‘Working with countries like India a good thing’

| | Washington

President Donald Trump, who continues to be under unremitting attacks from Democrats over his “cosy” relationship with Russian counterpart Vladimir Putin, has defended his efforts to improve ties with Moscow.

“Working with countries, whether it’s Russia or China or India, or any of the countries that surround this world and encompass this world, is a very good thing. That’s not a bad thing,” Trump said at a joint White House news conference with visiting Norwegian Prime Minister Erna Solberg.

Given that the United States regards India as a close friend and partner, but views both Russia and China as adversaries, it was not immediately clear why President Trump mentioned all three countries in the same vein, except perhaps for the fact that all three are large nations and Washington should be working with each of them.

Trump’s broad defence of his approach towards Russia, in contrast to that of his predecessor Barack Obama, came on a day when Democrats on Capitol Hill kept up their pressure on him over what they see as soft-pedalling of the alleged Russian meddling in the US presidential election.

Senate Democrats also released on Wednesday an extensive report, alleging that the Russian interference in the 2016 White House race fit into a two-decade pattern of meddling with governments arounds the world, and criticizing Trump for what they regard as his kid-glove treatment of Moscow.

“Never before in American history has so clear a threat to national security been so clearly ignored by a US president,” the Democrats’ report charged. Senior Democratic Senator Ben Cardin attacked Trump for having “barely acknowledged the threat posed by Putin’s repeated attacks on democratic governments and institutions”.

Trump, while replying to questions at his news conference, appeared to discount the possibility of being interviewed by Special Counsel Robert Mueller in the ongoing probe to determine if there was any “collusion” between the Trump campaign and Russia in the run-up to the presidential election.

Trump, who has repeatedly and vehemently denied any collusion of the sort, said: “Certainly I’ll see what happens. But when they have no collusion, and nobody’s found any collusion at any level, it seems unlikely that you’d even have an interview.”

“It’s a Democrat hoax that was brought up as an excuse for losing an election,” Trump commented, adding: “I’ll speak to attorneys. I can only say this: There was absolutely no collusion. Everybody knows it.”

Dealing with another subject – a Bill to protect some 8,00,000 young illegal immigrants from deportation – Trump appeared to modify his earlier statement that he would sign a “clean DACA (Deferred Action on Childhood Arrivals) Bill” if it were to emerge from Congress.

Trump, who has been faced with criticism from the Republican base over softening his stance, told a questioner that the Bill must include border security features, including funding for his pet project to build a wall along the Mexican border. 



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