AFP-Jiji WASHINGTON (AFP-Jiji) — U.S. President Donald Trump, battling allegations that Russia helped him win the White House, claimed Wednesday that Vladimir Putin actually would have preferred a Hillary Clinton victory.
Decrying what he called a political “witch hunt,” Trump also came to the defense of his eldest son, Donald Trump Jr., after the release of emails showing his namesake’s embrace of a Russian offer to provide derogatory information about Clinton during the campaign.
The email exchange has been described in some quarters as a possible “smoking gun” in the ongoing investigation by an independent prosecutor into whether Trump’s campaign colluded with Moscow to get the Republican elected.
But in an interview with Pat Robertson of the Christian Broadcasting Network, the billionaire president nonetheless claimed his Russian counterpart would have preferred a win by the Democrat Clinton in 2016.
“There are many things that I do that are the exact opposite of what he [Putin] would want,” Trump said, even though he got along “very, very well” with the longtime Russian leader, whom he met in Hamburg last week.
“So what I keep hearing about that he would have rather had Trump, I think ‘probably not,’ because when I want a strong military, you know she wouldn’t have spent the money on military,” he said.
“When I want tremendous energy — we’re opening up coal, we’re opening up natural gas, we’re opening up fracking, all the things that he would hate — but nobody ever mentions that,” he said.
U.S. president defends son
Trump said that while he only learned of his son’s 2016 meeting with a Russian lawyer “a couple of days ago,” he did not fault Donald Jr. for holding the talks.
“I think many people would have held that meeting,” he told the Reuters news agency.
“This is the greatest Witch Hunt in political history. Sad!” tweeted Trump, who has kept a low profile since returning from a Group of 20 summit in Germany and was to fly out of Washington again late Wednesday for a visit to France.
The Washington Post reported that the Kremlin controversy has thrust the fledgling White House into “chaos” and left Trump “enraged that the Russia cloud still hangs over his presidency.”
CNN quoted a top Republican close to the administration as saying it has left the White House “paralyzed.”
Trump personally sought Wednesday to dispel the image of an administration in crisis and a president obsessed with TV coverage of it.
“The W.H. is functioning perfectly, focused on HealthCare, Tax Cuts/Reform & many other things. I have very little time for watching T.V.” he tweeted.
Donald Trump Jr. released emails on Tuesday in which he was told he could get “very high level and sensitive information” that was “part of Russia and its government’s support for Mr. Trump.”
In response, the 39-year-old — who runs the family real estate business — wrote back saying, “if it’s what you say I love it.” He then held a meeting with Natalia Veselnitskaya, a woman described in the emails as a “Russian government attorney.”
Trump’s then-campaign manager, Paul Manafort, and his son-in-law, Jared Kushner, also attended the June 2016 meeting.