Following a day of discussions between Presidents Donald Trump and Vladimir Putin in Helsinki, Finland, Mr. Trump left Monday’s summit neglecting to hold Putin accountable for Russia’s role in interfering in the 2016 presidential election — saving most of his criticism for America itself.
“I hold both countries responsible. I think that the United States has been foolish. I think that we’ve all been foolish. We should have had this dialogue a long time ago, a long time, frankly, before I got to office,” Mr. Trump said during a joint press conference with Putin.
Offered multiple chances to denounce Russia’s actions, Mr. Trump instead placed blame on the FBI and said that he had “confidence” in both parties — the intelligence community and Russia.
“All I can do is ask the question – my people came to me, Dan Coats came to me and some others, they said they think it’s Russia. I have President Putin he just said it’s not Russia. I will say this, I don’t see any reason why it would be but I really want to see the server but, I have confidence in both parties,” Mr. Trump said.
He went so far as to say that Putin’s denial of having been involved in the election was “extremely strong and powerful.” Putin instead reiterated past claims that the “Russian state” has never and is not going to ever interfere in U.S. internal affairs, including elections, and offered to allow Special Counsel Robert Mueller an opportunity to request to interrogate and question 12 Russian nationals indicted in his probe on Russian soil.
Mr. Trump meanwhile hailed the summit as being a success after for dialogue between the two nations following a private one-on-one discussion that lasted 2 hours long.
“The world wants to see us get along,” Mr. Trump remarked earlier during the leaders’ first formal meeting, adding, “I think we’ll end up having an extraordinary relationship.”
The president’s top national security advisers had advised him publicly and privately to adopt a more hawkish tone towards Russia going into the summit, especially given the Justice Department’s announcement Friday — days before his meeting — of a new round of indictments against 12 Russians for their alleged attempts to interfere in the presidential election.