Russia scandal dogs US president at G20 summitArchive
BUENOS AIRES: US President Donald Trump’s G20 summit got off to a rocky start on Friday with explosive new allegations of improper links to Russia overshadowing what he had hoped would be a triumphant burst of trade diplomacy.
Trump scored a victory when he and the leaders of Mexico and Canada signed a huge new regional free trade deal known as the USMCA, replacing the quarter-century old NAFTA that the US president tore up after declaring it a job killer.
And he sounded cheerful at talks with his G20 host, Argentinian President Mauricio Macri, whom he called “very handsome,” recalling that he’d once done business with his father in a New York real estate development.
But fallout from the Russia collusion probe followed Trump to Buenos Aires, where the US president cancelled a long-awaited meeting with President Vladimir Putin and tweeted furiously about latest legal developments back home.
The cancellation of Friday’s Putin meeting was ordered in an apparently abrupt decision aboard Air Force One as Trump flew from Washington on Thursday.
Coming just hours after a politically sensitive guilty plea by Trump’s former lawyer brought investigators to focus on the president’s attempts to build a Trump Tower in Moscow, there was immediate speculation that the president essentially wanted to dodge Putin.
The White House denied this, blaming western anger over Russia’s attack last weekend on Ukrainian shipping for the cancellation.
But as the furor continued to swirl on Friday, Trump spokeswoman Sarah Sanders was forced to issue another, more explicit denial.
Referring to the probe as “the Russian Witch Hunt Hoax,” Sanders said it “probably does undermine our relationship with Russia,” but insisted that Ukraine tensions were the sole reason for shutting out Putin.
Trump has always denied any collusion with a Russian effort to tilt the 2016 election in his favour, insisting there is no proof to back the accusations about meetings between his campaign and shadowy Russians, hacked emails and even an alleged blackmail dossier against him.
Published in Dawn, December 1st, 2018