Trump shows he trusts an ex-KGB agent more than USA intelligence

Tuesday, 17 Jul, 2018

In an exclusive interview with Fox News' Sean Hannity, Trump said Russian President Vladimir Putin described the Mueller probe to him as "a shame" when the two leaders met in Helsinki earlier Monday.

That came three days after the US Justice Department indicted 12 Russians for hacking Democratic Party computers, the latest in a series of actions taken by the US government since late 2016 in retribution for what intelligence agencies say was a broad plan to support Trump's election campaign directed by Putin himself. The two men found themselves largely in agreement. But in advance of the talks, Trump listed a series of topics that did not include Russian meddling in the 2016 presidential election. "It's kept us apart". It's kept us separated. "I have President Putin; he just said it's not Russian Federation".

When asked about Coat's assessment in an interview with CBS news Saturday, President Trump said "I don't know if I agree with that". But I have - I have confidence in both parties.

Later in the press conference, Trump teed up a proposal from Putin, saying his Russian counterpart "has an interesting idea" that he may "very well want to address".

But Monday's session was condemned in advance by members of Congress from both parties after the United States indictment last week of the 12 Russian military intelligence officers.

Senator Susan Collins said Trump's "position is untenable", while Senate Intelligence Committee Chairman Richard Burr, also a Republican, outlined Russian aggression on several fronts and said the United States "will not tolerate hostile Russian activities against us or our allies".

The summit, which is being closely watched around the world, was condemned in advance by members of Congress from both parties after the USA indictment last week of 12 Russian military intelligence officers accused of hacking Democrats in the 2016 election to help Mr Trump's presidential campaign.

"Our relationship with Russian Federation has NEVER been worse", Mr Trump tweeted yesterday, blaming "many years of USA foolishness and stupidity and now, the Rigged Witch Hunt!"

"If that makes me a NeverTrumper, so be it", he wrote on Twitter.

The Russian Foreign Ministry said in a statement on Friday that the indictments were baseless and had been timed to poison the mood ahead of the summit.

"I felt this was a message best delivered in person".

The summit, which is being closely watched around the world, was not the first time Mr Trump and Mr Putin have held talks.

Putin proposed an "expert council" to improve relations between the countries.

"Today's press conference in Helsinki was one of the most disgraceful performances by an American president in memory", he said.

House Speaker Paul Ryan weighed in to say there's "no question" that Russian Federation interfered in the 2016 presidential election and "no moral equivalence" between the U.S. and Russian Federation. "The Russian state has never interfered and is not going to interfere in internal American affairs including the election process".

Conservative foreign policy experts and members of Congress in both parties have warned that Trump just elevated Putin on the world stage at a time when he should be punishing Russian Federation for increasingly antagonistic actions against Western countries.

Democrats have slammed Trump for his behavior at last week's North Atlantic Treaty Organisation summit in Brussels, where he publicly criticized member nations for what he considered insufficient defense spending, and for his criticisms of British Prime Minister Theresa May when he visited England.