Turnberry (Scotland), Jul 14: Two days before a high-stakes summit with Russian President Vladimir Putin, President Donald Trump played golf and tweeted today from one of his namesake resorts, blaming his predecessor for Russian election meddling and lashing out at the free press from foreign soil.
Aides had said Trump would spend the weekend preparing to meet Putin on Monday in Helsinki, but the tweets showed other topics were on his mind. "I have arrived in Scotland and will be at Trump Turnberry for two days of meetings, calls and hopefully, some golf - my primary form of exercise!" he tweeted early today, referencing his seaside golf resort. "The weather is beautiful, and this place is incredible! Tomorrow I go to Helsinki for a Monday meeting with Vladimir Putin."
Trump was later seen playing the Turnberry links, several holes of which are visible from a nearby beach, where dozens of people staged a protest picnic Saturday. He was videotaped waving at protesters as they shouted "No Trump, No KKK, No Racist USA!" before resuming his game. He was also seen posing for photos. A line of police, some on horseback, stood between the course and protesters. Snipers perched atop a nearby tower overlooking the vast property.
The protesters were among the thousands who came out in Scotland and England in opposition to the US president's visit to both countries. Some 10,000 people marched today through the Scottish capital of Edinburgh, while police searched for a paraglider who breached a no-fly zone and flew a protest banner over the resort in western Scotland where Trump and his wife, Melania, are staying through tomorrow.
The glider carried a banner that said "Trump: Well Below Par" over the resort last night to protest his environmental and immigration policies. In Edinburgh, anti-fascist groups and political activists joined those who said they'd never protested before, weaving through the capital's streets waving an array of makeshift anti-Trump banners. A choir, a bagpiper, a tambourine band and poetry readings added to the carnival spirit.
"Donald Trump is not welcome here," Scottish Labour leader Richard Leonard told the crowd. "The horrific scenes at the Mexican border are just the latest example of his repudiation of decent human values." Protesters also launched a 20-foot-tall (6-meter) blimp depicting Trump as an angry baby that had flown over anti-Trump protests in London yesterday.
Trump has spent the weeklong trip wreaking havoc in Europe, first at a NATO summit in Brussels where he questioned the value of the decades-old alliance, and later in Britain, where he faced fallout from a stunning newspaper interview in which he undermined British Prime Minister Theresa May at an especially vulnerable time. But Trump was also keeping tabs on domestic issues, including the investigations into Russian election meddling.
In today's tweets, Trump tried to blame former President Barack Obama for failing to stop the Russians from working to help him win the 2016 election. "The stories you heard about the 12 Russians yesterday took place during the Obama Administration, not the Trump Administration," Trump tweeted, asking why they didn't "do something about it, especially when it was reported that President Obama was informed by the FBI in September, before the Election?" It was Trump's first response to indictments announced yesterday in Washington against 12 Russian military intelligence officers who allegedly hacked into the presidential campaign of Hillary Clinton, Trump's Democratic rival, and the Democratic Party, and released tens of thousands of emails in a sweeping Kremlin conspiracy to help Trump.
Trump denies that he or any campaign aides were involved with the Russian campaign and repeatedly dismisses the ongoing investigation that produced yesterday's indictments as a "witch hunt." Trump told reporters he plans to raise election meddling with Putin but said he doesn't expect Putin to ever accept blame. "I will absolutely bring that up. I don't think you'll have any 'Gee, I did it. I did it. You got me,'" Trump said yesterday, referring to Putin. Leading Democratic senators asked Trump in a letter today to scrap the summit if he was not prepared "to make Russia's attack on our election the top issue you will discuss." And John McCain, a leading Republican senator and Trump critic, said Trump must hold Putin accountable or not proceed with the meeting. But Trump's chief diplomat, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, told journalists traveling with him that he was confident the meeting would "put America in a better place."
Trump's tweets also targeted CNN, mocking the American cable channel's president, Jeff Zucker, as "Little Jeff Z" and knocking its election coverage following the president's spat with a CNN correspondent at a news conference yesterday in England. "So funny! I just checked out Fake News CNN, for the first time in a long time (they are dying in the ratings), to see if they covered my takedown yesterday of Jim Acosta (actually a nice guy). They didn't!" Acosta had objected to Trump dismissing the news outlet as "fake news."
In fact, CNN reported on the exchange of words and interviewed Acosta on air about what happened. Acosta also replied to Trump on Twitter. "Takedown? I don't think so. Perhaps we should even the playing field next time and you can take my question. (You're right about one thing.. I am a nice guy)," Acosta said today.
Trump's repeated attacks on the news media while overseas — he also lashed out at NBC News and The Sun newspaper during yesterday's news conference — has alarmed free speech advocates, especially as Trump is set to hold a joint press availability Monday with Putin, whose country is known for being deeply hostile to a free press.
White House Correspondents' Association President Margaret Talev said in a statement that "saying a news organisation isn't real doesn't change the facts and won't stop us from doing our jobs." Trump's decision to stay yet again at a property he owns — and has repeatedly advertised during the drip — caught the attention of ethics experts, who say Trump should not profit off the presidency.