President Trump on Thursday defended his eldest son’s decision last June to meet with a Kremlin-linked Russian lawyer during the election campaign, saying “most people would have taken that meeting” and “nothing happened from the meeting, zero happened from the meeting.”
“My son is a wonderful young man,” Mr. Trump said during a news conference in Paris with President Emmanuel Macron of France. “He took a meeting with a Russian lawyer. Not a government lawyer; a Russian lawyer.”
Mr. Trump came to Paris at the invitation of Mr. Macron to take part in Bastille Day celebrations to mark the 100th anniversary of America’s entry into World War I.
As the two leaders, an odd couple on the international stage, faced the news media after a private meeting at the Élysée Palace, they sought to play down sharp differences over trade, immigration and climate change. Mr. Macron looked on as the president defended his son in the scandal over possible links between Mr. Trump’s presidential campaign and the Russian government.
Mr. Trump said Donald Trump Jr. had merely been responding to a person offering opposition research on his opponent, Hillary Clinton — a common practice in presidential campaigns. “Politics is not the nicest business,” he said, noting that he had received similar offers.
The president tried to deflect attention from his son by asserting that President Barack Obama’s attorney general, Loretta E. Lynch, had approved a visa for the Russian lawyer, Natalia Veselnitskaya, to enter the United States.
Ms. Veselnitskaya did receive a waiver from the Justice Department in October 2015 to enter the United States to defend a Russian client involved in a criminal case in New York. Immigration lawyers said the waiver, known as a “significant public benefit parole,” is standard practice in such cases.
On climate change, Mr. Trump acknowledged his differences with Mr. Macron — highlighted when Mr. Trump announced six weeks ago that he would withdraw the United States from the Paris climate accord. When asked whether he would reconsider his decision, the president left the door open to some kind of unspecified compromise.
“Something could happen with respect to the Paris accord,” Mr. Trump said. “We’ll see what happens.” He added, “If it happens, it will be wonderful; if it doesn’t, that will be O.K., too.”
SOURCE: MAGGIE HABERMAN and MARK LANDLER
The New York Times