Follow the doughnuts.
That was Donald Trump’s advice to the American people on Friday as he sought to fight back against a fresh avalanche of allegations about his ties to Russia.
True to his philosophy that attack is always the best form of defence, Trump tweeted an old photo of Chuck Schumer, the Democratic minority leader in the Senate, smiling alongside the Russian president, Vladimir Putin.
In the picture, both men are smiling and holding paper cups outside a shop. Schumer has taken a bite from his doughnut, while Putin is looking down at his with a little less enthusiasm.
“We should start an immediate investigation into @SenSchumer and his ties to Russia and Putin,” Trump wrote in the tweet. “A total hypocrite!”
Half an hour later, Schumer tweeted back and said the meeting happened 14 years ago. “Happily talk re: my contact w Mr. Putin & his associates, took place in ’03 in full view of press & public under oath. Would you &your team?”
It was the latest round of sparring between two New Yorkers with a long history. Trump, 70, a former Democrat, has reportedly donated around $9,000 to the senator over the years and claimed: “I was close to Schumer in many ways.” But Schumer, 66, has described the businessman as a casual acquaintance rather than a friend, insisting they have never had a meal or played golf together.
This week, Schumer demanded that the attorney general and Trump loyalist Jeff Sessions resign for misleading listeners at his Senate confirmation hearing about whether he had contacts with Russia during the election campaign.
It emerged that Sessions had had two meetings with the Russian ambassador to the US, one of which was at the Republican national convention in Cleveland. Sarah Huckabee Sanders, deputy White House press secretary, also drew attention to Schumer on Friday, asking reporters: “Please explain to me how volunteers meeting at a conference where nearly 80 ambassadors attended is a story.
“I guess it’s kind of lost on me where that would be newsworthy in any capacity. I mean, Chuck Schumer sitting and having drinks with Putin and that’s not a news story, but apparently a volunteer for a campaign bumping into one at a conference where there’s again dozens of other ambassadors is newsworthy.”
Trump has admitted, however, that Sessions could have stated his response “more accurately” at his confirmation hearing. Democrats continue to press for the attorney general’s resignation and for a special prosecutor to investigate the Russian connection.