Former Intelligence Chiefs Condemn Trump’s Conference With Putin

Posted July 19, 2018

Russia's President Vladimir Putin tried to lighten the mood at a post-summit news conference with American leader Donald Trump yesterday by tossing him a World Cup football.

U.S. President Donald Trump and his Russian counterpart Vladimir Putin on Monday voiced their satisfaction with their first one-on-one meeting here, though acknowledged problems remain.

Most troubling was when Trump effectively endorsed Putin's denial that Russian Federation interfered in the 2016 election, contradicting not only Republican-controlled congressional committees, but even Trump's own national security adviser and director of national intelligence. Putin declined to take the copy from Wallace, and the two men repeatedly talked over one another as the Russian president sought to rebuke the USA intelligence community's widespread assessment that Moscow interfered in the 2016 election with the aim of boosting Trump and damaging Hillary Clinton's candidacy. "I have great confidence in my intelligence people", Trump said when asked who he believed, "but President Putin was extremely strong and powerful in his denial today".

"President Putin, he just said it's not Russia", Trump said.

"I think Dan Coats, being head of the intelligence community, is probably the right guy to resign at this time", Pfeiffer told CNN, adding that history has show that when a person with integrity takes this kind of step, it can move conversations forward at perhaps a different level.

In Helsinki on Monday (July 16), standing alongside Mr Putin, he said he did not see any reason why Russian Federation would interfere in the election.

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Rather than staying quiet, Coats opted to issue a strongly worded statement backing the intelligence assessment that Russian Federation did, in fact, interfere in the election.

When pressed by Wallace about the hacking, Putin later went on to say: "Listen to me, please: The information that I am aware of, there is nothing false about it, every single grain of it is true". The issue remains under investigation by U.S. Special Counsel Robert Mueller who has charged members of Trump's campaign as well as Russians. He has in the recent past denied that the hackers were a part of a state-run effort to destabilize the USA election.

Sen. John McCain, meanwhile, issued a statement saying the "damage inflicted by President Trump's naivete, egotism, false equivalence, and sympathy for autocrats is hard to calculate". "Putin is no friend to the United States".

Not all Republicans in Congress were angry with Trump's conduct in Helsinki. "They have no information on Trump", Trump said.

Outcry from American lawmakers in the days leading up to the meeting demanded Trump cancel the meeting, to agree to bring other United States officials in the meeting, and to prioritize discussing campaign meddling.

Putin said the talks were business-like and called them a success.

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Trump has always been at odds with his own intelligence community, largely clashing over a report released by US intelligence officials concluding that Putin ordered "an influence campaign" in 2016 aimed at helping the Trump campaign and harming his Democratic opponent, Hillary Clinton.

But he says President Trump should not have confronted Putin on election interference, and the president also denied it entirely.

Spokespeople for the Justice Department and Mueller declined to comment on Trump's comments or on Putin's purported offers for assistance.

In the interview, Putin also pushed back against suggestions that Russian Federation may have compromising material about Trump, saying "it's clear that we did nothing of that kind of against Mr. Trump".

Rep. Kevin Cramer, R-N.D., opted for a similarly measured response, acknowledging Russia's interference - though he qualified that "there is no evidence that the Trump campaign colluded with Russian Federation during the 2016 presidential election".

Trump tossing the US intelligence community under the bus drew some interesting reactions.

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