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Trump Russia claims: Mood in the White House is ‘fantastic’

Donald Trump Jr and Natalia VeselnitskayaImage copyright AFP
Image caption Controversy surrounds Donald Trump Jr’s meeting with Natalia Veselnitskaya

President Donald Trump says the mood in the White House is “fantastic” despite intense scrutiny of his campaign’s alleged dealings with Russia.

He told Reuters the administration was “functioning beautifully”.

The president also defended his son, who it has emerged met a Russian lawyer during the election campaign.

US media have described the White House as in chaos over the story, with a Trump ally calling it a “Category 5 hurricane”, the Washington Post said.

Donald Trump Jr met Natalia Veselnitskaya believing she had information that would damage his father’s opponent Hillary Clinton.

Mr Trump Jr told Fox News the meeting was “such a nothing”, and “a wasted 20 minutes”, but accepted he should have handled it differently.

Critics say he may have broken federal laws.

US intelligence believe Moscow tried to sway the 2016 election in Mr Trump’s favour and there are ongoing investigations into potential links between Mr Trump’s campaign team and Russia.

Moscow has repeatedly denied the claims.

In his Reuters interview, Mr Trump called the allegations “a hoax made up by the Democrats”. He has previously suggested other agents may have meddled in the election, despite senior officials in his own administration blaming Russia.

‘Most people would have had that meeting’

Mr Trump said he had not been aware of his son’s meeting with Ms Veselnitskaya until a couple of days ago.

Defending Donald Jr’s decision to attend, he added: “Many people, and many political pros, said everybody would do that.”

The president described the election campaign as “a wild time” when “we would meet with many people”.

He refused to say that he regretted Donald Jr’s actions, commenting: “Most of the phony politicians who are Democrats who I watched over the last couple of days… would have taken that meeting in a heartbeat.”

In another interview, with the Christian Broadcasting Network, he also said he gets along “very well” with Russia’s President Vladimir Putin.

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Media captionTrump: Putin would prefer Clinton

His comments came days after his much-anticipated meeting with Mr Putin at the G20 summit in Hamburg.

“People said, oh, they shouldn’t get along. Well, who are the people saying that? I think we get along very, very well,” he said.

Mr Trump cited the recent ceasefire in south-western Syria as an example of how co-operation with Mr Putin worked.

He said he was sure the Russians would have preferred to have Democrat Hillary Clinton in the White House.

Why? “If Hillary had won, our military would be decimated,” he said.

“Our energy would be much more expensive. That’s what Putin doesn’t like about me. And that’s why I say, why would he want me?”

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Media captionTrump voters in Nebraska dismiss Russia story

He told Reuters he had asked Mr Putin flat-out if his government meddled in the US election.

“I said, ‘Did you do it?’ He said, ‘No, I did not, absolutely not.’ I then asked him a second time, in a totally different way. He said, ‘Absolutely not.'”

“Somebody did say, if he did do it, you wouldn’t have found out about it. Which is a very interesting point.”

The US president is currently travelling to Paris, where he will join Bastille Day celebrations.

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