ReutersWASHINGTON (Reuters) — Fresh off one foreign trip and preparing for another, Donald Trump was enjoying a period of relative calm — until the White House was rocked by a fresh controversy over contacts between the president’s campaign and Russia.
For Trump, who has been swept up all year in crises of his own making, this time the target was his eldest son, Donald Trump Jr., whose meeting with a Russian lawyer last year led to accusations that the president’s son entertained working with Russians to spread negative information about Democrat Hillary Clinton.
Among Trump’s wide-ranging group of outside advisers and former campaign officials, Donald Jr.’s meeting with the lawyer on the expectation of gaining access to negative information on Clinton was seen as problematic, a demonstration of the son’s political inexperience, but not illegal.
“You can’t shrug this off even though you know he’s very likely going to be okay,” said an outside Trump adviser, who asked to remain unidentified. “This is the president’s namesake and you have to circle the wagons in defense of the president’s son.”
“There’s no question in my mind that every person in the White House has some level of concern about this. Otherwise it’s malpractice,” the adviser said.
Inside the White House, the mood was one of heavy acceptance that another political problem had emerged but also of caution as to its significance for a wider probe into Russia’s meddling in the election and whether there was collusion with the Trump campaign.
Benumbed by previous crises from the firing of then-FBI Director James Comey to the appointment of a special prosecutor, White House officials showed no signs of panic and said they were trying to advance the president’s agenda.
The new incident erupted as Trump seemingly enjoyed a rare moment of calm. His trip to Warsaw and Hamburg last week went fairly smoothly, although critics accused him of not being tough enough in his meeting with Russian President Vladimir Putin.
On Wednesday, he is to depart to Paris for talks with French President Emmanuel Macron and to participate in flag-waving Bastille Day ceremonies.
Trump himself was described by the White House as frustrated by yet another distraction involving the Russia investigation.
“He knows that he didn’t do anything and he really wants to focus on the good things that are happening and the things he was elected to do, and he doesn’t like it when things get in the way,” a senior White House official said.Speech