Trump denies fresh claim over son’s Russia meeting

Donald Trump has denied fresh claims he had advance knowledge of a meeting between his son and a Russian lawyer ahead of the 2016 US presidential election.

The June 2016 meeting between Donald Trump Jr and Natalia Veselnitskaya – who says she was not acting on behalf of the Russian government – was allegedly set up to glean compromising information on the opposing Clinton campaign.

The Trumps, their lawyers and other White House officials have consistently refuted accusations that the president knew anything about it until he was approached by The New York Times in July 2017.

But now Michael Cohen – the former personal lawyer of the president – has claimed that Mr Trump was aware of the meeting beforehand, which took place at Trump Tower in New York.

CNN reports that Mr Cohen is willing to give such evidence to special counsel Robert Mueller, who is investigating interference in the election by Russia.

The president described the story as “ridiculous” in a series of tweets on Friday, and again dismissed claims that there had been any collusion between his campaign and Russia.

Trump Jr waded into the Twitter spat
Image: Donald Trump Jr is at the centre of the latest storm surrounding the White House

In the final entry of a three-tweet series, the president said: “I did NOT know of the meeting with my son, Don jr.

“Sounds to me like someone is trying to make up stories in order to get himself out of an unrelated jam (Taxi cabs maybe?). He even retained Bill and Crooked Hillary’s lawyer.

“Gee, I wonder if they helped him make the choice!”

Meanwhile, the president’s son has been pictured just metres away from Mr Mueller at Ronald Reagan Washington National Airport on Friday morning.

A special counsel spokesperson told ABC News: “That is Mr Mueller, waiting to board a flight. If it’s accurate that the other person in the photo was Donald Trump Jr, Mr Mueller was not aware of him and had no interaction with him.”

Robert Mueller (on left) and Donald Trump Jr (in baseball cap) at Ronald Reagan Washington National Airport. Pic: Politico Playbook
Image: Robert Mueller (on left) and Donald Trump Jr (in baseball cap) at Ronald Reagan Washington National Airport. Pic: Politico Playbook

The US leader’s latest Twitter outburst came after Russian President Vladimir Putin revealed he has issued an invitation to Mr Trump for a face-to-face meeting in Moscow.

The pair took part in a controversial summit in Helsinki earlier this month, which saw Mr Trump met with a barrage of criticism from Republicans and Democrats alike.

Mr Putin was speaking during a trip to Johannesburg when he broke news that he had made the offer, but added that the conditions for his US counterpart to visit “need to be right”.

He also said he was “ready to go to Washington” in light of an invitation from Mr Trump, who the White House said was “open” to the idea of potentially heading to the Kremlin.

Vladimir Putin praises Donald Trump for keeping promises to voters 0:26
Video: Putin’s praise for Donald Trump

“President Trump looks forward to having President Putin to Washington after the first of the year, and he is open to visiting Moscow upon receiving a formal invitation,” White House press secretary Sarah Sanders said, referring to the beginning of 2019.

Mr Putin was in the South African city on Friday for a meeting of the BRICS nations.

BRICS is made up of five of the major developing global economies – Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa.

During the conference, he suggested that sanctions against his country have turned currency “into a weapon” – and pointed out that the Chinese yuan was growing in influence.

Mr Trump's conduct during the summit has been criticised back in the US
Image: Mr Trump’s conduct during the summit with Mr Putin was criticised back in the US

Mr Trump was also keen to make his own statements on the global economy on Friday, telling reporters during a briefing at the White House that the US was “the economic envy of the entire world”.

With the American economy having surged to its fastest growth rate since 2014, Mr Trump was keen to draw attention to it with the 2018 mid-term elections on the horizon.

The economy went up by 4.1% in the April to June quarter – and Mr Trump said he expected it to climb further.

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“America is being respected again and America is winning again because we are finally putting America first,” he added.

Mr Trump also used the briefing to again thank North Korean leader Kim Jong Un for the return of US servicemen killed during the Korean War.

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