Trump casts doubt on USA intelligence, calls Putin's meddling denial 'strong'

Saul Bowman
July 18, 2018

President Donald Trump blamed the United States, not Russian election meddling or its annexation of Crimea, for a low-point in U.S. -Russia relations hours before a summit with Vladimir Putin that played out against a backdrop of fraying Western alliances, a new peak in the Russia investigation and fears that Moscow's aggression may go unchallenged.

But insisting he had won the race fair and square, the wealthy property tycoon said: "I have President Putin, he just said it is not Russian Federation".

A majority of the 2,052 participants in the YouGov survey on behalf of German Press Agency (DPA) published on Sunday also said Putin was more likable, more competent and more powerful than Trump.

Trump previously has shown little appetite for pressing the issue, telling reporters after meeting with Putin in Vietnam last November that he was done discussing it and that he believed the Russian leader's denials were honest. He's been late for past meetings with the pope and British Queen, among many others.

Trump has said he will raise the issue of Russian election meddling, along with Syria, Ukraine, nuclear proliferation and other topics.

The U.S. has no extradition treaty with Moscow and can't compel Russian Federation to hand over citizens. He claimed Obama "was informed by the Federal Bureau of Investigation about Russian Meddling, he said it couldn't happen, was no big deal, & did NOTHING about it".

Russian commentators and editorialists who consider the European Union hostile, troublesome or irrelevant also welcomed Trump's criticism of longtime European allies as "foes" of the U.S.

The Helsinki summit comes right on the heels of Trump's visit to the United Kingdom where thousands of protesters rallied against the US president and activists set sail to a blimp, dubbed "Trump Baby", that was made to resemble Donald Trump.

During a breakfast meeting with Finland's president before the meeting with Putin in the Finnish capital, Trump appeared upbeat.

In a weekend interview with CBS News, Trump admitted that Russian Federation remains a foe, but he put Moscow on a par with China and the European Union as economic and diplomatic rivals. Huntsman said, "The President is pursuing this meeting in the interest of America's national security to determine whether Russian Federation is willing to make progress in our bilateral relationship".

He did not commit to allowing the extradition of the Russian agents.

Trump unleashed his own attacks on those very institutions before arriving in Finland.

In the same interview, Trump admitted that Russian Federation remains a foe, but he put Moscow on a par with China and the European Union as economic and diplomatic rivals.

"NATO is now strong & rich!"

Monday morning President Trump and the first lady will participate in an official greeting at the Mäntyniemi Residence.

But over breakfast with Niinisto, he insisted North Atlantic Treaty Organisation "has never been stronger" and "never been more together" thanks to his insistence on all allies paying their fair share. Trump tweeted. "Much of our news media is indeed the enemy of the people and all the Dems know how to do is resist and obstruct!" "We can do more, so if you want to do an arms race you'll lose", according to the report.

But the USA leader insisted that his counterpart had delivered a "powerful" denial of any Russian manipulation, and that the investigation by special counsel Robert Mueller was proving a "disaster" for the United States.

"I go in with low expectations", Trump said.

"Well, I might. I hadn't thought of that". "These Russian individuals did their work during the Obama years", Trump said on Twitter on Saturday.

U.S. Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein said in a news conference on Friday the GRU officers hacked state election offices and secretaries of state, as well as the Democratic National Committee and the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee.

But after being asked about that by his interviewer, Trump said "certainly I'll be asking about it" although extradition is highly unlikely. Russia's constitution prohibits extraditing its citizens to foreign countries.

Putin is likely to strongly reaffirm his denial of any meddling and cast the US charges as unfounded.

On Syria, a possible deal could see Moscow helping mediate the withdrawal of Iranian forces and their Hezbollah proxies from the areas alongside Syria's border with Israel - a diplomatic coup that would reflect Russia's carefully cultivated ties with both Israel and Iran.

Universally sympathetic to Trump, they described the American as hobbled by domestic political challenges - a problem that Putin doesn't face after 18 years of stifling opposition. They may underline the importance of continuing the discussions, setting the stage for discussions on expert level.

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