- The Washington Times - Sunday, July 9, 2017

White House Chief of Staff Reince Priebus denied Sunday that President Trump accepted Russian President Vladimir Putin’s claim at the Group of 20 summit that the Kremlin did not meddle in last year’s U.S. election.

“The president absolutely did not believe the denial of President Putin,” Mr. Priebus told “Fox News Sunday.”

However, Mr. Priebus reissued the White House’s belief that while Russia likely meddled in U.S. campaigns, other nations have as well.

Mr. Trump’s meeting with Mr. Putin was the main story out of last week’s summit in Hamburg, Germany.

Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov suggested that Mr. Trump accepted Mr. Putin’s claim he did not meddle in the election, though Trump administration officials insisted they took a hard line.

“This was an extensive portion of the meeting,” Mr. Priebus said.

Despite frictions, Mr. Trump signaled he wants to work with Russia on maintaining a cease-fire in Syria and fighting the Islamic State.

“Now it is time to move forward in working constructively with Russia!” the president tweeted Sunday morning.

Mr. Priebus said it’s OK to make progress with Russia, even as questions about election meddling remain.

“You can walk and chew gum at the same time,” he told Fox.

Yet new revelations added fuel to probes into alleged collusion between Russian officials and the Trump campaign, however.

Mr. Trump’s eldest son, Donald Trump Jr., just disclosed that he met with a Russian lawyer with ties to the Kremlin, Natalia Veselnitskaya, in June 2016 at Trump Tower.

Jared Kushner, Mr. Trump’s son-in-law and now a White House adviser, and former Trump campaign chairman Paul Manafort also attended.

Advocates of sanctions against Russia say the lawyer is an opponent of the Magnitsky Act, a U.S. law that blacklists Russians suspected of human rights abuses, according to a New York Times report.

Rep. Adam B. Schiff of California, the top Democrat on the House Intelligence Committee, told CNN that congressional investigators will need to “get to the bottom” of what happened at the meeting.

Mr. Priebus downplayed the meeting’s significance, saying it was about an adoption program.

“It was a very short meeting. … It was a meeting, apparently, about Russian adoption,” he said with a shrug.

The Times report said Ms. Veselnitskaya employs a private investigator tied to Fusion GPS, a firm that developed a dossier with unproven allegations against Mr. Trump.

Though Fusion denied involvement in the meeting, Mr. Priebus hinted at malfeasance among Mr. Trump’s opponents.

“I think there’s more questions on the Democratic side than anywhere else,” Mr. Priebus said.

• Tom Howell Jr. can be reached at thowell@washingtontimes.com.

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