The President will be called upon to rescue a Republican push to repeal Obamacare that now appears to be in significant trouble, and he is facing increasing fallout from his meeting with Russian President Vladimir Putin, which offered new openings to his critics.
But even as the turmoil deepens around his White House intensifies, Trump will only be home for a few days.
The President heads back to Europe later in the week to be the guest of honor at France’s Bastille Day parade Friday on a trip that will paper over divisions between the White House and Western powers on display at the G20 summit. Trump was isolated on trade policy and was rebuked over his decision to pull the United States out of the Paris accord on combating climate change, although both positions were exactly in line with the promises he made to American voters that led to his victory in the 2016 presidential election.
Still, the visit will highlight Trump’s increasing ease on the international stage after a visit last week in which he argued that the trajectory of the West should be closer to his nationalistic, populist politics than the more liberal reflexes on immigration and the reach of government that are favored by US allies across the Atlantic.
The most significant moment of Trump’s journey to Germany and Poland, which ended when Air Force One touched down at Joint Base Andrews on Saturday night, was his long-awaited meeting with Putin.
Russia meeting revelations
The encounter was lent added significance by the special counsel probe into whether Trump’s campaign aides colluded with Moscow in election meddling. It came shortly before The New York Times reported that Trump’s oldest son, Donald Trump Jr., son-in-law Jared Kushner, and then-campaign chairman Paul Manafort met with a Russian lawyer last year
— the first known meeting of several of the senior-most members of Trump’s team and a Russian national during the campaign.
The Times, which first reported on the previously undisclosed meeting, said Donald Trump Jr. was promised damaging information about Hillary Clinton before agreeing to meet with the Kremlin-connected lawyer during the 2016 campaign. The meeting took place at Trump Tower on June 9, 2016, the Times reported — two weeks after Trump clinched the Republican presidential nomination.
Trump Jr. said in a statement to CNN
that he was not told the name of the person he was meeting with beforehand and told his brother-in-law and Manafort “nothing of the substance” when he invited them to attend. He added that his father “knew nothing of the meeting or these events.”
The explosive story promises to heighten the controversy over the collusion allegations and the President’s meeting with Putin, which have hung over the White House’s policy efforts.
The administration has said the President made a “robust” effort
to raise the issue of Russian election interference in his talks with the Russian president. But a dispute over what exactly was said erupted, after the talks on the sidelines of the G20 summit in Germany. Moscow said Trump accepted its arguments that it had not intervened in the election, a version of events the White House denies.
“The President absolutely did not believe the denial of President Putin,” White House chief of staff Reince Priebus said on Fox News Sunday.
“What the President did is he immediately came into the meeting, talked about Russian meddling in the US election, went after that issue at least two separate times,” Priebus said
Republican Sen. Lindsey Graham, however, said that Trump’s meeting with the Russian leader in Hamburg amounted to a serious error.
“He had what I think is a disastrous meeting with President Putin,” Graham said on NBC’s “Meet the Press.”
The South Carolina Senator said that Secretary of State Rex Tillerson’s statement
that Trump “rightly” focused on how to move past election interference issues was misguided.
“Tillerson and Trump are ready to forgive and forget when it comes to cyberattacks on the American election of 2016,” he said.
Trump also sought to shape the emerging narrative over the meeting, apparently seeking to rebut critics who argue that he was not sufficiently tough on the election meddling issue in the Putin showdown.
“Putin & I discussed forming an impenetrable Cyber Security unit so that election hacking, & many other negative things, will be guarded,” Trump tweeted on Sunday.
Health care bill in trouble
While the Russian controversy deepens, the President may also be called into rescue the faltering push to repeal Obamacare, amid signs that discord in the Senate over the issue could derail a foundational Republican promise.
The bill is one of the most unpopular pieces of legislation in years, and Republicans are struggling to bridge divides between conservatives, who say it doesn’t go far enough to repeal the former President’s signature health care law and moderates who fear they could pay a political price, if, as predicted by the Congressional Budget Office, the bill results in thousands of Americans losing access to health care.
The chances that the Republican dominated Senate will act on the bill appear to be receding by the hour.
“My view is it’s probably going to be dead,
” Arizona Sen. John McCain said on CBS’s “Face The Nation.”
“I fear that it’s going to fail,” he added.
A failure to act on health care could have serious political consequences, saddling Republicans with the blame for not fixing the deficiencies of the current Obamacare system.
It could also cause a backlash among grassroots GOP supporters who have sent successive Republican majorities to Washington on the rationale that they would repeal Obamacare.