Leading Republicans have joined Democrats in condemning the U.S. President’s press conference with Russian President Vladimir Putin in Helsinki on July 17. After a 2-hour private meeting with Putin on Monday, Trump said he had “no reason to believe” that Russia had interfered with the 2016 presidential election.
Trump denied that there was any collusion and added that he had spent a great deal of time talking to Putin about the accusations of election meddling. He insisted that there was “no reason to believe” that Russia had interfered with the U.S. presidential campaign in 2016. He further called the probe a “disaster”.
Trump said “great confidence in the US intelligence community, but added that Putin “was extremely strong and powerful in his denial today”. He praised the Putin for offering to cooperate with the American investigation.
Trump appeared not to give a direct answer when a reporter asked if he believed the Federal Bureau of Investigation’s(FBI) assertion on Russian interference, and instead questioned the whereabouts of one of the FBI’s servers. Trump also said the FBI needed to find Hillary Clinton’s emails.
Senate Democratic Leader Chuck Schumer has called for immediate hearings with Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and other top officials to learn more about President Trump’s private meeting on Monday with the Russian President.
Schumer criticized Trump’s performance during his side-by-side news conference with Putin in Helsinki, when he spoke to reporters on Capitol Hill in Washington on Monday. He took offence that Trump openly questioned his own intelligence agencies’ conclusions that Moscow was to blame for meddling in the 2016 U.S. election to Trump’s benefit.
Leading Republicans have joined the Democrats in condemning the President. Speaker of the House of Representatives, Paul Ryan, said that Trump “must appreciate that Russia is not our ally.” Adding: “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.”
Chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, Republican Bob Corker, told reporters that the Helsinki press conference was “not a good moment” for the U.S. and said “When he had the opportunity to defend our intelligence agencies who work for him, I was very disappointed and saddened with the equivalency that he gave between them and what Putin was saying.”
The most scathing condemnation however, came from former Republican Party presidential candidate John McCain.
U.S. Senator John McCain, Chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee, released the following statement on President Trump’s meeting and press conference with Vladimir Putin in Helsinki:
“Today’s press conference in Helsinki was one of the most disgraceful performances by an American president in memory. 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.
“It is tempting to describe the press conference as a pathetic rout – as an illustration of the perils of under-preparation and inexperience. But these were not the errant tweets of a novice politician. These were the deliberate choices of a president who seems determined to realize his delusions of a warm relationship with Putin’s regime without any regard for the true nature of his rule, his violent disregard for the sovereignty of his neighbors, his complicity in the slaughter of the Syrian people, his violation of international treaties, and his assault on democratic institutions throughout the world.
“Coming close on the heels of President Trump’s bombastic and erratic conduct towards our closest friends and allies in Brussels and Britain, today’s press conference marks a recent low point in the history of the American Presidency. That the president was attended in Helsinki by a team of competent and patriotic advisors makes his blunders and capitulations all the more painful and inexplicable.
“No prior president has ever abased himself more abjectly before a tyrant. Not only did President Trump fail to speak the truth about an adversary; but speaking for America to the world, our president failed to defend all that makes us who we are—a republic of free people dedicated to the cause of liberty at home and abroad. American presidents must be the champions of that cause if it is to succeed. Americans are waiting and hoping for President Trump to embrace that sacred responsibility. One can only hope they are not waiting totally in vain.”
Putin acknowledged at the joint press conference with Trump that he wanted Trump to win the 2016 election but denied allegations of meddling. Speaking through an interpreter, he said: “We should be guided by facts. Can you name a single fact that would definitively prove collusion? This is utter nonsense. Just like the president recently mentioned.”
In the wake of last week’s indictment of 12 Russian military officers for hacking and leaking Democratic emails, Putin offered to allow the special counsel Robert Mueller’s team to visit Russia and witness the accused being interrogated – but only if the US made a reciprocal arrangement that would allow Russian agents to operate in the US.