Trump welcomes Panamanian president, says canal doing “quite well”

In World


President Trump says the United States has a “very strong” relationship with Panama, and in a meeting with the Panamanian president, he noted the U.S. role in building the Panama Canal.

Mr. Trump was meeting with President Juan Carlos Varela to discuss organized crime, immigration, fighting drug trafficking along with economic issues. After the president and first lady Melania Trump escorted Varela and his wife, Lorena Castillo, to the Oval Office, the president quickly noted their historic ties.  

“The Panama Canal is doing quite well. I think we did a good job building it, right?” Trump told Varela, who responded, “Very good job.”  

Opened in 1914, the Panama Canal was built by the United States between 1904 and 1913 and revolutionized sea traffic travel in the region. The canal was under U.S. control until a 1977 agreement led to its transfer to Panama in 1999. The canal recently expanded its locks as part of a $5.25 billion expansion project. 

Varela noted the U.S. and Panama face many of the same challenges in the region, and he said that “the idea of this visit is to work closely together.”

The two leaders were also expected to address unrest in nearby Venezuela, which has been grappling with anti-government protests and calls for new presidential elections amid major inflation, crime and food and medical shortages.

During the meeting, Mr. Trump ignored reporters’ questions about whether he is under investigation by Special Counsel Robert Mueller, after a member of his legal team vehemently denied that he was.

Top Trump lawyer Jay Sekulow told CBS News’ John Dickerson on “Face the Nation” on Sunday that the president is not and has not been under investigation.”

Sekulow’s comments came after Mr. Trump slammed reports that Special Counsel Robert Mueller is reviewing whether or not Mr. Trump tried to obstruct justice amid ongoing investigations into any ties between his presidential campaign’s or transition’s associates and the Russian government. The Washington Post first reported the story. 

“They made up a phony collusion with the Russians story, found zero proof, so now they go for obstruction of justice on the phony story. Nice,” Mr. Trump tweeted on Thursday.

A day later, Mr. Trump said in a tweet, “I am being investigated for firing the FBI Director by the man who told me to fire the FBI Director! Witch Hunt.” He appeared to be referring to Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein.

Sekulow told CBS News that the legal team has “received no notice of investigation.”

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