Trump Stuns US by Defending Russia against American Intelligence at Putin Meeting
US President Donald Trump has astonished friends and foes alike by apparently siding with Russia against the American intelligence services during his summit meeting with Vladimir Putin in Helsinki.
Trump has been criticizing angrily the continuing investigation in the US of Russia’s meddling in the 2016 US presidential elections and the allegations of collusion by his campaign.
However, few had expected he would openly defend Russia against the investigation in question precisely during his meeting with its President Vladimir Putin.
Trump contradicted the conclusions of the top US intelligence agencies, and argued that Russia had had no reason to interfere with the American presidential elections that he won.
His Russian counterpart, Vladimir Putin, was happy to reiterate this point after their two-hour closed-door talks in Helsinki.
“President Putin says it’s not Russia. I don’t see any reason why it would be,” Trump declared at their joint news conference in the Finnish capital.
His statement came after he was asked if he would condemn directly Putin and Russia for their meddling in the 2016 elections.
He said that his intelligence officials – including Director of Intelligence Dan Coats – have told him “they think it’s Russia” but Putin, he added, just told him it’s not Russia.
While stating that both sides had “made some mistakes”, Trump failed to mention Russia’s 2014 annexation of Ukraine’s Crimean Peninsula, the Russian-backed insurgency in the Donbass region in Eastern Ukraine, the indictment for the meddling by Russia in the US election, and the Novichok chemical attack in the UK.
Trump also insisted that there had been “no collusion at all” between his electoral campaign and Russia.
Later on Monday, he posted a tweet trying to do some damage control over his comments pitting Putin’s word against the conclusions of the US intelligence services.
“As I said today and many times before, “I have GREAT confidence in MY intelligence people.” However, I also recognize that in order to build a brighter future, we cannot exclusively focus on the past – as the world’s two largest nuclear powers, we must get along!” Trump tweeted.
In reaction to his Putin meeting statements, Dan Coats, the Director of National intelligence, released a statement declaring that his intelligence community stood by its “fact-based assessments” of Russian meddling and their “ongoing, pervasive efforts to undermine our democracy”. US Special Counsel Robert Mueller has recently indicted more than two dozen Russians.
Trump’s comments even led US House Speaker Paul Ryan to say in a statement that the US President “must appreciate that Russia is not our ally”.
“There is no moral equivalence between the United States and Russia, which remains hostile to our most basic values and ideals,” he said, adding that there was “no question” Moscow had interfered in the 2016 election.
Senior Republican Senator John McCain said it was a “disgraceful performance” by a US president.
“No prior president has ever abased himself more abjectly before a tyrant,” McCain said in a statement.
In the days prior to his meeting with Putin, Trump declared the EU America’s “foe”, took part in a contentious NATO summit in which he lambasted Germany for being “controlled” by Russia, and visited London where he seemed to embarrass British Prime Minister Theresa May with respect to her Brexit plan.
(Banner image: Video grab from CNN)