Before Putin meeting, Trump blames predecessor for election meddling
TURNBERRY, Scotland — Two days before a high-stakes summit with President Vladimir Putin of Russia, President Trump played golf and tweeted Saturday from one of his namesake resorts, blaming his predecessor for Russian election meddling and lashing out at the free press from foreign soil.
The White House said Trump will keep his appointment with Putin on Monday in Helsinki, despite demands from some lawmakers that he cancel the meeting in light of the indictment of 12 Russian intelligence agents on charges of election tampering.
Aides said Trump would spend the weekend preparing for the summit, but Saturday’s 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 Saturday, referring to 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 rallied in Scotland and England in opposition to the president’s visit to both countries.
About 10,000 people marched Saturday 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 Sunday.
The glider carried a banner that said ‘‘Trump: Well Below Par’’ over the resort Friday night, to protest his environmental and immigration policies.
In Edinburgh, antifascist groups and political activists joined those who said they had 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 Labor 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 blimp depicting Trump as an angry baby that had flown over anti-Trump protests in London on Friday.
Trump has spent the weeklong trip making waves 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 Saturday’s tweets, Trump tried to blame former president Barack Obama for failing to stop the Russians from working to help Trump 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 Friday in Washington against the 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 e-mails 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 Friday’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.
Leading Democratic senators, including minority leader Chuck Schumer, and some Republicans urged Trump to scrap the summit. 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 after the president’s spat with a CNN correspondent at a news conference Friday 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 Saturday.