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WASHINGTON — U.S. President Donald Trump says the White House is “functioning perfectly,” challenging accounts it is in chaos from his eldest son’s disclosure of how he met last year with a supposed Russian government lawyer who offered incriminating information about Hillary Clinton, Trump’s Democratic election opponent.
The news accounts described the president, with a light schedule Tuesday, as fuming while he watched news channel reports about Donald Trump Jr.’s email chain with an intermediary for the lawyer as they set up a June 2016 meeting in Trump Tower in New York.
But Trump said his White House was focused on overhauling the country’s health care law, tax cuts and reforms and “many other things. I have very little time for watching T.V.”
In one Twitter comment, he complained, without elaboration, “Why aren’t the same standards placed on the Democrats. Look what Hillary Clinton may have gotten away with. Disgraceful!”
He touted accomplishments, saying the Islamic State “is on the run & will soon be wiped out of Syria & Iraq, illegal border crossings are way down (75%) & MS 13 gangs are being removed.”
Earlier, he renewed his claim that questions about links between his presidential campaign and Russia amount to “the greatest Witch Hunt in political history.” Numerous U.S. investigations are underway about Russia’s meddling in the 2016 election, including allegations that Trump’s campaign colluded with Russian interests to help him defeat Clinton.
The younger Trump said in an interview Tuesday night on Fox News he did not tell his father about the meeting, and also dismissed charges of collusion between the Trump campaign and Russia as “ridiculous.”
President Trump, in a tweet Wednesday, praised his son’s performance.
“My son Donald did a good job last night. He was open, transparent and innocent,” Trump wrote.
In a statement Tuesday read by a White House spokeswoman, Trump called his son “a high-quality person.” The spokeswoman deflected other questions about the younger Trump’s email exchange with Rob Goldstone, a British music publicist who was representing Natalia Veselnitskaya, the Russian lawyer who met with the younger Trump shortly after his father clinched the Republican Party’s nomination for president.
The younger Trump released his email chain with Goldstone after The New York Times told him that it was about to publish the emails.
VOA’s Capitol Hill correspondents said the disclosure that Donald Trump Jr. eagerly sought damaging information about Clinton ahead of the November election sent shockwaves through Congress and prompted strong reactions from Democratic members in particular.
‘High level and sensitive information’
Goldstone told the younger Trump on June 3 last year that “the Crown prosecutor of Russia … offered 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.”
“This is obviously very high level and sensitive information but is part of Russia and its government’s support for Mr. Trump,” the email said.
Within minutes, the younger Trump replied, “If it’s what you say, I love it, especially [for use] later in the summer.”
Democratic senators, such as Chris Murphy of Connecticut, said Tuesday’s developments in the tale of Donald Trump Jr. and his meeting with the Russian lawyer “starts to look like collusion … open, knowing collusion with the Russian government” on the part of the Trump campaign team. Republican senators were more cautious in their reaction, VOA’s Michael Bowman reported, but Susan Collins of Maine said “the emails deserve a thorough investigation” by the Senate Intelligence Committee.
Congressman Adam Schiff of California, the senior Democrat on the House Intelligence Committee, saw the email disclosure as a “very significant, deeply disturbing development,” and said he wanted Trump’s son to testify before his committee, VOA’s Katherine Gypson reported.
“We must investigate,” said Democratic Congressman Elijah Cummings, because the e-mail chain “confirms that the president’s son was both aware of and supported the Russian government’s efforts to help [Trump] get elected.”
In his emails to the younger Trump, Goldstone referred to Veselnitskaya as “the Russian government attorney who is flying over from Moscow.” The Russian government has denied knowing Veselnitskaya and rejects U.S. claims that it meddled in the election.
The subsequent meeting was also attended by then-Trump campaign manager Paul Manafort and the future president’s son-in-law, Jared Kushner, the husband of Trump’s daughter Ivanka. Both Kushner and his wife are now White House advisers to the president.