Published: Tue, July 17, 2018
People | By Neil Grant

Trump says Putin made an ‘incredible offer’ in Russian hacking case

In an extraordinary embrace of a longtime USA enemy, President Donald Trump on Monday openly questioned his own intelligence agencies' firm finding that Russia meddled in the 2016 U.S. election to his benefit, seeming to accept Russian President Vladimir Putin's insistence that Moscow's hands were clean.

In fact, by asking tough questions at Trump's joint news conference with Russian President Vladimir Putin today, reporters once again showed that they are the sentinels of America democracy. He added that he had spent a great deal of time talking to Putin about the accusations of election meddling, but that he had "no reason to believe" that President Putin's government had interfered with the USA presidential campaign in 2016.

Even as he rejected the notion that Russian Federation had interfered in the election, Putin defended the veracity of the information that was revealed in the Democratic National Committee's hacked emails, which were made public by WikiLeaks in July 2016. He said Putin was "extremely strong and powerful in his denial today" - so apparently, that's that.

"If Trump's spineless toadying to Putin made you think, 'What's Vlad got on him?' you're not the only one", Colbert said.

"The president of the United States essentially capitulated, and seems intimidated by Vladimir Putin", said James Clapper, a career intelligence official who served as director of national intelligence through the 2016 race.

Bill Burns, a former US deputy secretary of state and ambassador to Russian Federation, said in a telephone interview: "I have. seen a lot of performances by presidents on the world stage, but I can not think of one that was more appalling than this one".

President Trump was asked a very straightforward question about Russia's interference in the 2016 election. As for USA troops in Syria, says Trump, they will be coming out after ISIS is crushed, and we are 98 percent there. He called the appointment of a special counsel on Russian interference and the involvement of United States persons in that effort, Robert Mueller III, a "disgrace" to the country and an impediment to his own efforts to improve ties with Russia.

The Russian Foreign Ministry tweeted back: "We agree".

Even if Trump were thinking only in terms of his own political survival - his usual mode - he would be tougher on Putin, because he must realise that kowtowing to the Russian only strengthens suspicions of collusion.

There were mixed reactions on Fox News Channel, whose commentators usually represent Trump's biggest supporters. And it came at the end of an extraordinary trip to Europe in which Trump had already berated allies, questioned the value of the North Atlantic Treaty Organisation alliance and demeaned leaders including Germany's Angela Merkel and Britain's Theresa May.

Fox contributor and former House Speaker Newt Gingrich, who advised Mr. Trump during and after the campaign, called on him to "clarify his statements in Helsinki on our intelligence system and Putin".

Added NBC's Hallie Jackson: "I think a fair word would be extraordinary". The media may not be the "enemy of the people" Trump says they are, but many are implacable enemies of this president.

"Our relationship with Russian Federation has NEVER been worse thanks to many years of USA foolishness and stupidity and now, the Rigged Witch Hunt!" he said on Twitter.

The two leaders began their highly anticipated meeting with a 90-minute one-on-one session, with only their respective translators in attendance. He gave the Kremlin no reason not to continue such interference in US election processes: it's been successful (from their point of view), the costs are minimal, and the USA president apparently does not believe it is happening.

It seemed unlikely that American authorities would take seriously any such offer from Putin, and some US lawmakers openly ridiculed the suggestion.

"President Putin says it's not Russian Federation".

Trump stunned USA political allies and foes alike with his answer to a question about Russian hacking and interference in the 2016 election which saw him defeat Democrat Hillary Clinton. -Russian relations will require at least some change in problematic Russian policies, such as aggression against Ukraine, interference in USA domestic politics and involvement in Syria.

CBS' Margaret Brennan said she was messaging some USA officials during the speech who said they were turning off the television.

After all, that was the ultimate goal of Russia's election meddling, U.S. officials have assessed.

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