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Trump Meets With Putin Alone For 2 Hours, Blames US For Poor Russia Relations
HELSINKI, Finland — President Trump slammed the special counsel's investigation into his campaign's possible election collusion with Russia during a stunning news conference Monday alongside President Vladimir Putin, and he blamed the United States for relations with Moscow that he said have “never been worse."
When Trump was asked by a U.S. reporter why he believes Putin, who denied Russian interference in the 2016 election, rather than his own intelligence officials, Trump replied, “I don’t see any reason why” Russia would interfere.
More than once he condemned the probe of special counsel Robert S. Mueller III, which on Friday brought indictments of 12 Russian intelligence officials, calling it "a disaster for our country."
Trump spoke yet again about his clear electoral college win over Hillary Clinton and lamented the "cloud" the investigation has cast over his victory. When Putin was asked why Americans should believe his denials, Trump first answered for him, falsely saying that the Russia probe only came about because Democrats were looking for an excuse for their loss.
Putin, in turn, offered his own, somewhat surreal response to the question that had been intended for him.
“As for who to believe, who you can’t believe, can you believe at all — you can’t believe anyone," Putin said, dismissing the U.S. intelligence findings and the Mueller probe as based on "rumors.” He added, “There's no evidence when it comes to the actual facts."
Putin did not shy away from the question of whether he wanted Trump to win the 2016 election.
"Yes, I did," he said, as Trump smiled beside him.
Putin, again in answer to a U.S. reporter’s question, didn’t directly deny that Russia had compromising material on Trump, but instead deflected. He said he’d heard “these rumors” that Moscow had gathered embarrassing material while Trump was there in 2013, and added that people should “disregard” them.
Earlier, Trump declared a “very good start” to his meetings with Putin after they were alone together about two hours — just after he blamed the United States for the frosty state of relations between the two countries.
"I think it's a good start. Very, very good start for everybody," Trump told reporters as the two leaders joined aides for a working lunch.
“Everybody” will have to accept the president’s word for that because only translators sat in with them, to the consternation of even some administration officials. Before their private session, Trump said to Putin, offering his hand, “We have a lot of questions, and hopefully we'll come up with answers. It's great to be with you.”
Among the issues discussed, he listed trade, nuclear weapons and China, making no mention of Russia’s interference in the U.S. election, the poisoning of people in Britain by a Russian nerve agent or the conflicts in Ukraine and Syria.
"We have not been getting along,” Trump said, “but I think we will end up having an extraordinary relationship."
“Getting along with Russia is a good thing, not a bad thing," he added.
Putin said little, offering a more casual, almost indifferent demeanor as Trump spoke. He said he looked forward to “continuing the dialogue we have started.”
The two leaders were scheduled to meet for 90 minutes, with only interpreters in the room, at Finland's presidential palace, an ornate yellow-colored building adjacent to the city's harbor.
Putin, as he often has in meetings with other foreign leaders, arrived 45 minutes late, his plane touching down at the time when his first meeting with Trump was originally scheduled to begin.
Following the meetings, the two leaders were scheduled to hold a joint news conference, although it's unclear if they will take questions from reporters or simply make statements.
Trump, who has sought a better relationship with the Russian autocrat, has casually lowered expectations for Monday's talks and been remarkably open about not having a clear agenda, even as he's mentioned several discussion topics he plans to bring up.
On Monday morning, he fired off a tweet blaming the U.S. for the poor state of relations between the two countries.
Russia's Ministry of Foreign Affairs "liked" the tweet from its official account — not a surprise, given Trump's eagerness to blame the U.S. government, not Putin, who sanctioned Russia's interference in the 2016 presidential election, according to U.S. intelligence and law enforcement officials.
Hours later, shortly after Putin's plane touched down in Helsinki, the same Russian account retweeted Trump's statement with the comment: "We agree."
Dating back to his presidential campaign, Trump has raised eyebrows with his approach to Putin, offering comments notably more conciliatory than those typical of American politicians. His statements about the Russian have stood in stark contrast to his often harsh and insulting rhetoric toward other world leaders and his political adversaries in both parties.
Trump has not tempered his positive tone toward Putin even amid a special counsel investigation into possible collusion by his campaign associates with Russians during the 2016 presidential race. Rather,Trump has blamed the probe, which he has labeled a "witch hunt," for being an impediment to improved relations with Russia.
Since taking office, Trump has made a pattern of cutting against the grain of his own aides and the U.S. intelligence community on the subject of Russia. In March, Trump ignored a specific warning from his national security advisors not to congratulate Putin on his reelection during a phone call. The Russian election took place in an environment of state-controlled news media and with Putin's most prominent opponent barred from the ballot.
On Sunday, he tweeted to congratulate Putin again, this time for hosting the World Cup soccer tournament.
During an Oval Office meeting last year with Russia's foreign minister, Trump inadvertently revealed classified intelligence from an Israeli source.
And Trump's consistently strident stance toward NATO allies — he threatened to withdraw from NATO during last week's summit unless other member nations upped their defense spending, and labeled the European Union a trading "foe" in a weekend interview — stands to benefit Putin, who views a unified West as the main impediment to his expansionist aims.
©2018 Los Angeles Times
Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.
Moments before Army Staff Sgt. David Bellavia went back into the house, journalist Michael Ware said he was "pacing like a caged tiger ... almost like he was talking to himself."
"I distinctly remember while everybody else had taken cover temporarily, there out in the open on the street — still exposed to the fire from the roof — was David Bellavia," Ware told Task & Purpose on Monday. "David stopped pacing, he looked up and sees that the only person still there on the street is me. And I'm just standing there with my arms folded.
"He looked up from the pacing, stared straight into my eyes, and said 'Fuck it.' And I stared straight back at him and said 'Fuck it,'" Ware said. "And that's when I knew, we were both going back in that house."
Former Army Special Forces Maj. Matthew Golsteyn will plead not guilty to a charge of murder for allegedly shooting an unarmed Afghan man whom a tribal leader had identified as a Taliban bomb maker, his attorney said.
Golsteyn will be arraigned on Thursday morning at Fort Bragg, North Carolina, Phillip Stackhouse told Task & Purpose.
No date has been set for his trial yet, said Lt. Col. Loren Bymer, a spokesman for U.S. Army Special Operations Command.
John Wick is back, and he's here to stay. It doesn't matter how many bad guys show up to try to collect on that bounty.
With John Wick: Chapter 3 — Parabellum, the titular hitman, played by 54-year-old Keanu Reeves, continues on a blood-soaked hyper-stylized odyssey of revenge: first for his slain dog, then his wrecked car, then his destroyed house, then ... well, honestly it's hard to keep track of exactly what Wick is avenging by this point, or the body count he's racked up in the process.
Though we do know that the franchise has raked in plenty of success at the box office: just a week after it's May 17 release, the third installment in director Chad Stahleski's series took in roughly $181 million, making it even more successful than its two wildly popular prequels 2014's John Wick, and 2017's John Wick: Chapter 2.
And, more importantly, Reeves' hitman is well on his way to becoming one of the greatest action movie heroes in recent memory. Few (if any) other action flicks have succeeded in creating a mind-blowing avant garde ballet out of a dozen well-dressed gunmen who get shot, choked, or stabbed with a pencil by a pissed off hitman who just wants to return to retirement.
But for all the over-the-top acrobatics, fight sequences, and gun-porn (see: the sommelier), what makes the series so enthralling, especially for the service members and vets in the audience, is that there are some refreshing moments of realism nestled under all of that gun fu. Wrack your brain and try to remember the last time you saw an action hero do a press check during a shootout, clear a jam, or actually, you know, reload, instead of just hip-firing 300 rounds from an M16 nonstop. It's cool, we'll wait.
As it turns out, there's a good reason for the caliber of gun-play in John Wick. One of the franchise's secret weapons is a professional three-gun shooter named Taran Butler, who told Task & Purpose he can draw and hit three targets in 0.67 seconds from 10 yards. And if you've watched any of the scores of videos he's uploaded to social media over the years, it's pretty clear that this isn't idle boasting.
The Navy's electromagnetic railgun is undergoing what officials described as "essentially a shakedown" of critical systems before finally installing a tactical demonstrator aboard a surface warship, the latest sign that the once-beleaguered supergun may actually end up seeing combat.
That pretty much means this is could be the last set of tests before actually slapping this bad boy onto a warship, for once.
The Justice Department has accused Rep. Duncan Hunter (R-Calif.) of illegally using campaign funds to pay for extramarital affairs with five women.
Hunter, who fought in the Iraq War as a Marine artillery officer, and his wife Margaret were indicated by a federal jury on Aug. 21, 2018 for allegedly using up to $250,000 in campaign funds for personal use.
In a recent court filing, federal prosecutors accused Hunter of using campaign money to pay for a variety of expenses involved with his affairs, ranging from a $1,008 hotel bill to $7 for a Sam Adams beer.