White House Denies Trump Again Contradicted Intel Agencies on Russia

Another day of did he or didn’t he? 

There is confusion at the White House about whether President Donald Trump again contradicted conclusions of the U.S. intelligence community. 

During a Cabinet meeting on Wednesday, the president shook his head and said, “Thank you very much, no” when asked if Russia still poses a threat to the United States. 

Hours later, in the briefing room, Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders explained that Trump actually was “saying ‘no’ to answering questions” and not to the reporter’s question itself.”

“He does believe that they would target certainly U.S. election,” she added. 

Pressed about the president’s remark, Sanders explained: “I’m interpreting what the president said. I’m not reversing it.” 

Many of the reporters clearly remained unsatisfied with the clarification. Some of those who were in the Cabinet Room publicly said they clearly understood that the president was tersely answering the question posed by Cecilia Vega of ABC News, who was representing the television networks in the typical pooling coverage arrangement. 

When Trump returned to the White House South Lawn shortly after Sanders’ remark, VOA and others in that pool attempted to get the president to clarify. 

Holding hands with first lady Melania Trump after stepping off of Marine One, Trump looked at reporters and waved, but he did not answer the questions. 

However, Trump, in a broadcast aired Wednesday,  told the “CBS Evening News” it is “true” Russia meddled in the 2016 presidential election, and he “would” hold Russian President Vladimir Putin responsible for interference “because he’s in charge of the country.” 

The director of national intelligence, Dan Coats, last week said that Russia and other countries are continuing to target American businesses, the government and other institutions.

“The warning lights are blinking red,” Coats said, characterizing Russia’s aggression as persistent and pervasive, and that Moscow’s aggression is “meant to undermine America’s democracy on a daily basis, regardless of whether it is election time or not.”

Republican Senator Lindsey Graham immediately cited the apparent gap between Trump’s and Coats’ views of Russia. The member of the armed services subcommittee on cyber-security, tweeted: “A BIG discrepancy between President Trump’s statement and DNI Coates’ warning. It’s imperative we get to the bottom of what is going on so we can be prepared to protect ourselves in advance of the 2018 elections. My personal view: the Russians are at (it) again.”

Another Republican, Susan Collins, who is a member of the Senate’s intelligence committee, tweeted: “The Russians continue efforts to undermine Western democracies, including ours. The President is wrong and needs to heed the warnings from our Intelligence Community, including DNI Dan Coats.”

A more concise reaction to the president came from a former director of the Central Intelligence Agency and National Security Agency. 

Retired Air Force General Michael Hayden tweeted: “OMG. OMG. OMG.” (Repeating the acronym for “Oh my God”).

During the day’s earlier exchange with reporters in the Cabinet Room, the president asserted, “There’s never been a president as tough on Russia as I have been.”

Trump said he thinks Russian “President [Vladimir] Putin knows that better than anybody,” adding that the Russian leader is “not happy about it.” 

The U.S. president has faced a barrage of criticism from lawmakers of both parties, retired high-level intelligence officials and diplomats for his performance at Monday’s news conference in Helsinki following his meeting with Putin.

Alongside the Russian leader, Trump said he rejected the U.S. intelligence community’s conclusion that Russia had interfered in the 2016 presidential election that he won. 

In a rare walkback, Trump said on Tuesday he accepted the U.S. intelligence community’s conclusion that Russia meddled in the presidential election he won.

“I accept our intelligence community’s conclusion that Russia’s meddling in the 2016 election took place,” Trump told reporters at the White House Tuesday, reading from a prepared statement. 

But he then made an apparently unscripted addition: “Could be other people also. A lot of people out there” — an assessment of the possibility that other countries tried to interfere in the U.S. election, which was not part of the intelligence community’s finding.

On Twitter Wednesday, Trump continued to boast about his summit with Putin, saying critics of his performance in Helsinki were suffering from “Trump Derangement Syndrome.”

Trump also tweeted: “Some people HATE the fact that I got along well with President Putin of Russia. They would rather go to war than see this.”

In another tweet he said, “So many people at the higher ends of intelligence loved my press conference performance in Helsinki. Putin and I discussed many important subjects at our earlier meeting. We got along well, which truly bothered many haters who wanted to see a boxing match. Big results will come!”

Sanders told reporters that Trump’s extended face-to-face conversation with Putin, which appeared to last for more than two hours, covered a wide range of issues of concern to both countries, and that the president did raise the issue of election meddling. 

Asked whether a recording was made of the conversation, for which only the presidents and their translators were present, Sanders replied, “I’m not aware of one.” 

A number of Democratic lawmakers are requesting congressional committees subpoena Trump”s interpreter to answer questions. She has been identified in media reports as State Department veteran interpreter Marina Gross. 

The White House press secretary was asked on Wednesday whether the administration would agree to such testimony. 

“That’s something that would go through the State Department,” Sanders responded.

Trump Offers New Boast of Successful Meeting with Putin

U.S. President Donald Trump is once again defending his meeting with Russian President Vladimir Putin, a day after reversing his acceptance of Putin’s denial that Moscow interfered in the 2016 presidential election.

“So many people at the higher ends of intelligence loved my press conference performance in Helsinki,” Trump tweeted early Wednesday morning. “Putin and I discussed many important subjects at our earlier meeting. We got along well which truly bothered many haters who wanted to see a boxing match. Big results will come!”

The president’s Twitter statement came after he said he accepted the U.S. intelligence community’s conclusion that Russia meddled in the 2016 presidential election.

“I accept our intelligence community’s conclusion that Russia’s meddling in the 2016 election took place,” Trump told reporters in remarks from the White House. But he then added: “Could be other people also. A lot of people out there.”

His comments come a day after he publicly accepted Putin’s denial that Moscow was involved in election interference, drawing sharp criticism from both Republican and Democratic U.S. lawmakers for taking the foreign leader’s word over his own intelligence agencies. Lawmakers called his comments shameful and a disgrace to the U.S. presidency.

Claims he misspoke

At a White House meeting with Republican lawmakers on Tuesday, Trump said that after he reviewed a transcript of his Helsinki remarks, he said he realized he misspoke.

“In a key sentence in my remarks, I said the word would instead of wouldn’t. The sentence should have been…’I don’t see any reason why it WOULDN’T be Russia,” Trump said.

But he added that the Russian actions had no impact on the outcome of his victory over Democrat Hillary Clinton, a former U.S. secretary of state, and reiterated his frequent statement denying that there was any collusion between his campaign and Russian operatives.

He said his administration will do everything it can to thwart any Russian efforts to interfere with November’s U.S. congressional elections.

“We will stop it, we will repel it,” Trump vowed.

Before back-tracking, Trump said on Twitter he had a great summit with Putin and gave no ground in changing his statements about accepting Putin’s denial of interference in the U.S. election two years ago.

He echoed that sentiment about his meeting with his Russian counterpart again Wednesday morning in another Twitter post. “While the NATO meeting in Brussels was an acknowledged triumph, with billions of dollars more being put up by member countries at a faster pace, the meeting with Russia may prove to be, in the long run, an even greater success.”

On Capitol Hill, House Speaker Paul Ryan, a Wisconsin Republican, responded to Trump’s rosy assessment.


“Let’s be very clear: Russia meddled in our election,” Ryan said. “We know they interfered with our elections, and we have passed sanctions on Russia to hold them accountable.”


When asked about election meddling during a joint news conference with Putin on Monday, Trump said, “President Putin was extremely strong and powerful in his denial today.”

Congressional criticism

A day later, U.S. lawmakers continued to condemn Trump’s performance.


“It’s almost as if Donald Trump is embracing Putin’s knees. I’m ashamed of it. Every American should be,” Senate Minority Leader Charles Schumer, a New York Democrat, said. “Can you imagine if President Kennedy believed Khrushchev when he said there were no missiles in Cuba?”


Some Republicans have come to Trump’s defense. Senator Rand Paul of Kentucky said, “The president has gone through a year and a half of totally partisan investigations — what’s he supposed to think?”

Democrats are demanding action to rein in Trump and counter Russia, from congressional hearings on the Helsinki summit to increased sanctions against Russia to legislation protecting the special counsel in the Russia investigation, Robert Mueller. Mueller’s 14-month investigation is ongoing, with no apparent end in sight.


“Words are not enough. Our response to the debasement of American interests before a foreign adversary demands a response not just in word but in deed,” Schumer said. “Our Republican colleagues cannot just go ‘Tsk, tsk, tsk.’ They must act.”


“I think there’s a lot we can do together,” the Senate’s No. 2 Republican, John Cornyn of Texas, responded. “But as long as this becomes a political, partisan, stop-Trump-at-all-costs effort, I don’t think we are going to make much progress.”

Meanwhile, the chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, Tennessee Republican Bob Corker, told reporters he expects Secretary of State Mike Pompeo to testify on Russia as early as next week.


Some Trump critics called on his key national security aides to quit in the face of the president saying that he had “confidence” in both Putin and the U.S. intelligence community.


Sen. Chris Murphy, a Connecticut Democrat, asked in a Twitter comment, “If you’re on the Trump national security team, and you’ve been out there saying how strong Trump is on Russia and how serious our commitment is to NATO, how do you not resign after the last four days?”

There has been no indication so far that any of Trump’s key aides planned to quit.

Facing Capitol Hill Criticism, Trump Corrects Russia Comments

President Donald Trump accepted the U.S. intelligence community assessment that Russia interfered in the 2016 election Tuesday, just a day after saying the opposite as he stood alongside Russian President Vladimir Putin. Trump’s reversal came after strong criticism from both parties on Capitol Hill — prompting many lawmakers to consider further action, as VOA’s congressional correspondent Katherine Gypson reports.

Republican Senators Seek to Reassure US Allies After Trump Trip

President Donald Trump stunned many around the world with his refusal to criticize Russian President Vladimir Putin as he stood beside him in Helsinki Monday. This coming after Trump’s harsh criticism of close U.S. allies, including British Prime Minister Theresa May, German Chancellor Angela Merkel, the European Union and NATO. VOA’s Diplomatic Correspondent Cindy Saine reports from Washington.

Obama Urges World to Follow Mandela’s Example

Former U.S. president Barack Obama Tuesday delivered the 16th Nelson Mandela Annual Lecture in Johannesburg. He urged people in South Africa and elsewhere to follow the late Nobel Peace Prize winner’s example and combat the politics of fear and division.

In his speech, Obama bemoaned what he described as the return of the old order of things. He said there is evidence of continued racism in both the U.S. and South Africa despite Mandela’s 67 years in confronting the issue.

Turning to diminishing democracy in some parts of the world, Obama urged leaders to follow the example Mandela set.

“Madiba guided this nation through negotiation, painstakingly, reconciliation, its first fair and free elections,” Obama said, referring to Mandela by his tribal name. “We all witnessed the grace, the generosity with which he embraced former enemies, the wisdom for him to step away from power once he felt his job was complete.”

Obama said it was sad that new wealth has compounded inequalities, with the captains of industry growing increasingly detached from the people around them.

He also reflected on global events, saying America’s interference in the Middle East and the growing influence of Russia and China were some of the worrying developments.

Obama sounded a warning, saying the politics of fear, resentment and retrenchment are growing stronger at a pace never seen before. However, he said, all hope was not lost.

I believe in Nelson Mandela’s vision…. I believe in a vision of equality and justice and freedom and multi-racial democracy built on the premise that all people are created equal and are endowed by our creator with certain inalienable rights.”

Obama’s speech was welcomed with applause, cheers and ululation.

Godfree Moketsi traveled 400 kilometers from the Limpopo Province to Johannesburg to see and hear Obama speak.

“Yah, Obama is on point,” he said. “He has been talking about capitalists who are enriching themselves. They forget about the poor and it’s not the reflection of Madiba. Economical radical transformation is what we want now and Obama touched those kinds of things.”

The other speakers of the day thanked Obama, saying he was a great inspiration to young people across the African continent.

Russian Prosecutors Want to Question US Intel Agents

Russian prosecutors are pushing to question U.S. intelligence agents and a former ambassador to Moscow in their investigation of an influential foe of Vladimir Putin.

The general prosecutor’s office made the announcement Tuesday in the wake of Putin’s summit Monday with U.S. President Donald Trump.

Putin offered to allow U.S. investigators to question Russian military agents accused of hacking the Democratic Party during the 2016 U.S. election campaign. In exchange, Russia wants to question U.S. officials suspected of involvement in alleged financial crimes by British investor Bill Browder.

Representative Alexander Kurennoi told reporters the prosecutor’s office is preparing requests to send to the U.S. for such interrogations.

Browder was behind a law on U.S. sanctions against powerful Russians that was prompted by the death of a Russian lawyer investigating corruption.

US Muslim Candidates Run in Record Numbers But Face Backlash

A liberal woman of color with zero name recognition and little funding takes down a powerful, long serving congressman from her own political party.

When Tahirah Amatul-Wadud heard about Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez’s stunning upset over U.S. Rep. Joe Crowley in New York’s Democratic primary last month, the first-time candidate saw parallels with her own longshot campaign for Congress in western Massachusetts.

The 44-year-old Muslim, African-American civil rights lawyer, who is taking on a 30-year congressman and ranking Democrat on the influential House Ways and Means Committee, said she wasn’t alone, as encouragement, volunteers and donations started pouring in.

“We could barely stay on top of the residual love,” said Amatul-Wadud, U.S. Rep. Richard Neal’s lone challenger in the state’s Sept. 4 Democratic primary. “It sent a message to all of our volunteers, voters and supporters that winning is very possible.” 

From Congress to state legislatures and school boards, Muslim Americans spurred to action by the anti-Muslim policies and rhetoric of President Donald Trump and his supporters are running for elected offices in numbers not seen since before the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, say Muslim groups and political observers.

Many, like Amatul-Wadud, hope to ride the surge of progressive activism within the Democratic Party that delivered Ocasio-Cortez’s unlikely win and could help propel the Democrats back to power in November. 

Still, the path to victory can be tougher for a Muslim American. Some promising campaigns already have fizzled out while many more face strong anti-Muslim backlash.

In Michigan, Democrat candidate for governor Abdul El-Sayed continues to face unfounded claims from a GOP rival that he has ties to the controversial Muslim Brotherhood, even though Republican and Democratic politicians alike have denounced the accusations as “conspiracy theories.”

In Rochester, Minnesota, mayoral candidate Regina Mustafa has notified authorities of at least two instances where anti-Muslim threats were posted on her social media accounts. 

And in Arizona, U.S. Senate candidate Deedra Abboud received a torrent of Islamophobic attacks on Facebook last July that prompted outgoing U.S. Sen. Jeff Flake, the Republican lawmaker Abboud is hoping to replace, to come to her defense on Twitter.

“I’m a strong believer that we have to face this rhetoric,” said Abboud, who has also had right-wing militant groups the Fraternal Order of Alt-Knights and the Proud Boys stage armed protests her campaign events. “We can’t ignore it or pretend like it’s a fringe element anymore. We have to let the ugly face show so that we can decide if that is us.”

There were as many as 90 Muslim-Americans running for national or statewide offices this election cycle, a number that Muslim groups say was unprecedented, at least in the post-9/11 era.

But recent primaries have whittled the field down to around 50, a number that still far exceeds the dozen or so that ran in 2016, said Shaun Kennedy, co-founder of Jetpac, a Massachusetts nonprofit that helps train Muslim-American candidates.

Among the candidates to fall short were California physician Asif Mahmood, who placed third in last month’s primary for state insurance commissioner, despite raising more than $1 million. And in Texas, wealthy businessman Tahir Javed finished a distant second in his Democratic primary for Congress, despite an endorsement from Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer of New York.

Nine candidates for Congress are still in the running, according to Jetpac’s tally. At least 18 others are campaigning for state legislature and 10 more seek major statewide and local offices, such as governor, mayor and city council. Even more are running for more modest offices like local planning board and school committee.

The next critical stretch of primaries is in August. 

In Michigan, at least seven Muslim Americans are on the Aug. 7 ballot, including El-Sayed, who could become the nation’s first Muslim governor.

In Minnesota, the decision by Keith Ellison, the nation’s first Muslim congressman, to run for state attorney general has set off a political frenzy for his congressional seat that includes two Muslim candidates, both Democrats: Ilhan Omar, the country’s first Somali-American state lawmaker, and Jamal Abdulahi, a Somali-American activist.

But historic wins in those and other races are far from assured, cautions Geoffrey Skelley, an associate editor at Sabato’s Crystal Ball, a nonpartisan political analysis website run by the University of Virginia’s Center for Politics.

Omar’s chances of emerging from a field of five Democratic candidates in Minnesota’s Aug. 14 primary was bolstered by a recent endorsement from the state Democratic Party, but El-Sayed is an underdog in his gubernatorial race, he said.

Other Muslim-American candidates might fare better in Michigan, which has one of the nation’s largest Arab-American populations, Skelley added.

There, former state Rep. Rashida Tlaib has raised more money than her Democratic rivals in the race to succeed Democratic Rep. John Conyers, who resigned last year amid allegations of sexual misconduct. Former Obama administration official Fayrouz Saad is also running as a Democrat in the wide open race to succeed Republican Rep. David Trott, who isn’t seeking re-election. 

Either could become the first Muslim woman elected to Congress, which has only ever had two Muslim members: outgoing Ellison and Rep. Andre Carson, an Indiana Democrat seeking re-election.

Saad, who served most recently as director of Detroit’s Office of Immigrant Affairs, recognizes the importance of representing her community in an era of rising Islamophobia. 

The 35-year-old broke from the conservative Republican politics of her Lebanese immigrant parents following the 9/11 attacks because she felt Arabs and Muslims were unfairly targeted. 

“I felt the way to push back against that was to be at the table,” said Saad, adding that her parents’ political leanings have also since moved to the left. “We have to step up and be voices for our communities and not wait for others to speak on behalf of us.”

But not all Muslim candidates feel that way.

In San Diego, California, 37-year-old Republican congressional candidate Omar Qudrat declined to comment on how Islamophobia has impacted his campaign, including instances when his faith have been called into question by members of his own political party.

Instead, the political newcomer, who is one of at least three Muslim Republicans running nationwide this year, provided a statement touting his main campaign issues as faces Democratic U.S. Rep. Scott Peters in November: addressing San Diego’s high number of homeless military veterans, improving public education and expanding economic opportunities for city residents.

“Running for public office is about advancing the interests of your constituents and the American people,” Qudrat’s statement reads. “Nothing else.”

Putin Denies Having Compromising Info on Trump, Meddling in Elections

Russian President Vladimir Putin denied having any compromising information on U.S. President Donald Trump and called the idea that Russia meddled in 2016 U.S. presidential elections “utterly ridiculous.”

During a contentious interview with Fox News anchor Chris Wallace, Putin said, “Interference with the domestic affairs of the United States — do you really believe that someone acting from the Russian territory could have influenced the United States and influenced the choice of millions of Americans?”

The interview, which aired Monday night, came shortly after the Russian leader met with Trump in Helsinki for a highly anticipated summit.

He also refused to engage with Wallace on the subject of special counsel Robert Mueller’s indictment of a dozen Russian officials.

Wallace tried to offer Putin a copy of the indictment, which names 12 officials of the Russian military intelligence agency, the GRU. They are being accused of working to hack the servers of the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee, the Democratic National Committee and emails associated with former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton’s presidential campaign in 2016.

Putin neither commented on the indictment nor accepted a copy offered by Wallace.

Eventually, Putin questioned Mueller’s probe, questioning why the former FBI chief hadn’t reached out to the Russian government for help in the investigation, pointing to a treaty between the two countries regarding assistance in criminal investigations.

“Why wouldn’t special counsel Mueller send us an official request within the framework of this agreement?” Putin asked. “Our investigators will be acting in accordance with this treaty. They will question each individual that the American partners are suspecting of something. Why not a single request was filed?”

Putin also denied having “kompromat” or “compromising material” on Trump.

“I don’t want to insult President Trump when I say this — and I may come as rude — but before he announced that he will run for presidency, he was of no interest for us,” he said.

As for the summit, Putin pronounced it “the beginning of the path” back from the West’s past efforts to isolate Russia.

“I think you see for yourself that these efforts failed, and they were never bound to succeed,” he said.

Remarks by President Trump and President Putin in Helsinki



Office of the Press Secretary


For Immediate Release                           July 16, 2018







Presidential Palace

Helsinki, Finland



5:10 P.M. EEST


     PRESIDENT PUTIN:  (As interpreted.)  Distinguished Mr. President, ladies and gentlemen: Negotiations with the President of the United States Donald Trump took place in a frank and businesslike atmosphere.  I think we can call it a success and a very fruitful round of negotiations.  


We carefully analyzed the current status — the present and the future of the Russia-United States relationship; key issues of the global agenda.  It’s quite clear to everyone that the bilateral relationship are going through a complicated stage, and yet those impediments — the current tension, the tense atmosphere — essentially have no solid reason behind it.  


The Cold War is a thing of past.  The era of acute ideological confrontation of the two countries is a thing of the remote past, is a vestige of the past.  The situation in the world changed dramatically.  


Today, both Russia and the United States face a whole new set of challenges.  Those include a dangerous maladjustment of mechanisms for maintaining international security and stability, regional crises, the creeping threats of terrorism and transnational crime.  It’s the snowballing problems in the economy, environmental risks, and other sets of challenges.  We can only cope with these challenges if we join the ranks and work together.  Hopefully, we will reach this understanding with our American partners.  


Today’s negotiations reflected our joint wish — our joint wish with President Trump to redress this negative situation and bilateral relationship, outline the first steps for improving this relationship to restore the acceptable level of trust, and going back to the previous level of interaction on all mutual interests issues.


As major nuclear powers, we bear special responsibility for maintaining international security.  And it made it vital — and we mentioned this during the negotiations — it’s crucial that we fine-tune the dialogue on strategic stability and global security and nonproliferation of weapons of mass destruction.  We submitted our American colleagues a note with a number of specific suggestions.


We believe it necessary to work together further to interact on the disarmament agenda, military, and technical cooperation.  This includes the extension of the Strategic Offensive Arms Limitation Treaty.  It’s a dangerous situation with the global American anti-missile defense system; it’s the implementation issues with the INF treaty; and, of course, the agenda of non-placement of weapons in space.


We favor the continued cooperation in counterterrorism and maintaining cybersecurity.  And I’d like to point out specifically that our special services are cooperating quite successfully together.  The most recent example is their operational cooperation within the recently concluded World Football Cup.


In general, the contacts among the special services should be put to a system-wide basis — should be brought to a systemic framework.  I recall — I reminded President Trump about the suggestion to reestablish the working group on antiterrorism.


We also mentioned a plethora of regional crises.  It’s not always that our postures dovetail exactly.  And yet, the overlapping and mutual interests abound.  We have to look for points of contact and interact closer in a variety of international fora.  


Clearly, we mentioned the regional crisis; for instance, Syria.  As far as Syria is concerned, the task of establishing peace and reconciliation in this country could be the first showcase example of this successful joint work.  Russia and the United States apparently can act proactively and take — assume the leadership on this issue, and organize the interaction to overcome humanitarian crisis, and help Syrian refugees to go back to their homes.


In order to accomplish this level of successful cooperation in Syria, we have all the required components.  Let me remind you that both Russian and American military have acquired a useful experience of coordination of their action, established the operational channels of communication which permitted to avoid dangerous incidents and unintentional collisions in the air and in the ground.


Also, crushing terrorists in the southwest of Syria — the south of Syria — should be brought to the full compliance with the Treaty of 1974 about the separation of forces — about separation of forces of Israel and Syria.  This will bring peace to Golan Heights and bring a more peaceful relationship between Syria and Israel, and also to provide security of the state of Israel.


Mr. President paid special attention to the issue during today’s negotiations, and I would like to confirm that Russia is interested in this development, and this will act accordingly.  Thus far, we will make a step toward creating a lasting peace in compliance with the respective resolutions of Security Council, for instance, the Resolution 338.  


We’re glad that the Korean Peninsula issue is starting to resolve.  To a great extent, it was possible thanks to the personal engagement of President Trump, who opted for dialogue instead of confrontation.


You know, we also mentioned our concern about the withdrawal of the United States from the JCPOA.  Well, the U.S. — our U.S. counterparts are aware of our posture.  Let me remind you that thanks to the Iranian nuclear deal, Iran became the most controlled country in the world; it submitted to the control of IAEA.  It effectively ensures the exclusively peaceful nature of the Iranian nuclear program and strengthens the nonproliferation regime.


While we discussed the internal Ukrainian crisis, we paid special attention to the bona fide implementation of Minsk Agreements by Kiev.  At the same time, the United States could be more decisive in nudging the Ukrainian leadership and encourage it to work actively on this.  We paid more attention to economic ties and economic cooperation.  It’s clear that both countries — the businesses of both countries are interested in this.


The American delegation was one of the largest delegations in the St. Petersburg economic forum.  It featured over 500 representatives from American businesses.  We agreed — me and President Trump — we agreed to create the high-level working group that would bring together captains of Russian and American business.  After all, entrepreneurs and businessmen know better how to articulate this successful business cooperation.  We’ll let them think and make their proposals and their suggestions in this regard.


Once again, President Trump mentioned the issue of the so-called interference of Russia when the American elections, and I had to reiterate things I said several times, including during our personal contacts, that the Russian state has never interfered and is not going to interfere into internal American affairs, including the election process.


Any specific material, if such things arise, we are ready to analyze together.  For instance, we can analyze them through the joint working group on cybersecurity, the establishment of which we discussed during our previous contacts.


And clearly, it’s past time we restore our cooperation in the cultural area, in the humanitarian area, as far as — I think you know that recently we hosted the American congressmen delegation, and now it’s perceived and portrayed almost as a historic event, although it should have been just a current affairs — just business as usual.  And in this regard, we mentioned this proposal to the President.


But we have to think about the practicalities of our cooperation, but also about the rationale — the underlying logic of it.  And we have to engage experts on bilateral relationship who know history and the background of our relationship.  The idea is to create an expert council that would include political scientists, prominent diplomats, and former military experts from both countries who would look for points of contact between the two countries, that would look for ways on putting the relationship on the trajectory of growth.  


In general, we are glad with the outcome of our first full-scale meeting because previously we only had a chance to talk briefly on international fora.  We had a good conversation with President Trump, and I hope that we start to understand each other better.  And I’m grateful to Donald for it.


     Clearly, there are some challenges left when we were not able to clear all the backlog.  But I think that we made a first important step in this direction.  


     And in conclusion, I want to point out that this atmosphere of cooperation is something that we are especially grateful for to our Finnish hosts.  We’re grateful for Finnish people and Finnish leadership for what they’ve done.  I know that we’ve caused some inconvenience to Finland, and we apologize for it.


     Thank you for your attention.  


     PRESIDENT TRUMP:  Thank you.  Thank you very much.  


     Thank you.  I have just concluded a meeting with President Putin on a wide range of critical issues for both of our countries.  We had direct, open, deeply productive dialogue.  It went very well.  


     Before I begin, I want to thank President Niinistö of Finland for graciously hosting today’s summit.  President Putin and I were saying how lovely it was and what a great job they did.  


     I also want to congratulate Russia and President Putin for having done such an excellent job in hosting the World Cup.  It was really one of the best ever and your team also did very well.  It was a great job.  


     I’m here today to continue the proud tradition of bold American diplomacy.  From the earliest days of our republic, American leaders have understood that diplomacy and engagement is preferable to conflict and hostility.  A productive dialogue is not only good for the United States and good for Russia, but it is good for the world.


     The disagreements between our two countries are well known, and President Putin and I discussed them at length today.  But if we’re going to solve many of the problems facing our world, then we are going to have to find ways to cooperate in pursuit of shared interests.


     Too often, in both recent past and long ago, we have seen the consequences when diplomacy is left on the table.  We’ve also seen the benefits of cooperation.  In the last century, our nations fought alongside one another in the Second World War.  Even during the tensions of the Cold War, when the world looked  much different than it does today, the United States and Russia were able to maintain a strong dialogue.  


But our relationship has never been worse than it is now.  However, that changed as of about four hours ago.  I really believe that.  Nothing would be easier politically than to refuse to meet, to refuse to engage.  But that would not accomplish anything.  As President, I cannot make decisions on foreign policy in a futile effort to appease partisan critics or the media, or Democrats who want to do nothing but resist and obstruct.   


     Constructive dialogue between the United States and Russia affords the opportunity to open new pathways toward peace and stability in our world.  I would rather take a political risk in pursuit of peace than to risk peace in pursuit of politics.  As President, I will always put what is best for America and what is best for the American people.


     During today’s meeting, I addressed directly with President Putin the issue of Russian interference in our elections.  I felt this was a message best delivered in person.  We spent a great deal of time talking about it, and President Putin may very well want to address it, and very strongly — because he feels very strongly about it, and he has an interesting idea.  


     We also discussed one of the most critical challenges facing humanity: nuclear proliferation.  I provided an update on my meeting last month with Chairman Kim on the denuclearization of North Korea.  And after today, I am very sure that President Putin and Russia want very much to end that problem.  They’re going to work with us, and I appreciate that commitment.


     The President and I also discussed the scourge of radical Islamic terrorism.  Both Russia and the United States have suffered horrific terrorist attacks, and we have agreed to maintain open communication between our security agencies to protect our citizens from this global menace.  


     Last year, we told Russia about a planned attack in St. Petersburg, and they were able to stop it cold.  They found them.  They stopped them.  There was no doubt about it.  I appreciated President Putin’s phone call afterwards to thank me.  


     I also emphasized the importance of placing pressure on Iran to halt its nuclear ambitions and to stop its campaign of violence throughout the area, throughout the Middle East.  


     As we discussed at length, the crisis in Syria is a complex one.  Cooperation between our two countries has the potential to save hundreds of thousands of lives.  I also made clear that the United States will not allow Iran to benefit from our successful campaign against ISIS.  We have just about eradicated ISIS in the area.


     We also agreed that representatives from our national security councils will meet to follow up on all of the issues we addressed today and to continue the progress we have started right here in Helsinki.


     Today’s meeting is only the beginning of a longer process.  But we have taken the first steps toward a brighter future and one with a strong dialogue and a lot of thought.  Our expectations are grounded in realism but our hopes are grounded in America’s desire for friendship, cooperation, and peace.  And I think I can speak on behalf of Russia when I say that also.  


     President Putin, I want to thank you again for joining me for these important discussions and for advancing open dialogue between Russia and the United States.  Our meeting carries on a long tradition of diplomacy between Russia, the United States, for the greater good of all.  


And this was a very constructive day.  This was a very constructive few hours that we spent together.  It’s in the interest of both of our countries to continue our conversation, and we have agreed to do so.  


     I’m sure we’ll be meeting again in the future often, and hopefully we will solve every one of the problems that we discussed today.  


So, again, President Putin, thank you very much.


     MODERATOR:  (As interpreted.)  Distinguished Presidents, now the journalists would have a chance to ask two questions, two sets of question each.  First, the Russian journalist will ask the question.  Please give your affiliation.  


     Q    (As interpreted.)  Good afternoon, my name is Alexei Meshkov, Interfax information agency.  I have a question to President Trump.  During your recent European tour, you mentioned that the implementation of the Nord Stream 2 gas pipeline makes Europe the hostage of Russia.  And you suggested that you could free Europe from this by supplying American LNG.  But this cold winter actually showed that the current model — current mechanism of the supply of fuel to Europe is quite viable.  At the same time, as far as I know, U.S. had to buy even Russian gas for Boston.  


I have a question.  The implementation of your idea has a political tinge to it, or is this a practical one?  Because there will be a gap formed in the supply and demand mechanism, and first it’s the consuming countries who will fall into this gap.


     And the second question: Before the meeting with President Putin, you called him an adversary, a rival, and yet you expressed hope that you would be able to bring this relationship to a new level.  Did you manage to do this?


     PRESIDENT TRUMP:  Actually, I called him a competitor.  And a good competitor he is.  And I think the word “competitor” is a — it’s a compliment.  I think that we will be competing, when you talk about the pipeline.  I’m not sure necessarily that it’s in the best interest of Germany or not, but that was a decision that they made.  We’ll be competing — as you know, the United States is now, or soon will be — but I think it actually is right now — the largest in the oil and gas world.  


     So we’re going to be selling LNG and we’ll have to be competing with the pipeline.  And I think we’ll compete successfully, although there is a little advantage locationally.  So I just wish them luck.  I mean, I did.  I discussed with Angela Merkel in pretty strong tones.  But I also know where they’re all coming from.  And they have a very close source.   So we’ll see how that all works out.


     But we have lots of sources now, and the United States is much different than it was a number of years ago when we weren’t able to extract what we can extract today.  So today we’re number one in the world at that.  And I think we’ll be out there competing very strongly.


     Thank you very much.


    PRESIDENT PUTIN:  (As interpreted.)  If I may, I’d throw in some two cents.  We talked to Mr. President, including this subject as well.  We are aware of the stance of President Trump.   And I think that we, as a major oil and gas power — and the United States, as a major oil and gas power as well — we could work together on regulation of international markets, because neither of us is actually interested in the plummeting of the prices.  


And the consumers will suffer as well, and the consumers in the United States will suffer as well, and the shale gas production will suffer.  Because beyond a certain price bracket, it’s no longer profitable to produce gas, but nor we are interested in driving prices up because it will drain juices, life juices, from all other sectors of the economy, from machine building, et cetera.  So we do have space for cooperation here, as the first thing.


     Then, about the Nord Stream 2, Mr. President voiced his concerns about the possibility of disappearance of transit through Ukraine.  And I reassured Mr. President that Russia stands ready to maintain this transit.  Moreover, we stand ready to extend this transit contract that is about to expire next year, in case — if the dispute between the economic entities dispute will be settled in the Stockholm Arbitration Court.


     MS. SANDERS:  (Inaudible) goes to Jeff Mason, from Reuters.


     Q    Thank you.  Mr. President, you tweeted this morning that it’s U.S. foolishness, stupidity, and the Mueller probe that is responsible for the decline in U.S. relations with Russia.  Do you hold Russia at all accountable for anything in particular?  And if so, what would you consider them — that they are responsible for?  


     PRESIDENT TRUMP:  Yes, I do.  I hold both countries responsible.  I think that the United States has been foolish.  I think we’ve all been foolish.  We should have had this dialogue a long time ago — a long time, frankly, before I got to office.  And I think we’re all to blame.  I think that the United States now has stepped forward, along with Russia.  And we’re getting together.  And we have a chance to do some great things, whether it’s nuclear proliferation, in terms of stopping — because we have to do it.  Ultimately, that’s probably the most important thing that we can be working on.  


     But I do feel that we have both made some mistakes.  I think that the probe is a disaster for our country.  I think it’s kept us apart.  It’s kept us separated.  There was no collusion at all.  Everybody knows it.  People are being brought out to the fore.  


So far, that I know, virtually none of it related to the campaign.  And they’re going to have try really hard to find somebody that did relate to the campaign.  That was a clean campaign.  I beat Hillary Clinton easily.  And frankly, we beat her — and I’m not even saying from the standpoint — we won that race.  And it’s a shame that there can even be a little bit of a cloud over it.  


     People know that.  People understand it.  But the main thing, and we discussed this also, is zero collusion.  And it has had a negative impact upon the relationship of the two largest nuclear powers in the world.  We have 90 percent of nuclear power between the two countries.  It’s ridiculous.  It’s ridiculous what’s going on with the probe.  


     Q    For President Putin, if I could follow up as well.  Why should Americans and why should President Trump believe your statement that Russia did not intervene in the 2016 election, given the evidence that U.S. intelligence agencies have provided?  And will you consider extraditing the 12 Russian officials that were indicted last week by a U.S. grand jury?


     PRESIDENT TRUMP:  Well, I’m going to let the President answer the second part of that question.  But, as you know, the whole concept of that came up perhaps a little bit before, but it came out as a reason why the Democrats lost an election — which, frankly, they should have been able to win, because the Electoral College is much more advantageous for Democrats, as you know, than it is to Republicans.  


     We won the Electoral College by a lot — 306 to 223, I believe.  And that was a well-fought — that was a well-fought battle.  We did a great job.  


And, frankly, I’m going to let the President speak to the second part of your question.  But just to say it one time again, and I say it all the time: There was no collusion.  I didn’t know the President.  There was nobody to collude with.  There was no collusion with the campaign.  And every time you hear all of these — you know, 12 and 14 — it’s stuff that has nothing to do — and frankly, they admit, these are not people involved in the campaign.


     But to the average reader out there, they’re saying, “Well, maybe that does.”  It doesn’t.  And even the people involved, some perhaps told mis-stories or, in one case, the FBI said there was no lie.  There was no lie.  Somebody else said there was.  


     We ran a brilliant campaign, and that’s why I’m President.  Thank you.  


     PRESIDENT PUTIN:  (As interpreted).  As to who is to be believed and to who is not to be believed, you can trust no one, if you take this.  Where did you get this idea that President Trump trusts me or I trust him?  He defends the interests of the United States of America, and I do defend the interests of the Russian Federation.  


     We do have interests that are common.  We are looking for points of contact.  There are issues where our postures diverge, and we are looking for ways to reconcile our differences; how to make our effort more meaningful.


We should not proceed from the immediate political interests that guide certain political powers in our countries.  We should be guided by facts.  Can you name a single fact that would definitively prove the collusion?  This is utter nonsense.


     Just like the President recently mentioned — yes, the public at large in the United States had a certain perceived opinion of the candidates during the campaign, but there’s nothing particularly extraordinary about it.  That’s the usual thing.  


     President Trump, when he was a candidate, he mentioned the need to restore the Russia-U.S. relationship, and it’s clear that a certain part of American society felt sympathetic about it, and different people could express their sympathy in different ways.  But isn’t that natural?  Isn’t it natural to be sympathetic towards a person who is willing to restore the relationship with our country, who wants to work with us?  


     We heard the accusations about the Concord country [sic].  Well, as far as I know, this company hired American lawyers.  And the accusations doesn’t — doesn’t have a fighting chance in the American courts.  So there’s no evidence when it comes to the actual facts.  So we have to be guided by facts and not by rumors.


     Now, let’s get back to the issue of these 12 alleged intelligence officers of Russia.  I don’t know the full extent of the situation, but President Trump mentioned this issue, and I will look into it.


     So far, I can say the following, the things that — off the top of my head: We have an acting — an existing agreement between the United States of America and the Russian Federation, an existing treaty that dates back to 1999, the Mutual Assistance on Criminal Cases.  This treaty is in full effect.  It works quite efficiently.  


On average, we initiate about 100, 150 criminal cases upon request from foreign states.  For instance, the last year, there was one extradition case, upon the request, sent by the United States.  So this treaty has specific legal procedures.  


     We can offer that the appropriate commission headed by Special Attorney Mueller — he can use this treaty as a solid foundation, and send a formal, an official request to us so that we would interrogate — we would hold the questioning of these individuals who he believes are privy to some crimes.  And our law enforcement are perfectly able to do this questioning and send the appropriate materials to the United States.


     Moreover, we can meet you halfway; we can make another step.  We can actually permit official representatives of the United States, including the members of this very commission headed by Mr. Mueller — we can let them into the country and they will be present at this questioning.  


But in this case, there is another condition.  This kind of effort should be a mutual one.  Then we would expect that the Americans would reciprocate and they would question officials, including the officers of law enforcement and intelligence services of the United States whom we believe are — who have something to do with illegal actions on the territory of Russia, and we have to request the presence of our law enforcement.  


For instance, we can bring up Mr. Browder in this particular case.  Business associates of Mr. Browder have earned over $1.5 billion in Russia.  They never paid any taxes, neither in Russia nor in the United States, and yet the money escaped the country.  They were transferred to the United States.  They sent a huge amount of money — $400 million — as a contribution to the campaign of Hillary Clinton.  Well, that’s their personal case.  It might have been legal, the contribution itself, but the way the money was earned was illegal.


     So we have a solid reason to believe that some intelligence officers accompanied and guided these transactions.  So we have an interest of questioning them.  That could be a first step, and we can also extend it.  Options abound, and they all can be found in an appropriate legal framework.


     Q    And did you direct any of your officials to help him do that?


     PRESIDENT PUTIN:  (As interpreted.)  Yes, I did.  Yes, I did.  Because he talked about bringing the U.S.-Russia relationship back to normal.  


I think there can be three questions from the Russian pool.


Russia Today, you have the floor.


Q    (As interpreted.)  (Speaks Russian.)  Thank you so much.  And good evening to everyone.  My name is Ilya Petrenko, RT TV Channel.  


(Speaks English.)  In English, Mr. President, would you please go into the details of possibly any specific arrangements for the U.S. to work together with Russia in Syria, if any of these kind of arrangements were made today or discussed?


(As interpreted.)  (Speaks Russian.)  And my question to President Putin, in Russian: Since we brought up the issue of football several times, I ask — I use the football language.  Mr. Pompeo mentioned that, when we talk about the Syrian cooperation, the ball is in the Syrian court.  Mr. Putin, in the Russian court, is it true?  And how would you use this fact — the having the ball?


PRESIDENT TRUMP:  Well, I guess I’ll answer the first part of the question.  We’ve worked with Israel long and hard for many years, many decades.  I think we’ve never — never has anyone, any country been closer than we are.  President Putin also is helping Israel.  And we both spoke with Bibi Netanyahu, and they would like to do certain things with respect to Syria having to do with the safety of Israel.  So in that respect, we absolutely would like to work in order to help Israel, and Israel will be working with us.  So both countries would work jointly.


And I think that, when you look at all of the progress that’s been made in certain sections with the eradication of ISIS, we’re about 98 percent, 99 percent there — and other things that have taken place that we’ve done, and that, frankly, Russia has helped us with in certain respects.  But I think that working with Israel is a great thing, and creating safety for Israel is something that both President Putin and I would like to see very much.  


One little thing I might add to that is the helping of people — helping of people.  Because you have such horrible, if you see — and I’ve seen reports and I’ve seen pictures, I’ve seen just about everything.  And if we can do something to help the people of Syria get back into some form of shelter and — on a humanitarian basis.  And that’s what the word was, really, a humanitarian basis.  I think that both of us would be very interested in doing that, and we are.  We will do that.


Thank you very much.


Q    Excuse me, but, for now, no specific agreements?  For instance, between the militaries?


PRESIDENT TRUMP:  Well, our militaries do get along.  In fact, our militaries, actually, have gotten along probably better than our political leaders for years.  But our militaries do get along very well, and they do coordinate in Syria and other places.


Okay, thank you.


PRESIDENT PUTIN:  (As interpreted.)  Yes, we did mention this.  We mentioned the humanitarian track of this issue.  Yesterday, I discussed this with French President, Mr. Macron.  And we reached an agreement that, together with European countries, including France, we will step up this effort.  


On our behalf, we will provide military cargo aircraft to deliver the humanitarian cargo.  And today, I brought up this issue with President Trump.  I think there is plenty of things to look into.  


     The crucial thing here is that a huge amount of refugees are in Turkey, in Lebanon, in Jordan — in the states that border — are adjacent to Syria.  If we help them, the migratory pressure upon the European states will drop; it will be decreased many-fold.  And I believe it’s crucial from any point of view — from humanitarian point of view, from the point of view of helping people, helping the refugees.  


And in general, I agree, I concur with President Trump: Our military cooperate quite successfully together.  They do get along, and I hope they will be able to do so in future.  And we will be keep working in the Astana format — I mean Russia, Turkey, and Iran — which I informed President Trump about.  


     But we do stand ready to link these efforts to the so-called “small group” of states so that the process would be a broader one, it would be a multi-dimensional one, and so that we will be able to maximize our fighting chance to get the ultimate success in the issue of Syria.


     And speaking about the having the ball in our court in Syria, President Trump has just mentioned that we’ve successfully concluded the World Football Cup.  Speaking of the football, actually — Mr. President, I’ll give this ball to you, and now the ball is in your court.  All the more that the United States will host the World Cup in 2026.  


     PRESIDENT TRUMP:  Thank you very much.  We do host it.  And we hope we do as good a job.  That’s very nice.  That will go to my son, Barron.  We have no question.  In fact, Melania, here you go.  (Laughter.)    




     MS. SANDERS:  The final question from the United States will go to Jonathan Lemire, from the AP.


     Q    Thank you.  A question for each President.  President Trump, you first.  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.  What — who — my first question for you, sir, is, who do you believe?  


     My second question is, would you now, with the whole world watching, tell President Putin — would you denounce what happened in 2016?  And would you warn him to never do it again?  


     PRESIDENT TRUMP:  So let me just say that we have two thoughts.  You have groups that are wondering why the FBI never took the server.  Why haven’t they taken the server?  Why was the FBI told to leave the office of the Democratic National Committee?  I’ve been wondering that.  I’ve been asking that for months and months, and I’ve been tweeting it out and calling it out on social media.  Where is the server?  I want to know, where is the server?  And what is the server saying?  


     With that being said, all I can do is ask the question.  My people came to me — Dan Coats came to me and some others — they said they think it’s Russia.  I have President Putin; he just said it’s not Russia.  


I will say this: I don’t see any reason why it would be, but I really do want to see the server.  But I have — I have confidence in both parties.  I really believe that this will probably go on for a while, but I don’t think it can go on without finding out what happened to the server.  What happened to the servers of the Pakistani gentleman that worked on the DNC?  Where are those servers?  They’re missing.  Where are they?  What happened to Hillary Clinton’s emails?  Thirty-three thousand emails gone — just gone.  I think, in Russia, they wouldn’t be gone so easily.  I think it’s a disgrace that we can’t get Hillary Clinton’s 33,000 emails.  


     So I have great confidence in my intelligence people, but I will tell you that President Putin was extremely strong and powerful in his denial today.  And what he did is an incredible offer; he offered to have the people working on the case come and work with their investigators with respect to the 12 people.  I think that’s an incredible offer.  


Okay?  Thank you.


PRESIDENT PUTIN:  (As interpreted.)  I’d like to add something to this.  After all, I was an intelligence officer myself, and I do know how dossiers are made up.  Just a second.  That’s the first thing.  


Now, the second thing: I believe that Russia is a democratic state, and I hope you’re not denying this right to your own country.  You’re not denying that United States is a democracy.  Do you believe the United States is a democracy?  And if so, if it is a democratic state, then the final conclusion in this kind of dispute an only be delivered by a trial by the court, not by the executive — by the law enforcement.  


     For instance, the Concord company that was brought up is being accused — it’s been accused of interference.  But this company does not constitute the Russian State.  It does not represent the Russian State.  And I brought several examples before.  


     Well, you have a lot of individuals in the United States — take George Soros, for instance — with multibillion capitals, but it doesn’t make him — his position, his posture — the posture of the United States?  No, it does not.  Well, it’s the same case.  There is the issue of trying a case in the court, and the final say is for the court to deliver.  


     We’re now talking about the private — the individuals, and not about particular states.  And as far as the most recent allegation is concerned about the Russian intelligence officers, we do have an intergovernmental treaty.  Please, do send us the request.  We will analyze it properly and we’ll send a formal response.  


And as I said, we can extend this cooperation but we should do it on a reciprocal basis, because we would await our Russian counterparts to provide us access to the persons of interest for us whom we believe can have something to do with intelligence services.


     Let’s discuss the specific issues, and not use the Russia and U.S. relationship as a loose change — the loose change for this internal political struggle.  


     Q    My question for President — for President Putin.  Thank you.  Two questions for you, sir.  Can you tell me what President Trump may have indicated to you about officially recognizing Crimea as part of Russia?


     And then secondly, sir, does the Russian government have any compromising material on President Trump or his family?


     PRESIDENT PUTIN:  (As interpreted.)  (Laughs.)  President Trump and — well, the posture on President Trump on Crimea is well known, and he stands firmly by it.  He continued to maintain that it was illegal to annex it.  We — our viewpoint is different.  We held a referendum in strict compliance with the U.N. Charter and the international legislation.  For us, this issue — we (inaudible) to this issue.


     And now to the compromising material.  Yeah, I did heard these rumors that we allegedly collected compromising material on Mr. Trump when he was visiting Moscow.  


Now, distinguished colleague, let me tell you this: When President Trump was at Moscow back then, I didn’t even know that he was in Moscow.  I treat President Trump with utmost respect.  But back then, when he was a private individual, a businessman, nobody informed me that he was in Moscow.


     Well, let’s take St. Petersburg Economic Forum, for instance.  There were over 500 American businessmen — high-ranking, high-level ones.  I don’t even remember the last names of each and every one of them.  Well, do you remember — do you think that we try to collect compromising material on each and every single one of them?  Well, it’s difficult to imagine an utter nonsense of a bigger scale than this.


     Well, please, just disregard these issues and don’t think about this anymore again.  


     PRESIDENT TRUMP:  It would have been out long ago.  And 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, it was a disgrace to our country, and, you would say, that was a total witch hunt.


     Thank you very much, everybody.  Thank you.  Thank you.



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