President Donald Trump said a two-hour, one-on-one meeting with Vladimir Putin was a “good start” on Monday for their Helsinki summit, but gave no indication he had relented to increased pressure to confront the Kremlin leader over election meddling.
Russian President Vladimir Putin (R) and US President Donald Trump shake hands before their one-on-one meeting in Helsinki.
Both Trump and Putin repeatedly denied accusations that the Trump campaign had colluded with Russian intelligence officials to swing the election. “For us, it’s a closed question”, he said.
“That’s an incredible offer”, Trump said. In response, President Trump, standing alongside a smiling Putin, said he could not be certain that Russian Federation interfered in the 2016 election.
The Russian Foreign Ministry “liked” the president’s tweet, in which Mr. Trump blamed *the U.S.* for poor U.S. -Russia relations, and faulted *the investigation* into the Russian cyberattack on the U.S. rather than the Russian cyberattack itself. “After today I am sure we and them want to end that problem”.
Friday’s United States indictment of 12 Russian military intelligence agents exploded with embarrassing timing for Trump as he prepared to meet Putin.
Mid-way through the press conference, Putin have Trump a football as a gift to represent a symbolic handing over of World Cup, which the U.S. will host in 2026.
Putin said Russian Federation and the United States could “analyze together” the claims which form the basis of special counsel Robert Mueller’s ongoing investigation into alleged collusion.
But pressed directly by U.S. reporters – who Trump has referred to as “enemies of the American people” – whether he would condemn Russian Federation over the empirical evidence of their election meddling, Trump again declined – on the contrary, praising Putin for offering to participate in Mueller’s investigation and nodding approvingly as Putin denied his personal involvement. “I’ve been saying and I am sure you have heard over the years and as I campaigned that getting along with Russian Federation is a good thing, not a bad thing”.
“Again, this was during the Obama administration”, Trump told Glor.
USA intelligence agencies concluded in 2016 that Russian Federation was behind an effort to tip the scale of the U.S. election against Hillary Clinton, with a state-authorised campaign of cyber attacks and fake news stories planted on social media.
Two former United States intelligence chiefs expressed shock over Trump’s appearance of “capitulating” to Putin.
Former CIA Director Thomas Brennan called Trump’s comments treasonous. “Please get this rubbish out of your heads”.
The two leaders appeared relaxed at the Helsinki news conference, smiling on occasion, in contrast to their sombre demeanour at the start of the day.
Many fear that Trump – in his eagerness to prove he was right to seek the summit despite U.S. political opposition – may give up too much ground.
Trump’s repeated warm words for Russian Federation were a marked contrast from the past week when he repeatedly rebuked traditional USA allies at a summit of North Atlantic Treaty Organisation and a visit to Britain.
The summit will follow a larger working lunch, and will conclude with a joint news conference.
A post-NATO trip to Britain, supposedly America’s partner in a “special relationship”, was riddled with controversy as well.
In the hours leading up to the meeting and presser, the CNN correspondent also took to his Twitter account to criticize the president for failing to mention election tampering in his initial public statement regarding the Helsinki, Finland meeting.
Former Speaker of the House Newt Gingrich tweeted that this was the “most serious mistake of his presidency”.
Putin also relayed the same message, both in his prepared remarks at the beginning of the press conference and later when taking questions from pool journalists. “He feels strongly about the issue and has an interesting idea”, Mr. Trump told a joint news conference with Mr. Putin.
“No prior president has ever abased himself more abjectly before a tyrant”. “It is hard to decode what policy the American president is promoting”.
Trump and Putin “spent a great deal of time” discussing allegations of Russian election meddling as they met for several hours Monday, the US president said.
Ending the nuclear arms race between Russian Federation and the USA was also high up the agenda for Trump and Putin, who talked for around two hours.
“There are quite a few of them for us to pay attention to”, he said. He noted that, like many countries, the United States has an extradition treaty with Russian Federation, where a country agrees to turn over someone in one country who is accused of criminal activity in another.