Donald Trump Jr dismisses Russian lawyer meeting as ‘a nothing’

Donald Trump Jr has played down a meeting with a Kremlin-linked lawyer who had promised him damaging information about Hillary Clinton during his father’s bid for the US presidency last year.

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He was speaking to Fox News after releasing a 2016 email chain in which he appeared to welcome the help from the Russian government attorney after being promised by an intermediary “high level” information about Mrs Clinton, that was “part of Russia and its government’s support for Mr Trump.”

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But the eldest Trump son dismissed the subsequent meeting as “a nothing” which failed to lead to anything fruitful.

He said he decided to meet with lawyer Natalia Veselnitskaya as a favour to Rob Goldstone, a friend and publicist for a Russian pop star, and for ‘research’ on an opponent.

“In retrospect I probably would have done things a little differently,” Trump Jr told Fox News.

“Again this is before Russia mania, this was before they were building it up in the press.

“For me this was opposition research – something you know, concrete evidence as to all the stories I’d been hearing about.

“I wanted to hear it out, but really, it went nowhere and it was apparent that wasn’t what the meeting was actually about.”

‘This is pre-Russia fever’

Speaking on the Sean Hannity program, Trump Jr said he was unsure if sirens went off when the email pointed to Russian government help.

But he wanted to hear out what would be said in the meeting.

“I mean this was her (Hillary Clinton), perhaps involvement with the Russian government,” Trump Jr said.

“Someone sent me an email; I can’t help what someone sends me.”

The eldest Trump son said he didn’t know who he was meeting and had “never heard” of Veselnitskaya.

“This is pre-Russia fever… the rest of the world was talking about that trying to build up this narrative about Russia,” he said.

“I don’t think my sirens went up, or the antennas went up… because it wasn’t the issue that it’s made out to be over the last nine months, ten months since it really became a thing so I think there is an element of context at the time.”

What eventuated in the meeting, he said, was “nonsensical” and quickly went on to a story about Russian adoption.

Ten minutes in, Jared Kushner, the president’s son-in-law who also attended, left the meeting, while the-then Trump campaign chairman Paul Manafort went on the phone.

“This was such a nothing,” Trump Jr said.

“There was nothing to tell. It was a wasted 20 minutes, it was such a shame.”

He also denied collusion with the Russian government.

“There was nothing I would do to endanger this country.”

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NSW player ratings for State of Origin III

BLUES PLAYER RATINGS FOR THE STATE OF ORIGIN DECIDER:

1.

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JAMES TEDESCO – Shining light among the Blues’ backs. A gallant effort but lacked support to damage the Maroons. 7

2. BLAKE FERGUSON – Ran aggressively but didn’t get his hands on the football enough. 6

3. JOSH DUGAN – Scored the Blues’ only try with a superb aerial contest. Struggled to have a major impact outside of that and made a couple of rudimentary errors. 6.5

4. JARRYD HAYNE – Went missing in the first half and failed to pass when NSW had a chance to score in the second. Didn’t show enough in defence. 5.5

5. BRETT MORRIS – Brilliant try-saving tackle on Cooper Cronk helped the Blues to be closer than they should have been at halftime. Workmanlike in defence, but limited opportunities in attack. 6.5

6. JAMES MALONEY – Set up Dugan’s try with a high kick but an otherwise quiet night in attack. Made up for missed tackles with a try-saving effort on Tim Glasby as he loped towards the line. 7

7. MITCHELL PEARCE – Couldn’t get control. Failed to hurt the Maroons with his kicking in a largely forgettable night. 5

8. AARON WOODS – Showed glimpses early but one of the many key Blues’ players who couldn’t fight the Maroons’ tide. 6

9. NATHAN PEATS – Worked hard in defence and hard to fault his distribution. Has shown he is a worthy Origin player. 7

10. ANDREW FIFITA – Failed to have the impact which broke apart game one. 5

11. JOSH JACKSON – Didn’t play a major part with Queensland’s pack on top of the NSW forwards. 5

12. BOYD CORDNER (capt) – Patchy performance. Finished with almost 140 metres but made costly errors. 6.5

13. TYSON FRIZELL – Was good when the momentum swung back to NSW early in the second half, but well held overall. 6

INTERCHANGE:

14. DAVID KLEMMER – Best of the Blues’ big men. Ran for more than 160 metres and had more impact through the middle than starting props Woods and Fifita. 7.5

15. WADE GRAHAM – Gave away a penalty at a crucial time in the second half which led to the Maroons regaining momentum. 5

16. JAKE TRBOJEVIC – Good performance in a losing cause, proving he will be an Origin mainstay in years to come. 7

17. JACK BIRD – Came off the bench and showed glimpses but limited minutes. 6

Yellen tells Congress to expect rate hikes

Federal Reserve Chair Janet Yellen has told Congress that the central bank expects to keep raising interest rates at a gradual pace, and also plans to start trimming its massive bond holdings this year.

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In her semi-annual testimony on the economy, Yellen took note of a number of encouraging factors, including strong job gains and rising household wealth,that she said should fuel economic growth over the next two years.

She blamed a recent slowdown in inflation on temporary factors. But she says Fed officials are watching developments closely to make sure that annual price gains move back toward the Fed’s two per cent target.

Many economists believe the Fed, which has raised rates three times since December, will hike rates one more time this year.

In her prepared testimony before the House Financial Services Committee on Wednesday, Yellen repeated the message she has been sending all year. The economy has improved enough that it no longer needs the extraordinary support the central bank began providing in 2008 in the wake of a severe financial crisis and the deepest recession since the 1930s.

She noted that since the depths of the recession, unemployment is now down to 4.4 per cent, near a 16-year low.

And while the economy started the year with a sluggish growth rate of just 1.4 per cent, it has regained momentum in recent months, helped by strong job gains, a revival of business investment and a strengthening of overseas economies.

But Yellen cautioned that “considerable uncertainty always attends the economic outlook”.

Those include whether inflation will indeed pick up, as well as questions about how much of President Donald Trump’s economic program will make it through Congress.

She noted that while the global economy appears stronger, “a number of our trading partners continue to confront economic challenges”.

“At present, I see roughly equal odds that the US economy’s performance will be somewhat stronger or somewhat less strong than we currently project,” she said.

Yellen made no reference in her prepared remarks to what many investors see as one of the biggest unknowns at the moment – whether Trump will ask Yellen to remain as Fed leader when her current term ends next February.

Yellen so far has deflected questions about whether she would accept a second four-term term as chairman if Trump asked her to remain.

She also did not mention the potential impact of Trump’s other Fed nominations on central bank interest rate decisions and its approach to its other job, regulating the nation’s largest banks.

During last year’s presidential campaign, Trump was critical of the central bank for its low-rate policies, which he said were helping Democrats, and for its efforts to enact tougher regulations on banks in response to the 2008 financial crisis.

On Monday, the administration announced that it had chosen Randal Quarles, a Treasury Department official under two Republican presidents, to serve as vice chairman for supervision, the Fed’s top bank regulatory post.

The Fed slashed its key policy rate to a record low near zero in December 2008 to combat the worst economic downturn since the 1930s – and kept it there for seven years until nudging it up modestly in December 2015.

It then left the rate unchanged for another year until raising it again in December of last year, followed by increases in March and June this year.

Even so, the rate remains in a still-low range between one per cent and 1.25 per cent.

Smith guides new-look Qld to Origin win

It was supposed to be the end of an era.

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But Queensland’s dominance does not look like ending anytime soon after their 22-6 win over NSW at Suncorp Stadium on Wednesday night clinched their 11th series triumph in 12 years.

Winger Valentine Holmes nabbed a hat-trick in just his second Origin while man of the match Cameron Smith again turned back the clock to extend the team’s dynasty in front of a record 52,540-strong crowd.

The decider was billed as a changing of the guard for the Maroons with champion five-eighth Johnathan Thurston receiving a pre-match tribute.

His 37-game Origin career was ended by a shoulder injury in Queensland’s dramatic game two win.

It may have also been the final game for fellow Maroons greats Billy Slater and Cooper Cronk, who are yet to decide whether to play on in 2018.

However, Queensland officially began life after Thurston just the way they left it; by breaking NSW hearts and clinching their 13th Origin decider – and seventh straight.

In a touch of class, Smith invited Thurston to lift the Origin shield with him on the podum.

“I reckon you are the greatest player to ever pull on a jersey,” Smith said to Thurston.

Smith said later of the moment: “It was pretty special but I would much prefer if he was out there with us on the field.

“I wanted to give him the moment he deserved, I wanted to share it with him.

“We won’t see a guy like him again for a long time.”

The Maroons were supposed to be at their most vulnerable this year, missing Thurston for two games and going through 26 players, including eight debutants for the series – the most ever used by Queensland.

The writing was on the wall after their record 28-4 game one loss.

But Queensland still maintained their dominance to ensure Kevin Walters is just the third Maroons coach to win his first two series.

“What a proud moment particularly after game one,” Walters said.

“That’s the proudest thing for me, how these guys played under enormous pressure.

“And what can I say about Cam Smith. I don’t think I have seen a more dominant first half.”

Debutant Cameron Munster was outstanding, stepping into the big shoes left behind by Thurston at No.6.

And in just his second Origin, Holmes became the fifth Queensland player to nab a record equalling hat-trick.

But it was the Maroons’ “big three” – Smith, Slater and Cronk – who sparked the hosts.

Slater showed no sign of an ankle complaint to be a constant threat, Smith tore NSW apart with his first half dummy half runs while Cronk’s highlight was a pin-point cross-field kick that delivered Holmes’ second try.

Queensland winger Dane Gagai received the Wally Lewis Medal as player of the series.

“It’s pretty hard to walk away from it. This is what you play the game for, the enjoyment that the game brings you,” 29 Origin veteran Slater said of his future.

NSW had backed themselves to seal their second series win in 12 years after Origin I and kept the same 17 for the entire series for the first time since 1996.

Asked about his future NSW coach Laurie Daley said: “I am not quite sure, tonight’s result has not changed my opinion on what I want to do.

“I am proud of these guys, glad they tried so hard. It will hurt for the next 12 months.”

Maligned NSW halfback Mitchell Pearce again had a game to forget as his career Origin series tally slumped to 0-7.

Muller magic runs out as Cilic powers into semis

Cilic, who triumphed 3-6 7-6(6) 7-5 5-7 6-1 will now face Sam Querrey in the semi-finals after the American upset home favourite Andy Murray.

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The 34-year-old Muller was an unexpected presence in the last eight after he pulled off a surprise, five-set win over Rafa Nadal in the fourth round.

A day off ensured decent recovery time from the nearly five-hour battle with Nadal, which included a fifth set that lasted over two hours.

And Muller, the journeyman who had not even won a regular ATP Tour event until this year, succeeded in carrying his inspired form against the Spaniard into this last eight contest.

Muller broke in the seventh game with a powerful drive down the line, shouting out his delight as he clearly sensed another upset could be on the agenda.

He broke again to win the set when Cilic went wide with a return and his small but noisy contingent of supporters from his Luxembourg homeland roared their delight.

Cilic was not rattled though and he went into the second set tie-break looking strong, taking advantage of an ill-timed double-fault from Miller at 6-6, securing set point with a fantastic cross-court winner.

The third set was another tight affair and again it was an unforced error from Muller which gave Cilic the upper hand. Serving to stay in the set, Muller was broken to love, the final point a frustrating volley into the net.

The clever serve and volley play and the ice-cool demeanour that put paid to Nadal’s hopes, had gone but Muller was not ready to leave for his home in Leudelange just yet.

Cilic’s serve was firing dangerously but Muller held on and then struck to go 6-5 up, breaking with a fine cross-court winner and uncharacteristically dancing across to his chair.

He regained his composure quickly and calmly served out for the set but his revival was short-lived.

Cilic broke Muller’s first service in the deciding set and the resistance crumbled, the Croat charging through the games to win the final set 6-1.

After three straight defeats in the last eight at the All England Club, Cilic tastes the semi-finals for the first time and will surely sense the chance to go even further.

(Reporting by Simon Evans; Editing by Alison Williams)