US President Donald Trump, fresh from a political holiday in Paris, went back on the offensive yesterday as a new poll showed his popularity dropping amid doubts about Russian meddling and deepening frustrations over stalled health-care legislation and other issues.
In a tweet early yesterday, Trump used some of his toughest language against a favoured target, the press. “With all of its phony unnamed sources & highly slanted & even fraudulent reporting, #Fake News is DISTORTING DEMOCRACY in our country!” it read.
At the same time, Trump sent one of his private lawyers, Jay Sekulow, onto no fewer than five Sunday talk shows to argue that there was nothing illegal about son Donald Trump Jr’s meeting last year with a Russian attorney following a promise of damaging information on Democratic rival Hillary Clinton. “What took place at the meeting...is not a violation of any law, statute or code,” Sekulow told an NBC interviewer.
He also repeated an earlier assurance that Trump is not the subject of any current investigation over Russian meddling in the US election.
The concerted pushback came as a Washington Post-ABC News poll near the six-month point in Trump’s administration showed him facing significantly declining approval ratings, down from 42% in April to 36% yesterday. Similarly, the president’s disapproval rating has jumped five points to 58%, according to the survey of 1,001 adults.
Trump responded to the survey in a tweet, saying: “The ABC/Washington Post Poll, even though almost 40% is not bad at this time, was just about the most inaccurate poll around election time!”
Nearly half of respondents — 48% — said they “disapprove strongly” of the president’s performance in office, a low level never reached by ex-presidents Bill Clinton or Barack Obama, both Democrats, and reached only once by George W Bush, during his second term.
And 48% said they saw American global leadership weakening since Trump entered the White House, while 27% said it is stronger.
That would seem to show mixed results, at best, from a series of high-profile foreign visits by Trump, including a trip to Saudi Arabia and to a G20 meeting in Germany, where he met with Russian President Vladimir Putin.
Trump’s Bastille day visit to Paris came a day after the poll ended.
Two-thirds of respondents said they do not trust Trump, or trust him only somewhat, in negotiating with foreign leaders. Of those, 48% said they do not trust Trump “at all” in talks with Putin.
Opinions over Russian meddling and possible collusion between Trump aides and Moscow divided sharply along partisan lines, with Democrats far more likely than Republicans to believe that Russia attempted to meddle and that Trump advisers tried to aid in those efforts.
The new survey also showed that Republicans’ legislative struggles may be weighing on Trump’s popularity.
Twice as many people preferred the Obamacare health programme as favoured Republican plans to replace it, the survey found.
The US Senate will “defer” its work on repealing Obamacare for a week as senior lawmaker John McCain recovers from surgery for a blood clot, the chamber’s Republican leader, Mitch McConnell, said Saturday.
The repeal effort is opposed by all Democrats, and the absence of a single Republican vote — McCain’s — could doom it.
Trump had seemed to revel in his brief Parisian respite from all the talk of Russia and healthcare.
He and President Emmanuel Macron reviewed a pomp-filled Bastille Day military parade and dined in a posh restaurant on the Eiffel Tower.
The US president then spent two days playing maitre d’ to professional female golfers taking part in a tournament at his Bedminster course in New Jersey.
But his return brings him straight back into the intensifying storm over his campaign’s contacts with Russia.
As reflected in the poll, even some erstwhile supporters seem to be troubled by the Russia contacts of Trump’s son and advisers, and by the administration’s shifting explanations.
Shepard Smith, an anchor on Fox, a network that has often been in lock-step with the administration, accused the administration of “mind-boggling deception.”
Democrats, meantime, expressed astonishment when top Trump aide Kellyanne Conway seemed to suggest a very high bar for proof of collusion. The standard, she said Friday, should be proof of “hard evidence of systemic, sustained, furtive collusion.”
Two Muslim women join an anti-Trump protest organised by Refuse Fascism LA at the site of Trump’s star on the Walk of Fame in Hollywood on Saturday. Similar protests and demonstrations also took place in cities across the country, including New York, Philadelphia, Houston and Atlanta.
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