Trump Vents on `$20 Million Witch Hunt' After Gulf-Help News

(Bloomberg) -- President Donald Trump reacted angrily to a report that his campaign was offered help by two Middle Eastern countries in the run-up to the 2016 vote, deriding a “soon to be $20,000,000 Witch Hunt” in a series of Twitter messages.

It was the president’s first response to a New York Times report on Saturday that an emissary from Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates met with members of Trump’s team, including his eldest son, at Trump Tower in New York about three months before the election, offering to help the billionaire developer win.

The Times “has done a long & boring story indicating that the World’s most expensive Witch Hunt has found nothing on Russia & me so now they are looking at the rest of the World!” the president told his 52 million Twitter followers in the first of six tweets.

It’s illegal for foreign governments or individuals to be involved in U.S. elections. But the Senate Intelligence Committee’s top Democrat said the Times report suggested Trump’s campaign had been “clearly receptive” to such offers.

Doesn’t Get It

“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’s illegal,” Senator Mark Warner of Virginia said on CNN’s “State of the Union.”

“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,” Warner said.

An attorney for Donald Trump Jr. confirmed on Saturday that a meeting took place with, among other people, Erik Prince, founder of the private military company Blackwater USA, which is now known as Academi.

“Prior to the 2016 election, Donald Trump Jr. recalls a meeting with Eric (sic) Prince, George Nader, and another individual who may be Joel Zamel. They pitched Mr. Trump Jr. on a social media platform or marketing strategy. He was not interested and that was the end of it,” attorney Alan Futerfas said in an emailed statement.

Zamel, an Israeli social-media expert, has become a focus of Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation into Russian interference in the 2016 campaign, according to media reports. Nader is an emissary for the princes of Saudi Arabia and the UAE. The New York Times reported that Prince, the brother of U.S. Education Secretary Betsy Devos, arranged the meeting.

Eager and Willing

“If these facts are accurate, it demonstrates yet again just how not only willing but eager the president’s son and the Trump campaign were to solicit to receive foreign help,” Representative Adam Schiff, Democrat of California, said on NBC’s “Meet the Press.”

The specifics of the meeting were previously unknown to the House Intelligence Committee, said Schiff, the panel’s top Democrat.

Trump’s tweetstorm on Sunday touched on some of his regular targets, including his Democratic election opponent, Hillary Clinton, the Democratic National Committee, former Virginia Governor Terry McAuliffe and former deputy FBI Director Andrew McCabe and his wife, Jill.

“Now that the Witch Hunt has given up on Russia and is looking at the rest of the World, they should easily be able to take it into the Mid-Term Elections where they can put some hurt on the Republican Party,” Trump said. “Don’t worry about Dems FISA Abuse, missing Emails or Fraudulent Dossier!”

On Friday, Michael Bromwich, an attorney for McCabe, pushed back on Trump’s regular suggestions that the former FBI official should be investigated for donations received by Jill McCabe during a unsuccessful bid for the Virginia state Senate in 2015.

“What prompts you do defame the McCabes every two weeks or so?” Bromwich said on Twitter. “There was no misuse of campaign funds, as you have repeatedly and falsely suggested. You need to stop lying about the McCabes.”

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