It went very well.
That’s Donald Trump’s assessment of how things went at Monday’s summit in Helsinki with Vladimir Putin.
This was, of course, farcical in the extreme. Trump spent the last 48 hours attempting to discredit the U.S. intelligence community’s assessment of Russia’s efforts to meddle in the 2016 election by tweeting about “Crooked Hillary”, “rigged witch hunts”, “fake news” and FBI conspiracies. He also called the U.S. media the “enemy of the people” while en route to Finland.
President Obama thought that Crooked Hillary was going to win the election, so when he was informed by the FBI about Russian Meddling, he said it couldn’t happen, was no big deal, & did NOTHING about it. When I won it became a big deal and the Rigged Witch Hunt headed by Strzok!
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) July 16, 2018
There was no indication that Trump was prepared to reconsider the relative wisdom of taking this meeting with Putin in light of the new indictments handed down on Friday by the Department of Justice against 12 Russian operatives who interfered in the 2016 election.
In the joint press conference with Putin following the summit, Trump was keen on blaming the special counsel probe for frayed relations with Moscow. He explicitly said the U.S. is partly to blame:
“I addressed the issue of Russian meddling in the U.S. elections”, Trump said, before adding that Putin “has an interesting idea.”
That’s likely an allusion to the “impenetrable cyber unit” Trump mentioned last year. You’ll recall the following tweet:
Putin & I discussed forming an impenetrable Cyber Security unit so that election hacking, & many other negative things, will be guarded..
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) July 9, 2017
“Russia can work with the U.S. to analyze materializes through a cyber group”, Putin said, an apparent reference to the same “unit”.
That is clearly ridiculous. The idea that the U.S. would turn over intelligence about Russian meddling in an election to Russia for the purposes of letting the Kremlin “analyze” it, is so laughable that it’s barely worth mentioning.
Asked how he can reconcile the U.S. intelligence community’s unanimous conclusions with Putin’s claims, Trump brought up “the server” again.
Reporter to @POTUS: Just now, President Putin denied having anything to do with the election interference in 2016. Every U.S. intelligence agency has concluded that Russia did. My first question for you sir is, who do you believe? https://t.co/ayZoKGvWxk pic.twitter.com/b5ad79963g
— CBS News (@CBSNews) July 16, 2018
He went on to reiterate the “no collusion” narrative literally dozens of times. One reporter pressed Trump and Putin, asking, specifically, “why Americans should believe that Russia did not meddle in the 2016 elections given the evidence presented?”
“The main thing we emphasized ‘zero collusion'”, Trump responded, before claiming the entire Russian collusion story was (and still is), an excuse for an election loss on the part of the Democrats, who he maligned as obstructionists. He went on to cite his Electoral College win, before saying the following:
Just to say it one more time, and I say it all the time, there was no collusion. I never knew [Putin]. There was nobody to collude with. We ran a brilliant campaign and that’s why I’m President.
"There was no collusion," Pres. Trump says at joint presser with Russian Pres. Putin. "I didn't know the president. There was nobody to collude with."
— ABC News (@ABC) July 16, 2018
The same reporter asked if Russia would extradite the accused Russians. To that, Putin offered a long-winded response that was so convoluted as to be impossible to parse. Amusingly, he seemed to allude to possible collusion between nefarious Russians and the Hillary Clinton campaign.
Putin mentioned Robert Mueller by name on numbers occasions. “Options abound”, when it comes to Kremlin cooperation with the special counsel probe, Putin concluded.
The press conference subsequently descended into absolute farce, with Putin explaining that when it comes to “dossiers”, he’s an expert. He also mentioned George Soros and again implored Washington to send him the
Asked specifically by a reporter whether the Russian government has “compromising material on President Trump and his family,” Putin said this:
Yeah, I did hear these rumors that we collected compromising material on Mr. Trump when he was in Moscow. When he was a private citizen, I didn’t even know he was in Moscow. Do you think we try to collect compromising material on each and every private individual who visits Moscow?
Please, just disregard this issue and don’t think about it anymore.
Trump closed the press conference with this:
If anybody watched the Peter Strzok testimony the other day, it was a total witch hunt. Thank you very much everybody.