Russia woes came back to rile President Donald Trump over the weekend as he seeks to deal with a government shutdown that’s become the longest in US history. A new report said Trump has kept details of his one-on-one interactions with Russian president Vladimir Putin hidden even from his senior officials.
Frustrated by the lack of complete readouts of the interaction — two of them, including one in Helsinki in July 2018, had lasted hours — state and national security officials have sought to get more out of the interpreters who attended them, according to a report by The Washington Post.
The president pushed back against the report in an interview with Fox News saying details of the meeting “(are) up for grabs”, and wondered why no one asks about his meeting with other world leaders.
“I meet with Modi,” Trump said, referring to Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi. “I meet with — in Japan, I meet with (Prime Minister Shinzo) Abe. I meet with all of them, but nobody says anything.” He has met the two leaders several time bilaterally, and once trilaterally, on the sideline of the G-20 summit in Argentina last December.
The US president also lashed out at a report by The New York Times on Friday that said that after Trump fired the FBI’s then-director James Comey, in May 2017, the agency had launched an investigation if the president was working for the Russians or was under their influence.
“I think it’s the most insulting thing I’ve ever been asked,” he said in the telephone interview when the anchor asked about the report, which he had already criticized and pushed back against in a a series of tweets on Saturday. “I think it’s the most insulting article I’ve ever had written.”
Russian interference in the 2016 elections to tilt the scale for Trump has dogged him even before he started took the oath of office, and he continues to battle it on a regular basis as revelations have flowed from indictments and court filings from Special Counsel Robert Muller and other investigations, such as the case involving Michael Cohen, the president’s one-time personal lawyer and fixer.
These new reports came amidst the a partial shutdown of the federal government that entered 23rd day Sunday, and is now the longest in US history, impacting an estimated 800,000 employees, who have either being furloughed — on leave without pay — or as working without pay.
US Congress passed a bill Thursday to compensate them when the government reopens, but there was worries now that could take a while. Some officials have flagged the possibility of it lasting into February now, as both sides remained rooted into their respective positions, with continuous resolve.
President Trump continues to portray he wants to negotiate — through tweets starting, as he did Sunday morning, “I’m in the White House, waiting …”, or variations of it — but there have been no public discussions with Democrats since he broke up the last round abruptly saying “bye-bye”.
He has sought $5.7 billion for a wall along the border with Mexico to stop illegal immigration — he is now calling it a steel barrier — but Democrats have refused calling the wall/barrier “immoral” and have said they are prepared to grant him $1.3 billion for border security, but not any structure.
Lawmakers on both sides are trying to work on compromise packages, in the meantime, to end the stalemate and open the government but without any success yet.