U.S. President Donald Trump said after meeting Vladimir Putin on Monday (July 16) he saw no reason to believe his own intelligence agencies rather than trust the Kremlin leader on the question of whether Russia interfered to help him win the 2016 election.
On a day when he faced pressure from critics, allied countries and even his own staff to take a tough line, Trump said not a single critical word about Moscow on any of the issues that have brought relations between the two powers to the lowest ebb since the Cold War.
Instead, he denounced the “stupidity” of his own country’s policy, especially the decision to investigate election interference.
Trump’s performance is likely to create a political storm in the United States, where the White House has struggled for months to dispel a suggestion that Trump was unwilling to stand up to Putin.
His performance was denounced as “treasonous” by a former CIA chief and condemned as “shameful” by a Republican senator, although other Republicans were more cautious.
Trump held his meeting with Putin just days after a special prosecutor in the United States indicted 12 Russian agents for stealing Democratic Party documents to help him win the vote.
Asked if he believed U.S. intelligence agencies, which concluded that Russia interfered in the 2016 election to help him defeat Democratic candidate Hillary Clinton, he said he was not convinced.
Trump was invited by reporters to offer any criticism of Russia but he repeatedly declined. Asked if Russia was at all to blame for the poor ties, he said: “I hold both countries responsible. I think the U.S. has been foolish. We’ve all been foolish,” he said, before veering into discussion about his election victory.
“I beat Hillary Clinton easily and frankly we beat her…We won that race and it’s a shame that there can be even a little bit of a cloud over it,” he said.
Trump’s warm words for Russia were a marked contrast from the past week when he repeatedly rebuked traditional U.S. allies at a summit of NATO and during a visit to Britain.