Get Task & Purpose in your inbox
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.
Nearly a decade after he allegedly murdered an unarmed Afghan civilian during a 2010 deployment, the case of Army Maj. Matthew Golsteyn is finally going to trial.
PESHAWAR, Pakistan (Reuters) - The Taliban have sent a delegation to Russia to discuss prospects for a withdrawal of U.S. troops from Afghanistan following the collapse of talks with the United States this month, officials from the insurgent group said.
The move, days after President Donald Trump canceled a planned meeting with Taliban leaders at his Camp David retreat, came as the movement looks to bolster regional support, with visits also planned for China, Iran and Central Asian states.
We salute the foul-mouthed Navy vet remembered as 'the most inappropriate guy with the biggest heart'
Per his final demands, Joe Heller was laid in his casket Thursday in a T-shirt featuring the Disney dwarf Grumpy and the middle finger of his right hand extended. He also told his daughters to make sure and place a remote control fart machine in the coffin with him.
"My father always wanted the last laugh," daughter Monique Heller said.
The Essex volunteer firefighter and self-described local "dawg kecher" died on Sept. 8 at age 82, and the off-color obituary written by his youngest daughter has become a nationwide sensation — a lead item on cable news sites, a top story on The Courant's website and a post shared far and wide on social media.
Laced with bawdy humor, the irreverent but loving obit captured Heller's highly inappropriate nature and his golden heart, friends who filled the fire station for a celebration of his life on Thursday evening said.
A 19-year-old man who planned a July mass shooting at a West Lubbock hotel that was thwarted by his grandmother was upset that he was considered "defective" by the military when he was discharged for his mental illness, according to court records.
William Patrick Williams faces federal charges for reportedly lying on an application to buy the semiautomatic rifle he planned to use in a shooting, according to a federal indictment filed Aug. 14.
He is charged with a federal felony count of making a false material statement during the purchase of a firearm on July 11, a day before he planned to lure people out of a hotel and shoot them. The charge carries a punishment of up to five years in prison.
Reuters) - Hamza bin Laden, a son of slain al Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden and himself a notable figure in the militant group, was killed in a U.S. counter-terrorism operation, the White House said on Saturday.