“They think it’s Russia. I have President Putin — he just said it’s not Russia. I don’t see any reason why it would be.”
– Donald Trump; July 16, 2018; Press Conference
Today may be described as one of the lowest points of foreign policy during the term of any American president. Watching this press conference for U.S. President Donald Trump and Russian President Vladimir Putin was disturbing to say the least. It serves to remind us of the dealings of a seriously inept man attempting to function as the leader of the free world. Political condemnation of Trump's actions (or lack of action) has been swift and continuous. Many agree he is a true danger to the future of America.
United States intelligence agencies say Russia interfered in the 2016 United States election. Putin denies it. And, Trump refused to say, but he expressed doubt about whether Russia was to blame.
In the press conference, Trump did not criticize Putin or the cyber-attacks that the US intelligence community says he coordinated to help Trump’s 2016 election campaign. “I have great confidence in my intelligence people, but I will tell you that President Putin was extremely strong and powerful in his denial today,” Trump said.
The timing of the Trump-Putin meeting was exceptionally awkward. Just days ago, the Justice Department indicted 12 Russian intelligence agents on charges of hacking the Democratic National Committee and Hillary Clinton’s presidential campaign.
Dan Coats, director of National intelligence, said the US intelligence community has "been clear" in its assessments of Russian interference in the 2016 election, describing their actions as "ongoing and pervasive efforts to undermine our democracy."
Coats assesses …
“The role of the Intelligence Community is to provide the best information and fact-based assessments possible for the President and policymakers. We have been clear in our assessments of Russian meddling in the 2016 election and their ongoing, pervasive efforts to undermine our democracy, and we will continue to provide unvarnished and objective intelligence in support of our national security.”
Republican Sen. Richard Burr, chairman of the Senate Intelligence Committee, said there's no doubt that Russia interfered in the 2016 presidential election. He added that any statement by Russian President Vladimir Putin contradicting the US intelligence's assessment is "a lie and should be recognized as one by the President."
Burr reports …
“Russia has conducted a coordinated cyberattack on state election systems, and hacked critical infrastructure. They have used social media to sow chaos and discord in our society. They have beaten and harassed U.S. diplomats and violated anti-proliferation treaties. Any statement by Vladimir Putin contrary to these facts is a lie and should be recognized as one by the President.”
Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer said he was "appalled" by President Trump's comments at his press conference with Russia's Vladimir Putin, saying he "could get worse than his performance at the NATO summit – but it sure did."
"He took the word of the KGB over the men and women of the CIA. The President put what's best for him over what's best for the security and well-being of the United States … When it comes to the interference in our 2016 elections, the President has managed to point his finger at just about everybody except the culprit ... The one person he hasn’t blamed is the person he stood shoulder to shoulder with this morning: Vladimir Putin."
Texas Republican Rep.Will Hurd criticized President Trump's meeting with Russian President Vladimir Putin. Hurd tweeted that "the President is wrong," saying Russia did interfere in the 2016 election.
Hurd says …
“As a former CIA officer and a Congressman on the House Intelligence Committee, I can affirmatively say there is nothing about agreeing with a thug like Putin that puts America First.”
House Speaker Paul Ryan said:
“There is no question that Russia interfered in our election and continues attempts to undermine democracy here and around the world. That is not just the finding of the American intelligence community but also the House Committee on Intelligence. The president must appreciate that Russia is not our ally. There is no moral equivalence between the United States and Russia, which remains hostile to our most basic values and ideals. The United States must be focused on holding Russia accountable and putting an end to its vile attacks on democracy.”
In a blistering shot at President Trump, Republican Sen. John McCain called today’s news conference "one of the most disgraceful performances by an American president in memory." He added that it was a “recent low point” in the history of the presidency, calling the summit “a tragic mistake."
McCain explains …
“The damage inflicted by President Trump’s naiveté, egotism, false equivalence, and sympathy for autocrats is difficult to calculate. But it is clear that the summit in Helsinki was a tragic mistake. President Trump proved not only unable, but unwilling to stand up to Putin. He and Putin seemed to be speaking from the same script as the president made a conscious choice to defend a tyrant against the fair questions of a free press, and to grant Putin an uncontested platform to spew propaganda and lies to the world.”
Senator John Cornyn, the No. 2 Senate Republican, made it clear that he believes the intelligence community and special counsel Robert Mueller's indictments. Cornyn says Trump seems concerned his election is being delegitimized by critics.
According to Cornyn …
“I don’t think we should be taking a former KGB colonel’s word for what their intelligence apparatus is doing or not doing. I believe our intelligence community, and their assessment, and I think what special counsel Bob Mueller just indicted — the 12 GRU officials — is spot on. So I don’t know what the President is trying to use some sort of carrot-and-stick approach with Putin, but I believe the intelligence community.”
Senator Ben Sasse, Republican of Nebraska, joined in. “This is bizarre and flat-out wrong,” he said. “The United States is not to blame.”
Sasse says …
“America wants a good relationship with the Russian people but Vladimir Putin and his thugs are responsible for Soviet-style aggression. When the president plays these moral equivalence games, he gives Putin a propaganda win he desperately needs.”
Jeff Flake, Republican senator from Arizina, tweets …
“I never thought I would see the day when our American President would stand on the stage with the Russian President and place blame on the United States for Russian aggression. This is shameful.”
According to Mike Murphy, Republican strategist …
And John O. Brennan, who was C.I.A. director under President Barack Obama, speaks of impeachment:
“Donald Trump’s press conference performance in Helsinki rises to & exceeds the threshold of ‘high crimes & misdemeanors.’ It was nothing short of treasonous. Not only were Trump’s comments imbecilic, he is wholly in the pocket of Putin. Republican Patriots: Where are you???”
Julie Hirschfeld Davis. “Trump, Putin and the ‘Incredible Offer.'” The New York Times. July 16, 2018.
Luke Harding. “Trump-Putin meeting reactions: 'Russia is not our ally', says Paul Ryan – live.” The Guardian. July 16. 2018.
Meg Wagner, Veronica Rocha, Brian Ries and Sheena McKenzie. “Trump and Putin meet in Helsinki.” CNN. July 16, 2018.