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Donald Trump

Trump’s presidential approval rating hits a record low as Russia scandal swirls

PUBLISHED : Monday, 17 July, 2017, 8:41am
UPDATED : Monday, 17 July, 2017, 9:24pm

Donald Trump’s approval rating has plunged in a national poll, published on Sunday, that charts Americans’ perceptions of a stalling domestic policy agenda and declining leadership on the world stage.

The Washington Post/ABC News poll, which put Trump’s six-month presidential approval rating at a historic 70-year low, came amid mounting controversy over Russian interference in the 2016 election.

It emerged on Saturday that Trump’s campaign committee made a payment to the legal firm representing the president’s eldest son almost two weeks before a meeting between Trump Jr and a Russian lawyer promising compromising information on Hillary Clinton was made public.

Trump now has a 36 per cent approval rating, down six points from his first 100 days’ rating. That is the lowest rating, six months into the tenure of any US president, since such polling began in 1945.

The poll found that 48 per cent believed America’s leadership in the world is weaker than before the billionaire took office, while support for Republican plans to replace Barack Obama’s Affordable Care Act was at just 24 per cent compared with 50 per cent who support Obama’s signature healthcare policy.

Trump, who has spent the weekend at his private golf club in Bedminster, New Jersey, attempted to downplay the poll’s findings. On Sunday morning he used Twitter to claim that “almost 40% is not bad at this time” and that the poll in question had been “just about the most inaccurate around election time!”.

In fact, the Washington Post/ABC poll came close to predicting the popular vote on election day – which Hillary Clinton won by 2.5million ballots.

The latest poll also found that 63 per cent of people thought the June 2016 meeting between senior members of Trump’s inner circle, including Donald Trump Jr and son-in-law Jared Kushner, and a group of Russians including the lawyer Natalia Veselnitskaya, was inappropriate.

On Saturday, a campaign finance report filed to the Federal Election Commission revealed that Trump’s campaign committee had paid US$50,000 to Trump Jr’s lawyer Alan Futerfas on 27 June, 13 days before the New York Times revealed the meeting had taken place.

Trump himself told reporters on Wednesday he had only been made aware of the 2016 meeting, which occurred in Trump Tower, “two or three days ago” – raising the prospect that his campaign committee could have known about the contact before the president did.

Under pressure from the New York Times, Trump Jr last week released damning emails revealing he eagerly embraced what he was told was a Russian government attempt to damage the Clinton campaign.

The emails show music promoter Rob Goldstone telling the future president’s son that “the crown prosecutor of Russia” had offered “to provide the Trump campaign with some official documents and information that would incriminate Hillary and her dealings with Russia and would be very useful to your father”. The offer was part of the Russian government’s efforts to support the Trump campaign, Goldstone told Trump Jr.

The New York Times reported that Trump signed off on his son’s first statement to the Times about the meeting, which like subsequent statements was soon revealed not to be a full account of events.

Kushner, Trump’s senior adviser, and then campaign manager Paul Manafort also attended the meeting. It was revealed on Friday that Rinat Akhmetshin, a Russian American lobbyist and former Soviet military officer, was present as well.

Earlier on Sunday morning, Trump tweeted more outspoken support for his eldest son.

“Hillary Clinton can illegally get the questions to the debate & delete 33,000 emails but my son Don is being scorned by the Fake News Media?” the president wrote.

Trump has previously described the political storm over his son’s meeting as “the greatest witch-hunt in political history” and “sad!” and said anyone would have taken the meeting as offered.

Speaking to reporters on Air Force One on Thursday, the president said 39-year-old Donald Jr was “a good boy” and added: “And he had a meeting, nothing happened with the meeting. It was a short meeting, as he told me – because I only heard about it two or three days ago.”