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Trump leaves for Asia with heavy domestic baggage

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US President Donald Trump and First Lady Melania Trump left Andrews Air Force Base Friday on a marathon tour of Asia
US President Donald Trump and First Lady Melania Trump left Andrews Air Force Base Friday on a marathon tour of Asia
AFP, Nov 3, 2017 - President Donald Trump departed Washington for an almost two week trip to Asia Friday, leaving a trail of invective and scandal that risks overshadowing efforts at top-level diplomacy.
Trump left Joint Base Andrews bound for Hawaii -- where he will receive a briefing from United States Pacific Command -- before travelling on to Japan, South Korea, China, Vietnam and the Philippines.
But before climbing the steps of Air Force One, Trump unleashed a Twitter barrage, pillorying his own Justice Department and calling for his former political opponents to be prosecuted.
"A lot of people are disappointed in the Justice Department, including me," Trump later said, complaining they were probing his campaign's ties to Russia but not adequately investigating his former Democratic rival Hillary Clinton.
"There was no collusion, there was no nothing. It's a disgrace, frankly, that they continue."
His comments dealt a fresh blow to the traditional barriers between the executive and the judicial system, breaking the taboo over presidential interference with investigations.
Trump will meet China's Xi Jinping, Japan's Shinzo Abe and other Asian leaders with his standing at home dramatically weakened by series of indictments against former campaign aides.
His week started with special counsel Robert Mueller -- who is investigating Russian meddling in the 2016 election -- indicting Trump's former campaign chairman Paul Manafort on money laundering charges.
Mueller also revealed that a Trump campaign aide George Papadopoulos had lied to the FBI about his contacts with Kremlin-connected officials, but then turned informant.
Trump said he did not recall a campaign encounter with Papadopoulos, during which the young aide proposed a meeting between Trump and Russian President Vladimir Putin.
"I don't remember much about that meeting, it was a very unimportant meeting. Don't remember much about it," Trump said.

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