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The Journal Gazette

Friday, July 14, 2017 1:00 am

Trump: Son's action standard

President calls meeting 'research into opponent'

Associated Press

US to certify Iran's compliance

The Trump administration has decided for the second time since January to certify Iranian compliance with the nuclear agreement that President Donald Trump has called a “disastrous” deal, according to U.S. and foreign officials.

The decision followed what several officials characterized as heated internal debate that culminated at a principals committee last week in a clash between a number of White House officials and Secretary of State Rex Tillerson and Defense Secretary Jim Mattis.

Tillerson has statutory responsibility for certifying Iran's compliance to Congress every 90 days, a deadline that falls next Monday. Some White House officials and lawmakers argued that Iran has breached the deal in several significant areas. But Tillerson and Mattis noted that international monitors and U.S. allies have assessed the opposite, and said that any sharp change in U.S. posture should await completion of an ongoing administration review of overall policy toward Iran.

– Washington Post

WASHINGTON – President Donald Trump on Thursday defended his son's meeting with a Russian lawyer, characterizing it as standard campaign practice and maintaining that “nothing happened” as a result of the June sit-down.

The remarks in Paris during a joint news conference with French President Emmanuel Macron came even though Trump's own FBI pick has said authorities should be advised of requests to meet with foreign individuals during a campaign and even after Donald Trump Jr. said he would rethink his own conduct in agreeing to the meeting in the first place.

“I think from a practical standpoint most people would've taken that meeting. It's called opposition research, or even research into your opponent,” Trump said.

Trump Jr. released emails this week from 2016 in which he appeared eager to accept information from the Russian government that could have damaged Hillary Clinton's campaign. The emails were sent ahead of a Trump Tower meeting with a Russian lawyer that Trump's former campaign manager, Paul Manafort, and Trump's son-in-law, Jared Kushner, also attended.

Asked about the meeting Thursday, Trump said “politics is not the nicest business in the world” and that it's standard for candidates to welcome negative information about an opponent. In this case, he added, “nothing happened from the meeting, zero happened from the meeting.”

Trump's comments stood in contrast to the position of his nominee for FBI director, Christopher Wray, who at his confirmation hearing Wednesday was asked what candidates should do if they're told a foreign government wants to help by offering damaging information about an opponent.

“Any threat or effort to interfere with our elections from any nation-state or any non-state actor,” Wray said, “is the kind of thing the FBI would want to know.”

Trump Jr. himself said in a Fox News interview Tuesday night that “in retrospect I probably would have done things a little differently.”

Meanwhile, the Republican chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee said he would call on Trump Jr. to testify as part of an investigation into Russian meddling in last year's election and would subpoena him if necessary. Witnesses who refuse to comply with subpoenas risk being held in contempt.

Sen. Chuck Grassley, R-Iowa, said he wants Trump Jr. to testify “pretty soon,” and it could be as early as next week. He said members aren't restricted “from asking anything they want to ask.” The panel's top Democrat, California Sen. Dianne Feinstein, had also called on Trump Jr. to testify.

The Judiciary Committee is one of several congressional panels investigating Russian meddling in the U.S. election, along with Special Counsel Robert Mueller. U.S. intelligence agencies have accused the Russian government of meddling through hacking in last year's election to benefit Trump and harm Clinton, and authorities are exploring potential coordination between Moscow and the Trump campaign.