Scrutiny of Jared Kushner's Russia contacts brings the probe to Trump's inner circle

Spencer Platt/Getty Images(NEW YORK) -- The revelation that Jared Kushner's meetings with Russians are under scrutiny brings the federal investigation into Russian meddling in the 2016 election to Trump's inner circle.

The 36-year-old Kushner, who is married to Ivanka Trump, has had a growing role in that circle over the past two years, from Trump family member to trusted campaign adviser to White House senior adviser.

Kushner is a focus in the Russia investigation over his meetings with at least two Russian officials, Moscow's ambassador to the U.S. and a banking executive, sources tell ABC News.

He is not a target of the FBI investigation and has not been accused of committing a crime, but sources said he is among a number of White House staffers and former Trump campaign officials who are likely to be interviewed by the FBI.

Here are the known meetings of Kushner with Russian officials since his father-in-law was elected.

Meeting the ambassador

Kushner's name is on the list of Trump team members who met with Russian ambassador Sergey Kislyak during the transition between Trump's election victory and his inauguration. Kushner and Michael Flynn, who would go on to become Trump's first national security adviser, met with Kislyak together in Trump Tower in December.

The subject matter discussed during the meeting remains unclear.

"They generally discussed the [U.S.-Russia] relationship, and it made sense to establish a line of communication," White House spokeswoman Hope Hicks said in a statement in March after the meeting was first publicly disclosed. "Jared has had meetings with many other foreign countries and representatives — as many as two dozen other foreign countries' leaders and representatives."

Other Trump associates who met with Kislyak before the inauguration include then-Sen. Jeff Sessions, now U.S. attorney general, and former Trump campaign foreign policy adviser Carter Page.

Trump himself met with Kislyak and Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov in the Oval Office on May 10 -- a meeting that raised questions afterward when it was revealed that the president disclosed classified information about ISIS to the Russian officials. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson, current National Security Adviser H.R. McMaster and Deputy National Security Adviser Dina Powell were also present in the meeting

Kushner's meeting with Russian banker

Separately, the White House confirmed that in December, Kushner met with Sergei Gorkov of Russian bank Vnesheconombank, or VEB, at the suggestion of the Russian ambassador.

A senior White House official said the conversation was "general and inconsequential" and that Kushner took the meeting as part of his campaign role of interfacing with foreign dignitaries. But the bank described the discussion to ABC News as a "negotiation" in which "the parties discussed the business practices applied by foreign development banks, as well as most promising business lines and sectors."

The December meeting, which like Kushner's meeting with Kislyak came to light in March, happened as Kushner Companies, the real estate firm of Jared Kushner's family, was engaged in what has been described in public statements as "active, advanced negotiations ... with a number of potential investors" about the redevelopment of a skyscraper the company owns at 666 Fifth Avenue in New York City.

To date, neither Kushner nor the family real estate firm has commented on the meeting with VEB. An official representing the Kushner firm responded to questions from ABC News on March 29, saying that Kushner was the only executive from his family's real estate firm to attend.

"VEB is not providing financing, lending or any other services to Kushner Companies," the official said.

In the wake of the revelations in March of Kushner's meetings, a senior administration official confirmed that Kushner has volunteered to speak with the Senate Intelligence Committee as part of its inquiry into ties between Trump associates and Russia.

His role in the administration

Kushner in addition to being a senior adviser to the president was also named to head the new White House Office of American Innovation.

That is one of his more formal and visible roles, but he also has unofficial duties that are no less important, including helping to represent the administration in meetings with foreign leaders and serving as a point of contact for those trying to get a message through to the president.

Kushner was invited by Marine Corps Gen. Joseph Dunford, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, to visit Iraq in April for an on-the-ground update on the fight against ISIS.

And the interest that Kushner, a practicing Orthodox Jew, has in brokering peace in the Middle East is widely known.

At an event for Republican donors and supporters the night before the inauguration, Trump publicly addressed Kushner in his remarks, saying, "If you can't produce peace in the Middle East, nobody can."

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu also highlighted his longstanding ties and familiarity with Kushner when he visited the White House in February.

"Can I reveal, Jared, how long we’ve known you?" Netanyahu said while addressing Kushner, who was seated in the front row at the gathering.

"Well, he was never small. He was always big. He was always tall," Netanyahu said, alluding to Kushner's height even as a child.

"But I’ve known the president and I’ve known his family and his team for a long time, and there is no greater supporter of the Jewish people and the Jewish state than President Donald Trump," the Israeli leader concluded.

Kushner's apparent influence in the White House may stem from his close relationship with his father-in-law. Kushner was a part of the delegation that traveled with Trump this week on his first foreign trip as president. And perhaps because of his being a member of the president's immediate family, Kushner is included in some meetings that may be closed to other Trump associates, the most recent example being the audience with the pope at the Vatican.

In the U.S., Kushner is constantly spotted in the Oval Office and joins Trump on his frequent weekend trips to the president’s Mar-a-Lago estate in Florida.

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The top body language moments from President Trump's first trip abroad

MANDEL NGAN/AFP/Getty Images(NEW YORK) -- With the world’s spotlight fixed on President Trump during his first trip abroad, every handshake, thumbs-up, smile, and shove has been analyzed by viewers around the world.

For his part, Trump has shown an awareness about the importance of adhering to foreign customs. While touring Murabba Palace in Saudi Arabia, Trump turned to King Salman while enjoying a pastry and tea to ask, “Always use the right hand, right? Always use the right.” In Islam, eating or greeting with the left hand can be interpreted as disrespectful.

But while Trump appears to have avoided any serious errors in following local customs during his travels, he has come under scrutiny for sometimes awkward or forceful body language that could send mixed messages to an international community eager to understand the new U.S. president and how his “America First” policies will impact other countries.

From handshakes to hand swats, here are the top four awkward body language moments from Trump’s first trip abroad.

First Lady Melania Trump swats away President Trump’s hand

Upon disembarking from Air Force One in Israel, President Trump reached for First Lady Melania Trump’s hand as they made their way down the red carpet with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and his wife, Sara. But the first lady appeared to swat Trump’s hand away in an awkward moment that was widely interpreted as a show of tension between the president and his wife. Aside from that moment of possible chilliness, the two were seen holding hands throughout their trip.

French President Emmanuel Macron asserts his political power with white-knuckled handshake

Before heading to NATO meetings in Brussels, President Trump and the newly elected president of France, Emmanuel Macron, engaged in a jaw-clenching, white-knuckled handshake that lasted almost six seconds. Trump tried to pull his hand away, but the young French president persisted, perhaps in an effort to assert his political power.

President Macron appears to swerve away from President Trump

Later in the day, Macron met with NATO members on the red carpet as the group gathered for a special ceremony for the unveiling of the Article 5 and Berlin Wall memorials at NATO headquarters. But as Macron approached the other leaders, he appeared to swerve away from Trump to instead embrace German Chancellor Angela Merkel. Trump stood by waiting for his opportunity to greet the French president, and when the two shook hands again, it was equally forceful. Trump pulled Macron's hand close, and Macron laughed as he patted Trump on the arm.

President Trump pushes Montenegro’s prime minister out of the way at NATO Summit

Trump met with backlash after he pushed Prime Minister Dusko Markovic out of the way as NATO leaders gathered for a group photo.

Trump grabbed the right arm of a surprised Markovic before pushing his way to the front of the group. The moment went viral and was met by criticism online from people who saw the move as undiplomatic.

White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer explained to reporters that the standing order at the photo was predetermined.

The leader of the United States typically stands at the front and center of the so-called “family photos," and in the past, President Obama has been in the front row.

Shortly before the photo was taken, Trump had scolded NATO leaders he thought had been falling short of meeting the financial obligations of member states.

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Clinton delivers stinging critique of Trump in Wellesley College commencement address

David L. Ryan/The Boston Globe via Getty Images(WELLESLEY, Mass.) — Former Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton, who has shied away from the spotlight until recently, delivered a stinging rebuke of President Donald Trump’s behavior and policies on Friday, despite not mentioning him by name.

Under a tent in the rain, Clinton delivered the 2017 commencement address at her alma mater, Wellesley College.

Clinton was met by cheers and applause when she made an indirect comparison between former President Richard Nixon and Trump.

“We were furious about the past presidential election of a man whose presidency would eventually end in disgrace with his impeachment for obstruction of justice after firing the person running the investigation into him at the Department of Justice,” said Clinton, referring to the outrage her generation felt toward Nixon's presidency.

“But here is what I want you to know: We got through that time, and we started to thrive as our society changed laws and opened the circle of opportunity and rights wider and wider for more Americans,” she added.

Clinton, whose losing 2016 presidential campaign was the target of Russian hacking, told the 2017 graduates they face “a full-fledged assault on truth and reason.”

“Just log on, just log onto social media for 10 seconds, it will hit you right in the face,” said Clinton. “People denying science. Concocting elaborate hurtful conspiracy theories about child abuse rings in pizza parlors, undocumented fears about immigrants, Muslims, minorities, the poor.”

Clinton called the budget proposed by the Trump administration "a con."

"Look at the budget that was just proposed in Washington," said Clinton. "It is an attack of unimaginable cruelty on the most vulnerable among us -- the youngest, oldest, poorest, and hard-working people that need a little help to gain or hang on to a decent middle-class life. It grossly underfunds mental health and an attempt to combat the opioid epidemic. It puts our nation at risk. And to top it off, it is shrouded in a trillion-dollar mathematical lie. Let's call it what it is. It is a con."

She also talked about how she has spent her time out of the public eye and what has helped her get over her election defeat.

“You may have heard that things didn't exactly go the way I planned,” said Clinton. “But you know what? I'm doing OK. I’ve gotten to spend time with my family, especially my amazing grandchildren.”

Clinton joked that long walks in the woods and organizing her closets have helped her move on, and added, “I won’t lie, Chardonnay helped a little too.”

Earlier this month, Clinton announced she is launching “Onward Together,” a political action group aimed at encouraging people to run for office. “More than ever, I believe citizen engagement is vital to our democracy. I'm so inspired by everyone stepping up to organize and lead,” Clinton tweeted.

Clinton gave the college’s first-ever student graduation speech in 1969, and returned in 1992 to deliver the commencement address when she was the first lady of Arkansas and wife of then-Democratic presidential candidate Bill Clinton.

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President Trump's views on Paris climate agreement 'evolving,' adviser Gary Cohn says

Andrew Harrer-Pool/Getty Images(NEW YORK) -- President Donald Trump’s views on the Paris climate agreement are “evolving,” his chief economic adviser Gary Cohn told reporters Friday.

“He came here to learn,” Cohn said. “So his views are evolving, which is exactly what they should be.”

The president’s national security adviser, H.R. McMaster, then chimed in to say that the president’s decision about whether to remain in the agreement would ultimately be based what’s best for the United States; Cohn concurred.

“The basis for the decision is ultimately going to be what’s best for the United States,” Cohn said.

The future of the United States’ involvement in the landmark agreement, which the president repeatedly criticized as a candidate, has been a sticking point at the ongoing summit, with the Italian prime minister pointing to it as an "open question" at the day's conclusion.

“There is one open question, which is the U.S. position on the Paris climate accords. … All others have confirmed their total agreement on the accord,” Prime Minister Paolo Gentiloni said at the end of the first day’s session. “We are sure that after an internal reflection, the United States will also want to commit to it.”

The president is not expected to make a final decision on the accord until after he returns home. But Cohn indicated earlier Friday that the president was growing more attuned to the European stance on the issue.

"I think he is leaning to understand the European position,” Cohn said when asked which way the president was leaning. “Look as you know from the U.S. there's very strong views on both sides.”

In addition to getting pushed on the topic at the G7 summit, the president also got an earful at the Vatican, where the pope presented the president with one of his writings on the environment and the Cardinal secretary of state further raised the issue during a bilateral meeting.

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White House adviser clarifies Trump criticism of Germany

ABC News(WASHINGTON) -- A White House adviser is clearing up comments made by President Donald Trump that "the Germans are bad, very bad."

German publication Der Spiegel reported that Trump “voiced significant displeasure” about Germany’s trade surplus during a meeting with European Union leaders in Brussels, Belgium.

On Friday morning in Taormina, Sicily, the site of a meeting with G7 leaders, White House chief economic adviser Gary Cohn said Trump’s comments were about trade.

"He said they're very bad on trade but he doesn't have a problem with Germany,” said Cohn. “He said his dad is from Germany. He said, 'I don't have a problem with Germany, I have a problem with German trade.'"

Trump has taken aim at the German car industry in the past. In an interview with German newspaper Bild, Trump described trade between the two countries as “out of balance.”

“If you go down Fifth Avenue everyone has a Mercedes-Benz in front of his house, isn’t that the case?” said Trump. “The fact is that … there is no reciprocity. How many Chevrolets do you see in Germany? Not very many, maybe none at all it’s a one-way street. It must work both ways.”

Cohn also addressed Trump’s position on the Paris climate accord. G7 leaders have expressed concern over the United States potentially pulling out of the international agreement and setting back efforts to mitigate climate change.

Cohn said the president will be listening to concerns from European leaders.

"I think he's learning to understanding the European position,” said Cohn. “Look, as you know from the U.S., there's very strong views on both sides. Both sides are running ads. So he knows that in the U.S., there's very strong opinions on both sides but he also knows that Paris has important meaning to many of the European leaders. And he wants to clearly hear what the European leaders have to say."

Trump is still deciding whether or not the U.S. will stay in the agreement. On Thursday, 22 Senate Republicans, including Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., sent a letter to the White House urging the president to pull out of the deal, citing concerns about jobs.

But even in the White House, Trump has been faced with two sides of the debate. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson, former chief executive of Exxon, supports the deal while Environmental Protection Agency administrator Scott Pruitt disagrees.

Pope Francis nudged Trump about climate change during their meeting at the Vatican this week. As a gift, the Pope presented Trump with his 2015 encyclical "Laudato Si," which calls for global action on the issue.

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Jared Kushner examined as part of FBI Russia investigation

Mark Wilson/Getty Images(WASHINGTON) — Contacts between Russian officials and Jared Kushner, son-in-law of President Donald Trump and one of his senior advisers, are a focus of the investigation into Russian meddling in the 2016 election, sources tell ABC News.

While Kushner is not a target of FBI investigation and has not been accused of committing a crime, sources said he is among a number of White House staffers and former Trump campaign officials who are likely to be interviewed by the FBI because of their interactions with former national security adviser Michael Flynn -- or because they had contact with Russian officials during the campaign or the transition.

Of particular interest is Kushner's participation in a meeting with Russia's Ambassador to the U.S. Sergey Kislyak in December and a separate meeting with a Russian financial executive with a bank that had been subject to U.S. sanctions, sources said. Both contacts have been previously reported and the White House has denied that they were inappropriate.

The sources told ABC News that Kushner has not yet been contacted by the FBI and has not been asked to turn over any documents.

"We don't know anything," a source close to Kushner told ABC News. "He hasn't been approached."

"Mr. Kushner previously volunteered to share with Congress what he knows about these meetings. He will do the same if he is contacted in connection with any other inquiry," Kushner's lawyer, Jamie Gorelick, said in a statement obtained by ABC News.

The Democratic National Committee on Thursday night called for Kushner's security clearance to be suspended until the FBI has completed its investigation.

“The FBI’s Russia investigation reached Trump’s backyard, and now it’s in his house," the statement read. "Kushner’s security clearance should be suspended until the FBI’s findings are complete.”

Last week, ABC News confirmed that the FBI's inquiry had extended to at least one current White House staffer.

The White House provided a statement at the time in response to a Washington Post report on that matter, denying any collusion between associates of the president and Russia.

"As the president has stated before -- a thorough investigation will confirm that there was no collusion between the campaign and any foreign entity," said press secretary Sean Spicer in the statement.

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FBI deflects House Oversight Committee's request for documents

iStock/Thinkstock(WASHINGTON) -- House Oversight Committee Chairman Jason Chaffetz, R-Utah, is renewing his request for documents pertaining to former FBI Director James Comey.

The FBI responded to Chaffetz in a letter Thursday citing Robert Mueller’s appointment as special counsel in the bureau’s investigation of Russia as justification to delay fulfilling the committee’s request.

"In light of this development and other considerations, we are undertaking appropriate consultation to ensure all relevant interests implicated by your request are properly evaluated," wrote Gregory Brower, assistant director of the FBI’s Office of Congressional Affairs.

Chaffetz responded to Brower’s letter, emphasizing his panel "has its own, Constitutionally-based prerogative to conduct investigations” and that it’s not his intent to "impede or interfere" with Mueller’s investigation.

"In fact, the Committee's investigation will complement the work of the Special Counsel. Whereas the Special Counsel is conducting a criminal or counterintelligence investigation that will occur largely behind closed doors, the Committee's work will shed light on matters of high public interest, regardless of whether there is evidence of criminal conduct," Chaffetz wrote.

"In this case, the focus of the Committee's investigation is the independence of the FBI, including conversations between the President and Comey and the process by which Comey was removed from his role as director," he continued. "The records being withheld are central to those questions, even more so in light of Comey's decision not to testify before the Committee at this time."

Chaffetz makes a new request for documents “outside the scope” of Mueller’s investigation “as soon as possible, but no later than June 8, 2017.”

Those documents include all memoranda, notes, summaries, and recordings referring or relating to any communication between Comey and any White House employee, including the president and the vice president, ranging back to Comey's first day in September 2013, as well as between Comey and the attorney general or deputy attorney general.

Chaffetz further requests that the FBI identify all responsive documents, regardless of whether the document is within the scope of the special counsel's investigation.

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Block on Trump travel ban upheld by 4th Circuit, DOJ pledges to seek Supreme Court review

iStock/Thinkstock(WASHINGTON) -- A federal appeals court upheld Thursday a lower court's temporary block of key provisions of President Donald Trump's revised executive order banning travel from some Middle East and African countries.

In the decision, Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals Chief Judge Roger Gregory writes that the executive order "in text speaks with vague words of national security, but in context drips with religious intolerance, animus, and discrimination." The opinion continues that while the president has power to limit entry to the country, "that power is not absolute."

"It cannot go unchecked when, as here, the President wields it through an executive edict that stands to cause irreparable harm to individuals across this nation," Gregory writes.

Trump's order was his second attempt to limit immigration and travel to the United States. In February, the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals denied a bid for an emergency stay from the Department of Justice in response to a Washington state federal judge's temporary restraining order blocking the president's original order.

In March, Trump issued the revised order which he would later call a "watered-down" version of the first. Trump's and his associates' comments about their desire to prevent Muslims from entering the country during the presidential campaign were highlighted in rulings by federal judges in Hawaii and Maryland blocking the latest attempt. The government argued that the order was not intended to discriminate on the basis of religion.

Both the White House and Department of Justice released statements critical of the decision Thursday, with Attorney General Jeff Sessions pledging that his department "will seek review of this case in the United States Supreme Court."

"This Department of Justice will continue to vigorously defend the power and duty of the Executive Branch to protect the people of this country from danger," read the department's statement.

The White House wrote that the country needs "every available tool at our disposal to prevent terrorists from entering the United States and committing acts of bloodshed and violence."

"As Judge Shedd's dissent notes, 'the real losers in this case are the millions of individual Americans whose security is threatened on a daily basis by those who seek to do us harm,'" the White House statement continued. "We are confident the President's executive order to protect the country is fully lawful and ultimately will be upheld by the Judiciary."

The appellate court took the deepest dive yet into the issue of whether statements made by candidate Trump should be considered in evaluating the executive order he issued after he became president.

"The campaign statements here are probative of purpose because they are closely related in time, attributable to the primary decision maker, and specific and easily connected to the challenged action," read the majority opinion.

"In this highly unique set of circumstances, there is a direct link between the President’s numerous campaign statements promising a Muslim ban that targets territories, the discrete action he took only one week into office executing that exact plan," the opinion added.

"These statements, taken together, provide direct, specific evidence of what motivated both [the original and revised travel bans]: President Trump’s desire to exclude Muslims from the United States," wrote Gregory. "We need not probe anyone's heart of hearts to discover the purpose of [the order], for President Trump and his aides have explained it on numerous occasions and in no uncertain terms."

The judges found that the Trump administration's alleged intent to discriminate against Muslims could violate the Establishment Clause of the Constitution, which prohibits the government from favoring one religion over another.

The court's opinion additionally found that the government's national security justifications for parts of the ban inadequate. The travel ban's "text does little to bolster any national security rationale: the only examples it provides of immigrants born abroad and convicted of terrorism-related crimes in the United States include two Iraqis," even though Iraq is no longer a designated country under the ban, and "a Somalian refugee who entered the United States as a child and was radicalized here as an adult," Gregory wrote.

The panel further examined the travel ban's impact on plaintiffs who are Muslim Americans or permanent U.S. residents. An unnamed "John Doe" plaintiff has applied for a spousal immigration visa for his wife, an Iranian national. He is “feeling the direct, painful effects of the Second Executive Order—both its alleged message of religious condemnation and the prolonged separation it causes between him and his wife—in his everyday life,” the decision stated.

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Journalists and press freedom advocates react to alleged assault on reporter

iStock/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) -- Journalists and politicians are speaking out about the treatment of the press following the alleged assault of a political reporter at the hands of the Republican candidate in Montana's congressional special election -- though not all are in agreement and some appeared split along partisan lines.

Greg Gianforte was charged with misdemeanor assault Wednesday after Guardian reporter Ben Jacobs said the GOP candidate body slammed him to the ground. Jacobs said he was attempting to ask the congressional candidate a question about his response to the Congressional Budget Office's analysis of the American Health Care Act.

The Radio Television Digital News Association released a statement condemning the incident on Thursday morning.

"If the criminal charges are proven true, this would be an outrageous escalation of the recent trend toward elected officials and those seeking elected office obstructing and even, now, assaulting reporters who are merely trying to do their jobs,” said Dan Shelley, the incoming executive director of the RTDNA in the statement.

The Committee to Protect Journalists, an organization that advocates for press freedom around the world, said that the incident "sends an unacceptable signal that physical assault is an appropriate response to unwanted questioning by a journalist," in a release.

 The U.S. editor of Jacob's employer, The Guardian, put out a statement Wednesday evening expressing support Jacobs.

"The Guardian is deeply appalled by how our reporter, Ben Jacobs, was treated in the course of doing his job as a journalist while reporting on the Montana special election," said the editor, Lee Glendinning. "We are committed to holding power to account and we stand by Ben Jacobs and our team of reporters for the questions they ask and the reporting that is produced."

Vice News, which works with The Guardian on segments for its television program, "Vice News Tonight," also released a statement.

"Vice News joins our partners at The Guardian in condemning the attack on journalist Ben Jacobs. It’s controversial, we know, to oppose violence against a person asking a question of a candidate for public office, but apparently that’s where we are. For any public official who wishes to live in a scrutiny free society we have one word of advice: move."

Conservative media personalities and some Republican politicians downplayed the incident.

Laura Ingraham, a conservative commentator and the editor-in-chief of the website LifeZette, wrote on Twitter, "Did anyone get his lunch money stolen today and then run to tell the recess monitor?"

 Derek Hunter, a radio host in Baltimore and contributing editor to the Daily Caller downplayed the incident at first before later tweeting that "it sounds bad" after reading the accounts of witnesses.

"What kind of a wuss files charges over broken glasses? Someone who wants to influence an outcome, that's who," tweeted Hunter in the aftermath

 On Capitol Hill, a number of representatives condemned Gianforte's behavior while still backing the candidate.

"I believe that we should all treat the press with respect and I try to lead by example," said Rep. Leonard Lance, R-N.J. "I, of course, hope the Republican is successful today because I think his views are the views of the people of Montana."

Rep. Duncan Hunter, R-Calif. offered a mixed response on the incident to an Associated Press reporter.

"It’s not appropriate behavior," said Hunter. "Unless the reporter deserved it."

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Awkward moment when Trump pushes a prime minister at NATO conference

ABC News(NEW YORK) -- President Donald Trump isn't afraid to mix it up in the boardroom, and today in Brussels he showed he could throw some proverbial elbows.

One of the more surprising moments caught on camera today at the NATO summit in Belgium came when Trump pushed aside Prime Minister Dusko Markovic of Montenegro to get to the front of the group of leaders.

Markovic appeared to smile and turn toward Trump as if for a conversation, but none ensued.

The moment may have been fleeting, but the internet seemed to enjoy it Thursday.

“I have not seen the video,” White House press secretary Sean Spicer said.

Trump is set to head back to the U.S. on Saturday, May 27.

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