In France, Trump Responds To Son's Decision To Meet With Russian Lawyer

Jul 13, 2017
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ARI SHAPIRO, HOST:

Politics is not the nicest business. That's the explanation President Trump offered today for his son's decision to meet with a Russian lawyer last year in hopes of obtaining dirt on Hillary Clinton. Critics have pointed to that meeting as a possible link between Trump's campaign and Russia's effort to interfere in the U.S. election. The president insists it was nothing out of the ordinary.

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PRESIDENT DONALD TRUMP: I have a son who is a great young man. He's a fine person. He took a meeting with a lawyer from Russia. It lasted for a very short period. And nothing came of the meeting. And I think it's a meeting that most people in politics probably would have taken.

SHAPIRO: Trump was speaking at a joint news conference in Paris with French President Emmanuel Macron. NPR's Scott Horsley reports.

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SCOTT HORSLEY, BYLINE: Trump is in Paris to celebrate Bastille Day and to mark the 100th anniversary of the U.S. entry into World War I. American troops will join their French counterparts in a military parade tomorrow along the Champs-Elysees, a symbol of the longstanding ties between the United States and its oldest ally.

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TRUMP: French and American patriots have fought together, bled together and died together in the fight for our countries and our civilizations.

HORSLEY: That alliance has been strained, though, under Trump and his policies of America First. He's criticized NATO allies for what he sees as inadequate defense spending. He's complained about trade imbalances. And he announced plans to withdraw the U.S. from the Paris climate accord. Macron's invitation is designed to keep Trump at least partially engaged with European allies. As the French president told reporters through an interpreter, he and his wife are hosting the Trumps for an intimate dinner tonight.

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PRESIDENT EMMANUEL MACRON: (Through interpreter) This evening at the Eiffel Tower, it will be a dinner between friends.

HORSLEY: Trump and Macron shook hands several times for photographers today without the clenched teeth of their first meeting two months ago. Pressed by reporters, Trump also backed away from his earlier comments that France's liberal immigration policies and the threat of terrorism had dimmed the lights of Paris as a tourist destination.

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TRUMP: It's going to be just fine because you have a great president. You have somebody that's going to run this country right. And I would be willing to bet because I think this is one of the great cities, one of the most beautiful cities in the world.

HORSLEY: Trump and Macron both say they see eye-to-eye on terrorism as Trump recalled the attack in Nice, France, that occurred a year ago on Bastille Day. The two men are much farther apart on the threat posed by climate change, though Trump said vaguely there could be some movement there.

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TRUMP: Something could happen with respect to the Paris accord. We'll see what happens. But we will talk about that over the coming period of time. And if it happens, that'll be wonderful. And if it doesn't, that will be OK, too.

HORSLEY: Europeans have made it clear they have no intention of reopening the climate talks. At last week's G-20 summit, All 19 members beside the U.S. said the Paris Agreement is irreversible. Both Macron and Trump stress the need to cooperate where possible with Russian President Vladimir Putin. Trump continues to argue that stories about Russian meddling in the U.S. election are overblown despite the new revelations about his son's meeting last year with a Russian lawyer.

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TRUMP: Nothing happened from the meeting. Zero happened from the meeting. And honestly I think the press made a very big deal over something that really a lot of people would do.

HORSLEY: The chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee, however, says he wants to hear Don Jr.'s account of that meeting as early as next week. That suggests the Russia story will continue to dog the president when he returns home from Paris tomorrow night. Scott Horsley, NPR News. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.