US President Donald Trump, fresh from a political holiday in Paris, went back on the offensive as a new poll showed his popularity dropping amid doubts about Russian election meddling and deepening frustrations over stalled health-care legislation. In a tweet early yesterday, Trump used some of his toughest language against a favoured target, the press, saying: “With all of its phoney unnamed sources & highly slanted & even fraudulent reporting, #Fake News is DISTORTING DEMOCRACY in our country!” Trump also sent one of his private lawyers, Jay Sekulow, onto five Sunday talk shows to argue that there was nothing illegal about son Donald Trump Jr.’s meeting last year with a Russian attorney following a promise of damaging information on Democratic rival Hillary Clinton. “What took place at the meeting… is not a violation of any law, statute or code,” Sekulow told NBC. He repeated an earlier assertion that Trump is not the subject of any current investigation into alleged Russian efforts to tilt last year’s election in the Republican’s favour. The concerted pushback came as a Washington Post-ABC News poll near the six-month point in Trump’s administration showed him facing significantly declining approval ratings, down from 42 per cent in April to 36 per cent today.
Similarly, the president’s disapproval rating has jumped five points to 58 per cent, according to the survey of 1,001 adults. Trump responded to the survey in a tweet, saying: “The ABC/Washington Post Poll, even though almost 40 per cent is not bad at this time, was just about the most inaccurate poll around election time!” Nearly half of respondents — 48 per cent — said they “disapprove strongly” of the president’s performance in office, a low level never reached by ex-presidents Bill Clinton or Barack Obama, both Democrats and reached only once by George W Bush, during his second term. And 48 per cent said they saw American global leadership weakening since Trump entered the White House, while 27 per cent said it is stronger. That would seem to show mixed results, at best, from a series of high-profile foreign visits by Trump, including to Saudi Arabia and to a Group of 20 meeting in Germany, where he met with Russian President Vladimir Putin. Trump’s Bastille Day visit to Paris came a day after the poll ended.
Two-thirds of respondents said they do not trust Trump, or trust him only somewhat, in negotiating with foreign leaders. Republicans’ legislative struggles may also be weighing on Trump’s popularity. Twice as many of those surveyed preferred the Obamacare health program as favoured Republican plans to replace it. The US Senate will “defer” its work on repealing Obamacare for a week as senior lawmaker John McCain recovers from blood-clot surgery, the chamber’s Republican leader, Mitch McConnell, said Saturday. The repeal effort is opposed by all Democrats, and the loss of a single Republican vote could doom it.