U.S. President Donald Trump is wrapping up his lengthy work trip across Europe by meeting with Russian President Vladimir Putin today in Helsinki, Finland. This “summit” at the presidential palace comes just three days after the U.S. Department of Justice indicted 12 Russian intelligence agents on charges of hacking into the DNC and Hillary Clinton’s presidential campaign. Pres. Trump also goes into this meeting having recently tweeted that the U.S is to blame for the tensions between the powerhouse nations, something Russia’s foreign ministry Twitter account seems to agree with.
Prior to the lengthy one-on-one, Trump told the press that he and the controversial Russian leader “will have discussions on everything from trade to military to nuclear,” as well as relations with China and President Xi. The commander-in-chief did not say if he would bring up Russia’s interference in the 2016 U.S. presidential election (Putin later said Trump did bring up the topic of election interference during their talk. The Russian president reiterated that his country did not interfere).
When their one-on-one was over, the two presidents held a joint press conference. Putin gave introductory remarks, then Trump followed. After their remarks, both presidents fielded questions from the press.
Jeff Mason from Reuters asked President Trump: “Mr. President, you tweeted this morning that it’s “U.S. foolishness, stupidity and the Mueller probe that’s responsible for the decline in U.S. relations with Russia.” Do you hold Russia at all accountable for anything in particular? If so, what would you consider that they are responsible for?”
Trump stated that both the U.S. and Russia were at fault, went on to criticize Democrats, touted his electoral college victory over Hillary Clinton in the 2016 presidential election, claimed there was no collusion and called the Mueller probe “ridiculous.” He also said the probe has had “a negative impact” on U.S.-Russian relations.
Mason then asked Putin: “For President Putin if I could follow up as well; why should Americans and why should President Trump believe your statement that Russia did not intervene in the 2016 election given the evidence that U.S. intelligence agencies have provided? Will you consider extraditing the 12 Russian officials that were indicted last week by a U.S. grand jury?”
Putin once again claimed that Russia did not interfere in the U.S. election and said the American intelligence agencies had no facts, only rumors. He also offered to question 12 Russian agents who have been indicted for alleged election meddling, and added that Mueller investigators can be present at the questioning if America will “reciprocate.” Putin said he wants intelligence officers to sit in on questioning of U.S. lawyer Bill Browder, the man behind Magnitsky Act and Russian sanctions.
Mason then asked Putin if he wanted Pres. Trump to win the election, to which Putin responded: “Yes, because he talked about bringing the U.S.-Russia relationship back to normal.”
Ilya Petrenko, a Moscow-based journalist RT TV channel, asked in English: “Mr. President, would you please go into the details of possibility any specific arrangements for the U.S. to work together with Russia and Syria, if any of these kind of arrangements were made today or discussed?”
Pres. Trump later showed off a soccer ball that Putin had given to him. “Now the ball is in your court,” Putin told him. Trump then said he was going to give it to his son Barron, before tossing it to First Lady Melania, who was sitting in the front row.
Russian Pres. Vladimir Putin gives Pres. Trump a soccer ball. “Now the ball is in your court,” he says.
— ABC News (@ABC) July 16, 2018
Jonathan Lemire from the Associated Press was the final U.S. journalist permitted to ask a question: “Just now President Putin denied having anything to do with the election interference in 2016. Every U.S. intelligence agency has concluded that Russia did. My first question for you, sir, is who do you believe? My second question is would you now with the whole world watching tell President Putin, would you denounce what happened in 2016 and would you warn him to never do it again?”
Here are some reactions to Trump’s performance, kicking things off with Anderson Cooper:
Anderson Cooper calls the Trump-Putin press conference “one of the most disgraceful performances by an American president at a summit in front of a Russian leader certainly that I’ve ever seen” https://t.co/Y4YnuvZOLW pic.twitter.com/LO8lLfUZho
— CNN Newsroom (@CNNnewsroom) July 16, 2018
One of the more interesting reactions came from Fox News host Abby Huntsman, whose father Jon Huntsman is presently the U.S. Ambassador to Russia:
No negotiation is worth throwing your own people and country under the bus.
— Abby Huntsman (@HuntsmanAbby) July 16, 2018
The president tries to pull a “both sides” on the Putin v US intel and ends up essentially confessing to the world that he believes Putin more the the United States of America and its agencies.
— Chuck Todd (@chucktodd) July 16, 2018
Noticing on twitter that many of the normal Trump defenders are struggling mightily to defend today’s performance.
— Chuck Todd (@chucktodd) July 16, 2018
On interference in election POTUS and Putin had each other’s backs. That was a clear takeaway from what we just saw. Watch tonight for Gen Jack Keane reaction.
— Martha MacCallum (@marthamaccallum) July 16, 2018
Some Fox Newsers were not impressed, including Maria Bartiromo. “I don’t think there’s any question that the Russians tried to undermine the West, and meddled in our election,” Bartiromo said Tuesday morning during Mornings with Maria. “There are questions that we could see resignations,” Bartiromo continued. “It was probably the low point of the presidency so far.”
Trump, finally asked whom he believes on Russia interference, gives a vague and rambling non-answer, with renewed complaints about Hillary’s server. Says he trusts US intel but made clear he takes Putin’s denials seriously. Lame response, to say the least.
— Brit Hume (@brithume) July 16, 2018
Neil Cavuto provided his thoughts on FBN:
Neil Cavuto of Fox Business calls Trump’s press conference “disgusting”, “That sets us back a lot.” pic.twitter.com/R2ZIjyFyPR
— Axios (@axios) July 16, 2018
TV newsers also praised the U.S. journalists who asked the questions:
— Kasie Hunt (@kasie) July 16, 2018