including a visit to Napoleon's tomb, a video on the French president's Facebook page shows Donald Trump turning to Brigitte Macron, the French first lady, and saying, "You're in such good shape."
President Trump then turns to Macron, making the same remark before turning back to Brigitte to say, "Beautiful."
The video occurs around the 53-minute mark of a Facebook Live video capturing the US president's arrival and subsequent tour of the museum and monument.
President Donald Trump has arrived in Paris
President Trump landed in Paris on Thursday morning ahead of his attendance at France's official Bastille Day celebrations with President Emmanuel Macron on Friday.
Trump headed to the US ambassador's residence after landing at Paris Orly Airport, while first lady Melania Trump went on to visit a local hospital.
Here's the history between the Trumps and the Russian billionaire referenced in the emails
Aras and Emin Agalarov, the Russians mentioned in Donald Trump Jr.'s emails, have a history with the president that goes back years, despite recent statements insinuating otherwise.
With their relationship under scrutiny given the emails and an offer to broker a meeting with a Russian official with potentially damning information on Hillary Clinton, BuzzFeed News combed social media and other reports to piece together the web of business deals and mutual adoration between Trump and the billionaire family.
Take a stroll through history here.
—Ellie Hall, Susie Armitage, and Chris Geidner
Trump says he didn't know about son's meeting with Russian lawyer
President Trump said on Wednesday that he only recently learned about his son's controversial meeting with a Russian lawyer with reported ties to the Kremlin.
The president told Reuters that he learned about Donald Trump Jr.'s meeting with Natalia Veselnitskaya "a couple of days ago when I heard about this." Trump Jr. met with Veselnitskaya last year under the auspices of possibly getting information that could damage Hillary Clinton.
News of the meeting with Veselnitskaya broke on Saturday and caused shockwaves in the political world, with critics of the president citing it as evidence that his campaign colluded with the Russians to win the election.
The White House and Trump Jr. have both denied that any collusion took place.
Despite the days-long controversy, Trump told Reuters he did not criticize his son on Wednesday for meeting with Veselnitskaya.
"I think many people would have held that meeting," Trump said.
—Jim Dalrymple II
White House deflects questions about Trump Jr. emails by accusing Clintons of ties to Russia
White House deputy spokesperson Sarah Huckabee Sanders on Wednesday deflected questions about Donald Trump Jr.'s emails by accusing the Clintons of having close ties to Russia, and Democrats of collusion with the Ukrainian government.
Asked why Trump campaign officials have repeatedly said they have not met with Russian officials, only to be contradicted by news reports, Sanders instead suggested it was Hillary and Bill Clinton who had close ties to the Kremlin.
"Look, I think if you want to talk about having relationships with Russia, I would look no further than the Clintons," Sanders said at the press briefing. "Bill Clinton was paid half a million dollars to give a speech to a Russian bank. Hillary Clinton allowed one-fifth of the uranium reserve to be sold to Russia. The Clintons' brother lobbied against a sanctions bank and failed to report it."
There are currently two congressional committees and an independent counselor investigating Russian meddling in the 2016 election and possible collusion with the Trump campaign.
"I think if there is discussions with the Russians, it would be with the Clintons," Sanders said.
Sanders' comments are similar to what Trump told Pat Robertson in an interview on CBN, during which he said Putin would have been happier with Clinton in office.
Sanders also cited reports that members of the Democratic National Committee had met with Ukrainian officials to get dirt on Trump.
"I think if there has been evidence of collusion in 2016 that's come out at all or been discussed that's actually happened it would be between the DNC and the Ukranian government," which Sanders said "directly targeted members of the Trump campaign in an effort to undermine it."
News that the government in Ukraine tried to help Democrats in the 2016 election was first reported by Politico.
The Democratic National Committee and former Clinton campaign officials denied working with the Ukrainian government, according to CNN.
Russians were reportedly overheard talking about Trump associates in spring 2015
US intelligence discovered Russian government officials were talking about Trump associates in spring 2015, the Wall Street Journal reported Wednesday.
There was no indication which individuals were being discussed or why, the Journal added. The White House did not immediately responded to a request for comment on the story. Mike Corallo, the spokesperson for the president's outside lawyer Marc Kasowitz told BuzzFeed News it was "a case of double hearsay — a story citing anonymous sources discussing anonymous associates."
The communications, which were intercepted as part of routine intelligence gathering, are now getting a fresh look by officials in light of the investigations into the Trump campaign's ties to Russia, the Journal reported.
Trump formally announced he was running for president in June 2015, following years hinting that he would pursue politics. News articles from spring 2015 discussed steps Trump was making toward becoming a candidate, such as his formation of an exploratory committee.
Outside the political arena, Trump traveled to Moscow in 2013 for the Miss Universe pageant.
—Claudia Koerner and Chris Geidner
Trump claims in interview Putin would have preferred Clinton as president
President Trump said Wednesday that he got along with Russian President Vladimir Putin and every other world leader at last week's G20 summit, adding that "we're the most powerful country in the world and we are getting more and more powerful."
Trump made the comments during an interview with the Christian Broadcasting Network. It was the president's first public interview following last week's international G20 summit in Hamberg, Germany, where he spent more than two hours with Putin.
In the interview, Trump described both the US and Russia as "tremendously powerful nuclear" nations, and said that "it doesn't make sense to not to have some kind of relationship." Of Putin, Trump added that "I think we got along very well, and I think that's a good thing."
"But always Putin is going to want Russia and Trump is going to want United States," Trump said, "and that's the way it is and sometimes you're not going to get along on things and sometimes you will."
Trump also seemingly reiterated his doubts that Russia meddled in last year's presidential election — something the US intelligence community has concluded did happen. He pointed to his support for the armed forces as one reason Putin wouldn't have wanted him in office, adding that the US is getting more powerful "because I'm a big military person."
Putin also would have preferred a Hillary Clinton presidency, Trump said, "because our military would be decimated, our energy would be much more expensive."
"He would like Hillary, where she wants to have windmills," the president continued.
By contrast, Trump said, he has favored energy independence, "opening up" coal, natural gas, and fracking.
"So there are many things that I do that are the exact opposite of what he would want," Trump added, referring to Putin. "So what I keep hearing about that he would have rather had Trump, I think 'probably not.'"
Trump went on to describe the G20 summit as broadly successful, saying "we had a good meeting."
"It was a great G20," Trump said. "You had 20 countries. I got along I think really fantastically with the head of every country."
— Jim Dalrymple II
FBI director nominee says he won't swear loyalty to Trump
The man nominated to lead the FBI told senators Wednesday that he would not pledge loyalty to President Trump if asked.
"I was not asked to take any kind of loyalty oath, and I would refuse," Christopher Wray said at his Senate nomination hearing.
His predecessor, James Comey, said Trump has asked him to pledge his loyalty before he was fired.
Democratic Sen. Richard Blumenthal also quizzed Wray on whether he'd quit the job if he experienced political interference that would affect the "independence and integrity" of the FBI.
Wray said he would.
"You cannot take on a position like this without resolving in advance that you have to be willing to quit or be fired at a moment's notice in order to stand up for what you think is right, and it would be my commitment to stand firm to that maxim," he said.
Blumenthal also asked Wray to confirm that he would "try to persuade whoever might be taking inappropriate or illegal action, whether it's the president of the United States or anyone else, in an effort to persuade that official to change course."
Blumenthal's Senate colleague, Dianne Feinstein, had criticized Comey during a previous hearing for his "cowardly" actions in not telling Trump they could not discuss the matter of ex-national security advisor Michael Flynn.
"My whole career, both public and private, has consisted of an awful lot of time telling people things they don't want to hear, and talking people out of bad ideas," Wray said.
The Senate Judiciary Committee is expected to hold a vote on Wray's confirmation in the coming days.
Here's what the Donald Trump Jr. emails don’t say
Donald Trump Jr.'s tweets Tuesday didn't answer one question about his meeting with a Russian lawyer: Were the emails the president's son released the full extent of his communication about the meeting?
On Tuesday, the president's son posted to Twitter screenshots of an email thread between him and Rob Goldstone, a British music publicist who represents the musician son of a Russian billionaire. In those emails, Goldstone refers to Russian support for Donald Trump's bid and explicitly calls the Russian woman that Trump Jr., Paul Manafort, and Jared Kushner met with "[t]he Russian government lawyer."
But while the emails have been widely and intensely examined over the last twenty-four hours for what they do say, two curious phrases — a reference to a future "call" and a "thanks" — also raise a question about what the emails don't reveal: Was there a telephone conversation between Trump and either Goldstone or his client between the time that two of the emails in question were sent?
Read more here.
FBI director nominee Christopher Wray hasn't read Donald Trump Jr's emails yet
Apparently, the FBI Director nominee hasn't yet read the emails Donald Trump Jr released yesterday about his meeting with a Kremlin-connected attorney during the 2016 campaign.
Christopher Wray was asked to comment on the emails during questioning by Senator Lindsey Graham during his confirmation hearing Wednesday.
"Are you familiar with the e-mail problems we have had with Donald Trump Jr. the last few days?" Graham asked.
"I have not Senator, I have heard that there is an issue but I've spent the last few days meeting with your colleagues so I've missed that," Wray said.
Graham then read the emails to Wray, who said that he was not in a position to speak to them as he hadn't been aware of them.
He did, after more pressing from Graham, say that if any politician was contacted by a foreign government promising dirt on opponents, they should alert the FBI.
During nomination hearing, Wray, a former federal prosecutor, disagreed with the president's assessment that the investigation into Russian election interference is a "witch hunt."
"I do not consider Director Mueller to be on a witch hunt", Wray told the Senate Judiciary Committee.
Trump has dubbed it a witch hunt numerous times, including last night in relation to his son Donald Trump Jr. getting heat for a meeting with a Kremlin-connected attorney.
Wray also said he would prefer to avoid any one-on-one meetings with the president.
That's particularly relevant after James Comey revealed in his Senate testimony that in a private meeting with Trump, he believed the president asked him to stop the Russian investigation.
"I think the relationship between any FBI director and any president needs to be a professional one, not a social one. There certainly shouldn't be any discussion between one on one discussion between the FBI director and any president about how to conduct particular investigations or cases," said Wray.
He also said that, like Comey, he would make notes of any significant conversations he had with Trump.
"I would think it would behoove me to make a record of that," said Wray.
Trump's maligned cyber security initiative with Russia (announced after his meeting with Vladimir Putin and then dismissed as not happening after it was widely mocked that the US would do a cyber security program with the very country that interfered with cyber hacking in the presidential election) also came up, with Wray saying he'd want to "proceed with great caution":
"I wouldn't want to do anything that -- if I got that kind of advice and input, suggested was putting us at greater risk as opposed to greater protection," he said.
Wray was also asked if Russia a friend or an enemy to the United States. "I think Russia is a foreign nation that we have to deal with very wearily," replied Wray, saying he had "no reason" to doubt the conclusion of intelligence agencies of Russia's interference in the election.
Graham also mentioned the allegations that Ukraine tried to sabotage the Trump campaign, and Wray replied that he "would be happy to dig into it".
When asked by Sen. Patrick Leahy what he would do if the president asked him to do something unlawful or unethical, Wray responded, "First I would try to talk him out of it, and if that failed, I'd resign."
– Amber Jamieson
Federal investigators are reportedly looking into whether the Trump campaign "helped guide" Russia's fake news attacks in 2016
Investigators at the House and Senate Intelligence committees and the Justice Department are examining whether the Trump campaign's digital operation – overseen by Jared Kushner – helped guide Russia's sophisticated voter targeting and fake news attacks on Hillary Clinton in 2016.
Congressional and Justice Department investigators are focusing on whether Trump's campaign pointed Russian cyber operatives to certain voting jurisdictions in key states – areas where Trump's digital team and Republican operatives were spotting unexpected weakness in voter support for Hillary Clinton, according to several people familiar with the parallel inquiries.
Also under scrutiny is the question of whether Trump associates or campaign aides had any role in assisting the Russians in publicly releasing thousands of emails, hacked from the accounts of top Democrats, at turning points in the presidential race, mainly through the London-based transparency web site WikiLeaks.
Trump's lawyer blankets the morning shows to back Don Jr.
President Trump's attorney Jay Sekulow, fresh from appearing on Fox News' Hannity Tuesday night with Donald Trump Jr, did the rounds of the morning shows Wednesday to try and defend the president's oldest son.
Sekulow is one of a team of lawyers Donald Trump hired for his personal legal team last month to advise him on the special counsel investigation into Russian interference in the election.
But now he's batting for Trump Jr, appearing on Today, Good Morning America, and New Day on Wednesday morning to give the same interview three times.
His biggest talking point was that the president didn't know about the meeting between Trump Jr, his campaign manager Paul Manafort, and his son-in-law (now White House adviser) Jared Kushner and a Kremlin-connected attorney when it took place in June 2016.
Sekulow says the president only found about the emails organizing the meeting, which Trump Jr released yesterday and clearly state that the meeting was being arranged as part of the Russian government helping the Trump campaign, "very recently".
And second, Sekulow argues that nothing about the meeting was illegal.
"So the meeting itself and what took place at the meeting doesn't violate the law," he said on Good Morning America.
"A meeting that was described by the release of the emails that Donald Trump Jr. did yesterday is not a violation of the law," he said on Today.
In his interview on CNN's New Day with Chris Cuomo, Sekulow also tried to argue that the entire special counsel investigation is based on "illegally leaked evidence" by former FBI director James Comey and questioned if the Russians had even been involved in interfering with the election, despite all US intelligence agencies believing it to be true.
"Do I know if the Russians hacked it or not? I have no idea," said Sekulow.
President Trump defended his son Wednesday, praising his openness and transparency — and says he has "very little time for watching T.V."
This last tweet — coming from Trump, who often argues with cable morning television shows live on Twitter — came after Politico reported on Wednesday, "the president is using his relatively light schedule to watch TV and fume about the latest scandal."
Republican senator demands answers on why Kremlin-linked lawyer who met with Don Jr. was allowed to enter US
The Republican chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee sent a letter to top Trump administration officials Tuesday asking for information on why Russian lawyer Natalia Veselnitskaya was allowed to enter the United States.
Veselnitskaya emerged at the center of a growing scandal surrounding the Trump campaign's connection to Russia after the New York Times reported Saturday that she had met with Donald Trump, Jr., the president's son-in-law Jared Kushner, and former campaign chairman Paul Manafort during last year's presidential race.
Veselnitskaya, who has reported ties to the Kremlin, is best known for her work opposing the Magnitsky Act, a law that authorizes the US to sanction Russian individuals suspected of human rights abuses. The law is named for Sergei Magnitsky, a Russian attorney who died in custody in Moscow after uncovering a massive money laundering scheme connected to Russian officials and organized crime.
In his letter, sent to Secretary of State Rex Tillerson and Department of Homeland Security Secretary John Kelly, Sen. Chuck Grassley of Iowa points out Veselnitskaya's attempts to lobby Congress to overturn the Magnitsky Act. He also notes that she was a lawyer for Prevezon Holdings, a Russian-owned company accused by the Justice Department of laundering millions of dollars in the crime Magnitsky uncovered.
Grassley notes that in an affidavit filed in the Prevezon case, Veselnitskaya said she had been denied a visa to work in the US representing the company, and would have to leave in January 2016, when the status she had been granted to enter temporarily expired.
Six months later, however, Veselnitskaya was back in New York, meeting with Trump Jr. and other members of the campaign in Trump Tower. Although accounts of what was discussed in that meeting have shifted, emails revealed by Trump Jr. on Tuesday show that it was arranged on the premise that Veselnitskaya had incriminating information about Hillary Clinton that would be helpful to the Trump campaign.
Participants have insisted that the Russian lawyer did not end up providing any substantive information, and instead focused primarily on the ban on Russian adoptions imposed by Vladimir Putin in retaliation for the Magnitsky Act. A week after the June 9 meeting, Veselnitskaya attended a congressional hearing about the law.
Her return to the US, Grassley states in the letter, "raises serious questions about whether the Obama administration authorized her to remain in the country, and if so, why?"
Grassley also wants the State Department and homeland security officials to provide details about Veselnitskaya's visa applications, and whether she was given permission to temporarily enter the US to attend the meeting at Trump Tower on June 9.
Don Jr.'s opposition research defense is a reminder of the Trump campaign's inexperience
Donald Trump Jr. has brushed it off innocently as political opposition research.
But his pursuit of a tip, presented to him as a gesture of the Russian government's support for his father's White House bid, has further aroused suspicions of collusion with a foreign adversary. Beyond that, it's not the way that opposition research — the dark but long-ago accepted art of digging up dirt on rivals — really works.
In a series of June 2016 emails Trump Jr. made public Tuesday, following leaks to and reports by the New York Times, an intermediary wrote about the existence of "some official documents and information that would incriminate" Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton. Trump Jr., joined by his brother-in-law, Jared Kushner, and by Paul Manafort, then the campaign's chief, met with a Russian lawyer at Trump Tower in New York but said nothing came of it.
"The information they suggested they had about Hillary Clinton I thought was Political Opposition Research," Trump Jr. said in a Tuesday statement he released along with the emails. "I first wanted to just have a phone call but when that didn't work out, they said the woman would be in New York and asked if I would meet. I decided to take the meeting."
Federal authorities are investigating Russian meddling in last year's election.
"I appreciate that hindsight is 20/20 and we don't yet know all the facts," Alex Conant, a top adviser to Sen. Marco Rubio's presidential campaign last year, told BuzzFeed News. "But if an agent of a foreign government ever reached out to offer clandestine assistance to my candidate, I like to think that I'd immediately alert the FBI."
Read more here.
—Henry J. Gomez
Don Jr. says he never told President Trump about meeting with Russian lawyer
Donald Trump Jr. said Tuesday night he never told his father about his meeting with a Russian lawyer who, according to emails he released earlier in the day, was promising dirt on Hillary Clinton.
And while he acknowledged that he would done things "a little differently," Trump Jr. also maintained that the encounter ended up being a waste of time.
Trump Jr. made the comments to Fox News' Sean Hannity in his first interview since the New York Times reported he had sought damaging information about Clinton from a source who claimed the Russian government wanted to help his father's campaign for president. The report sparked questions and outrage from Democrats, as well as some Republicans, and comes as investigations continue into whether the Trump campaign colluded with Russia.
"In retrospect, I probably would have done things a little differently," Trump Jr. told Hannity.
Read more of what he said here.
These top aides to Donald Trump have said his campaign had no connection to the Russians
For months, top aides to Trump have sought to discredit reports that his campaign worked with Russians to tip the election in his favor.
So let's take a walk down memory lane to review what they had to say before Donald Trump Jr. released emails setting up his meeting with a Kremlin-connected lawyer as "part of Russia and its government's support for Mr. Trump" during the presidential campaign.
For more what they said, go here.
Special Counsel Robert Mueller will reportedly review the emails Donald Trump Jr. released
Email exchanges revealed Tuesday by Donald Trump Jr. setting up a meeting with a Russian attorney during the presidential campaign will be part of the Justice Department's investigation into Russian meddling in the presidential election, CNN reported.
Trump Jr. had said in a statement during the weekend that the meeting with Russian attorney Natalia Veselnitskaya was to discuss an adoption program that had since been terminated.
But emails revealed by Trump Jr. on Tuesday, after the New York Times had obtained the email exchange and contacted the president's son for comment, flatly stated by the person contacting facilitating the exchange that the meeting was "part of Russia and its government's support for Mr. Trump."
Former FBI Director Robert Mueller, who was appointed special counsel to look into Russian meddling in the presidential election and to see if there was any collusion on the part of the Trump campaign, will now be looking into the emails released Tuesday, according to CNN, which cited an unnamed US official.
Trump allies wonder: Who is going after Don Jr.?
Trump World, caught off guard by the damaging new reports about Donald Trump Jr., is now buzzing over a key question: Who's trying to throw the president's son under the bus?
The disclosure of details regarding Trump Jr.'s meeting with a Russian lawyer — including a full email thread released by Trump Jr. himself Tuesday morning — was spurred by "three advisers to the White House briefed on the meeting and two others with knowledge of it," according to the New York Times, which has published three explosive stories in recent days about the president's oldest son's meeting with a Kremlin-linked lawyer who promised damaging information on Hillary Clinton.
Some in Trump's orbit are now pointing fingers as they try to figure out who the three people are, and they continue to defend Trump Jr. and describe the latest Russia-related stories as "nothingburgers."
"Who's throwing whom under the bus? These are power moves that people are making," said a source close to the administration, calling the tactics "Machiavellian."
Read more here.
—Adrian Carrasquillo and Tarini Parti
White House spokeswoman repeatedly deferred answers to questions about the emails
White House deputy press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders repeatedly dodged questions from the media during an off-camera briefing on Tuesday with a variation of "talk to the lawyers" when asked about the Donald Trump Jr. emails.
For a look at the questions reporters asked, followed by Sanders' non-answers, go here.
Attorney for Russian pop star who arranged Trump Jr. meeting denies it was about Clinton
An attorney for Emin Agalarov, a Russian pop star and businessman who arranged a meeting between a Kremlin-connected lawyer and the Trump campaign, said Tuesday that Agalarov did not think the meeting was to pass along damaging information about Hillary Clinton.
The attorney told ABC News that Agalarov believes that Kremlin-linked lawyer Natalia Veselnitskaya is "a private practitioner and represents private clients."
In the emails released Tuesday by Trump Jr., Rob Goldstone, a British music publicist and former tabloid journalist, told the president's son that Agalarov wanted to reach out to Trump's campaign.
"Our understanding was the purpose of the meeting was to talk about the Magnitzky act which was been an issue that she's been pursuing," the attorney said.
"At no point did we think the purose [sic] of the meeting was to convey information about Hillary Clinton or the campaign," the attorney said.
But in emails released by Trump Jr., Goldstone wrote that Agalarov wanted to "provide the Trump campaign with some official documents and information that would incriminate Hillary and her dealings with Russia and would be very useful to your father."
Donald Trump Jr. released the emails setting up his meeting with the Russian lawyer
Read more on this here.