Trump dismisses NY Times story on Arab princes who wanted to influence election

US senator says news report now suggests 2016 election meddling by possibly three foreign countries.

U.S. President Donald Trump speaks at the East Room of the White House May 18, 2018 in Washington, DC. CREDIT: Alex Wong/Getty Images
U.S. President Donald Trump speaks at the East Room of the White House May 18, 2018 in Washington, DC. CREDIT: Alex Wong/Getty Images

President Donald Trump on Sunday dismissed a New York Times story detailing meetings that Donald Trump Jr. allegedly had with an emissary for two Arab princes who offered to help the Trump campaign a few months before the election.

In a flurry of tweets early Sunday, Trump slammed the “failing and crooked” New York Times, and said the Senate Russia investigation has “found nothing on Russia & me.”

Trump said that the Senate investigation has “given up” on Russia and claimed there was a connection between the Senate investigation and The Times’ story on the meeting with an emissary for Arab princes.

According to The Times article, the emissary for the two crown princes from Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates met with Donald Trump Jr. in August 2016. Two other key actors in these meetings included George Nader, a businessman who reportedly has ties to the the Emirates and a social media specialist named Joel Zamel, who offered a “multi-million dollar proposal for a social media manipulation effort to help elect Mr. Trump,” The Times reported.

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Erik Prince, the former CEO of Blackwater and brother to Education Secretary Betsy DeVos, arranged the meeting, according to The Times. After the election, Nader paid Zamel “a large sum of money.”

Senate Intelligence Committee ranking member Mark Warner (D-VA) told CNN’s State of the Union with Jake Tapper that Trump’s tweets show a lack of understanding by the president that it is against the law for foreign powers to meddle in US political affairs.

“If The Times story is true, we now have at least a second and maybe a third nation that was trying to lean in to this campaign. I don’t understand what the president doesn’t get about the law that says if you have a foreign nation interfere in an American election — that is illegal.”

Tapper asked, “But did it take place?”

“What we do know took place is that Russia — a foreign adversarial nation — massively interfered in our elections, both in terms of leaking information on a selective basis, scamming 21 states’ electoral systems, using social media in ways that were basically unprecedented,” Warner said.

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“They were doing it to not only show disarray but help Trump and hurt Clinton. That point was reconfirmed this week on a bipartisan basis.”

Donald Trump Jr. also had a meeting with a Russian lawyer in June 2016. He received an email about “opposition research” on Hillary Clinton from a a publicist who had traveled to Russia, Rob Goldstone. He said the Russian lawyer was “part of Russia and its Government’s support for Mr. Trump.”

According to Saturday’s New York Times piece, there is no information to confirm the offer of the proposal was accepted. The daily writes, however, that “Donald Trump Jr. responded approvingly, according to a person with knowledge of the meeting … ”

Warner also went on Face The Nation on Sunday, where he was asked about the president’s tweets about a government “spy” in Trump’s campaign team.

“I have no information that would indicate that Donald Trump’s tweets are based in truth,” the senator said.