“I really think the world wants to see us get along.”
President Donald Trump met privately with Russian President Vladimir Putin in Helsinki, Finland, this morning around 6:30 AM ET.
Trump told CBS News that he had “low expectations” going into the meeting.
On Sunday night, Fox News listed the topics Trump and Putin supposedly discussed during the meeting:
Russian Meddling in 2016 Election
Press Conference Before Private Meeting
Before the conference, Trump sent a tweet that blasted the U.S. as the cause of escalating tensions.
Our relationship with Russia has NEVER been worse thanks to many years of U.S. foolishness and stupidity and now, the Rigged Witch Hunt!
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) July 16, 2018
Or maybe it could possibly be Russia meddling in the affairs of former Soviet republics, annexing Crimea, and engaging in a war in eastern Ukraine. While Robert Mueller’s investigation hasn’t produced evidence of any collusion between Trump and Russia during the campaign, it has shown that Russia tried to mess with our election or at least cause chaos.
Trump and Putin held a press conference before they went into their 90-minute private meeting. From The Wall Street Journal:
Speaking at the Presidential Palace at the outset of their one-on-one meeting, which is expected to last about 90 minutes, Mr. Trump said the two leaders would discuss issues related to trade, the military, nuclear weapons, missiles and China, including their “mutual friend” Chinese President Xi Jinping.
“We have great opportunities together as two countries,” Mr. Trump said, as the two leaders sat beside each other, with American and Russian flags arrayed behind them. “Frankly, we have not been getting along very well for the last number of years…I really think the world wants to see us get along.”
“We are the two great nuclear powers,” Mr. Trump added. “We have 90% of the nuclear—and that’s not a good thing, it’s a bad thing.”
“Now is the time to have a serious conversation about our bilateral relations and about various sore spots in the world, and there are many of those,” Mr. Putin said.
Unfortunately, Trump didn’t have a note-taker nor did he take notes during the meeting. Reportedly, he was concerned about leaks. Putin had a paper and pen, worrying some former and current officials since this will probably give Russia the only on-the-record details about the meeting.
And we all know how trustworthy Russia is when it comes to facts.
Trump is not wrong when he says he’s been tough on Russia. His administration has passed sanctions on Russia, including Alexei Miller, the top shot at Gazprom and someone I never expected to see on a sanctions list. The administration also expelled Russian diplomats over election meddling and allegations they poisoned a former Russian spy in the United Kingdom.
Putin wants Trump to soften the sanctions on Russia, but by law, Trump cannot do so without permission from Congress. People on the sanctions list “face limits on their travel and freezes on at least some of their assets, while some top Russian state banks and companies, including oil and gas giants, are effectively barred from getting financing through U.S. banks and markets.”
Fox News reported that Trump and Putin were likely to “discuss a tentative deal to move Iranian troops farther from Israel’s border with Syria and Jordan, in exchange for allowing access there to Syrian President Bashar al-Assad’s forces.” Iran has used Syria as a launching pad for attacks on Israel, leading Trump to speak with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu over the weekend:
“Yesterday I spoke with U.S. President Donald Trump,” Netanyahu said in Israel on Sunday. “We discussed security and diplomatic issues arising from regional developments, chief most among them, of course, Syria and Iran.
“I thanked President Trump for his tough policy against Iran because since this policy has been taken, we have seen a great effect on Iran and inside Iran,” he added. “President Trump reiterated with sharp clarity his commitment to the security of Israel and his willingness to help Israel in various realms and, of course, I thanked him for that.”
Our European allies have shown support for Trump’s meeting with Putin despite the backlash the meeting brings at home. However, NATO countries are concerned Trump “might make concessions on Crimea and reverse the long standing U.S. and NATOP position that Crimea belongs to Ukraine.” Jon Huntsman, the U.S. Ambassador to Russia, told Fox News that he believes it is “highly unlikely” Trump will “recognize Putin’s 2014 annexation of Crimea, but refused to rule out the possibility.”
After the Private Meeting
Trump and Putin faced the press after their almost two-hour meeting. Trump described the meeting as a “good start” and a “[V]ery, very good start for everybody.”
Putin mentioned that Trump brought up Russia meddling in our 2016 election. Of course, Putin denied it. From The Washington Examiner:
“Once again, President Trump mentioned the issue of the so-called interference of Russia in the American elections and I had to reiterate things,” Putin said in Russian at the two leaders’ joint press conference. “I said several times including our personal contacts the Russian state has never interfered and is not going to interfere into internal American affairs including the election process.”
“Any specific material, if such things arise, we are ready to analyze together,” Putin continued. “For instance, we can analyze them through the joint working group on cybersecurity, the establishment of which we discussed during our previous contacts. And clearly the last time we restore our cooperation in the cultural area and humanitarian area.”
Putin denies meddling even though a federal grand jury indicted 12 Russian intelligence officials for allegedly hacking and publishing emails from the DNC and Hilary’s campaign. However, Trump said “Putin has offered to let US investigators question the 12 officers in tandem with Russian investigators.”
In a disturbing twist, Trump decided to side with Putin’s “extremely strong and powerful” denial that Russia interfered with our election instead, contrary to the evidence produced by our intelligence community. Even the Senate Intelligence Committee concluded that Russian meddled in the election.
Putin: “The Russian state has never interfered and is not going to interfere into internal American affairs including [the] election process.” pic.twitter.com/P9waYDmR6Y
— Axios (@axios) July 16, 2018
Yet, Putin said that “he treated Trump with ‘utmost respect’ when Trump visited Moscow several years ago.” Putin finds it to be “utter nonsense” that anyone would think the two men would compile “compromising information on anyone.
Putin also claimed the Cold War is over:
Putin: “The Cold War is a thing of the past. The era of acute ideological confrontation of the two countries is a thing of remote past, is a vestige of the past.” pic.twitter.com/In1PedqvJN
— Axios (@axios) July 16, 2018
Trump told Putin it was wrong for Russia to annex Crimea.
Putin: “President Trump’s position on Crimea is well known… he maintains it was illegal to annex it. Our position is different.”
— Kevin Cirilli (@kevcirilli) July 16, 2018
Trump also blamed both countries for their deteriorating relationship. While our relationship has been crumbling for years, all of that has changed within four hours in Finland.
— Fox News (@FoxNews) July 16, 2018
Overall? A disaster of a press conference. From Axios:
President Trump today, at a press conference with Russian President Vladimir Putin, said he didn’t see “any reason” why Russia would interfere in the 2016 election, in response to a question on whether he believed Putin or U.S. intelligence agencies.
Our thought bubble from Jonathan Swan in Helsinki: “I just have no words. As press in this room, we are all sitting in here speechless and stunned. Trump cast doubt over the U.S. intelligence community and endorsed Putin’s denial. Trump was given an opportunity to denounce the meddling and he didn’t; he just pivoted to lines about the missing server and Hillary’s emails. While Putin spoke forcefully, lying, Trump nodded along. There’s no way of sugar coating or spinning this.”
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