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Trump’s Press Conference With Putin Will Go Down in History

The U.S. president doesn’t seem concerned that Putin’s cronies interfered in the 2016 election, and the Russian president admitted to wanting Trump in the White House

The President of the United States of America Donald Trump and President of the Russian Federation Vladimir Putin (R) shake hands during their joint press conference in the Presidential PalaceHelsinki Summit, Finland - 16 Jul 2018

in Helsinki, Finland.

Jussi Nukari/REX Shutterstock

UPDATE: During a joint press conference with Vladimir Putin following the Monday summit, President Trump bashed the FBI at length, suggested the case of 12 Russian intelligence officers indicted by the Justice Department be outsourced to Russian intelligence and reaffirmed that he believes Putin – not U.S. intelligence – in the matter of Russian interference in the 2016 election. “President Putin was extremely strong and powerful in his denial,” Trump said.

Though Trump said he doesn’t “see any reason why it would be” Russia to interfere in the election, minutes earlier Putin admitted that he wanted Trump to win. “Yes, I did,” Putin said when asked if he wanted Trump to be elected.

When asked if he possessed any compromising information on Trump, the two leaders turned to each other and exchanged smiles. “I heard the rumors,” Putin said with a laugh.

Trump concluded the press conference by abruptly pivoting from denying he is compromised by Russia to discussing FBI agent Peter Strzok’s testimony before Congress last Thursday. “If anybody watched Peter Strzok testify over the last couple of days, and I was in Brussels watching it, it was a disgrace to the FBI, a disgrace to our country and you would say that that was a total witch hunt,” Trump said. “Thank you very much everybody.”

Original post below.

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On Friday, Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein announced charges against 12 Russian intelligence officers for hacking Hillary Clinton’s campaign and other Democratic organizations prior to the 2016 election. The indictment described in astonishing detail the complexity of the operation, which sought to obtain voter data and publicize stolen documents in an effort to install Donald Trump in the White House. For example, when in July 2016 the future president called on Russia to unearth Clinton’s missing emails, the officials responded by attempting to hack into her campaign that very day. “The warning lights are blinking red again,” Director of National Intelligence Dan Coats said after the indictment was released. “Today, the digital infrastructure that serves this country is literally under attack.”

Several lawmakers called on Trump to cancel his Monday summit with Russia’s Vladimir Putin, or to at least join U.S. intelligence agencies in acknowledging that Russia interfered in the election. The president responded congratulating Putin for hosting a “truly great” World Cup.

Not only did Trump fail to scold Russia for attacking the United States, he blamed the Democratic National Committee. “I think the DNC should be ashamed of themselves for allowing themselves to be hacked,” the president told CBS during a two-day stopover at his golf club in Turnberry, Scotland. During the same interview, the president made explicit what his behavior toward America’s allies has long suggested: Europe should now be considered an enemy of the United States. “I think the European Union is a foe,” he said.

When asked whether he would press Putin to extradite the 12 intelligence officers charged by the Justice Department, Trump said he “hadn’t thought” about it.

A day later, the president lashed out at the media, tweeting that he could emerge from Monday’s meeting with “the great city of Moscow as retribution for all of the sins and evils committed by Russia,” but that it wouldn’t be enough. Undeterred by the shooting that left five staffers of an Annapolis, Maryland, newspaper dead just over two weeks earlier, the president once again called the media the “enemy of the people.”

Trump’s attempts to deflect attention from Russia’s crimes against America continued Monday morning. Prior to meeting with Putin, the president pointed out that America’s relationship with Russia “has NEVER been worse,” but took Russia’s side in pointing the finger at the United States. He also once again called Special Counsel Mueller’s investigation, which has now led to dozens of indictments, a “Rigged Witch Hunt.” Russia was pleased.

There’s nothing Putin can do that would dissuade Trump from praising him. Bizarre as this may be, it isn’t really that difficult to understand. The most forgiving, if unlikely, explanation is that Trump admires the unfettered control Putin is able to wield over his nation. Another possibility is that Trump has been compromised by Russia. As the president prepared to head to Turnberry on Friday, Adam Davidson of the New Yorker explained that while Trump had for most of his career as a real estate magnate used the money of others to finance his projects, racking up millions of dollars in debt, in the past 15 years he suddenly started spending hundreds of millions of dollars in cash to fund a number of projects, including Turnberry, into which he sunk around $200 million. There are plenty of signs suggesting this influx of cash is a result of Russian oligarchs attempting to launder money through Trump’s properties, which is, of course, illegal. While many want to believe Putin is blackmailing Trump with the “pee tape,” if it does exist, it would only be a cherry on top of the mountain of surreptitious financial dealings that are more likely preventing the president from taking a hard line toward Russia.

Not surprisingly, then, the tone was collegial when the two leaders sat down in front of reporters prior to their private meeting on Monday, which reportedly lasted over two hours. They shook hands. Trump once again congratulated Putin on the World Cup. At one point, the president even winked at the man currently driving a wedge between the United States and its allies.

Whatever the reason, it’s now abundantly clear that Trump considers Putin his ally. The implications of this alliance are frightening for the future of liberal democracy, which both leaders seem to be determined to undermine. Though Putin’s total control over Russia is unimpeachable, the United States government is still equipped to prevent Trump from dismantling decades of diplomacy. Unfortunately, the Republican lawmakers who have the power to check the president haven’t been able to offer anything other than a few self-righteous tweets.

“Mr. President, as today’s indictments reaffirm, election interference is not a question to be asked of Vladimir Putin, but a statement to be made to Vladimir Putin: You,” wrote Sen. Jeff Flake (R-AZ) on Friday. “No matter how much Putin flatters the President, he is a KGB thug who jails political opponents, encourages/orders the murder of Russian dissidents and defectors at home and abroad, and who directs a military that bombs women, children, and the injured in hospitals in Syria,” Sen. Ben Sasse (R-NE) tweeted on Sunday. Such 240-character excoriations are tantamount to the “thoughts and prayers” these same senators offer the victims of shootings while refusing to take any legislative action to prevent them. Their words don’t matter, because Trump couldn’t care less.

Consistently the most feckless of the small small horde of Republicans pretending to care about Trump’s behavior is Sen. Marco Rubio (R-FL). On Sunday, he tweeted a Bible verse, which is now his most common response to the president’s many indiscretions.

May they not turn to foolishness, indeed.

This post has been updated.

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