Kicking off a day of closed-door discussions between President Trump and Russian president Vladimir Putin in Helsinki, Finland, the two emerged for a joint press conference where the American president stood before reporters and provided almost 100 percent cover for Russia’s authoritarian leader.
At one point during the presser, a reporter stood up and asked Trump what, if anything, he’s willing to hold Russia accountable for especially in the wake of U.S. intelligence’s confirmation that Russia meddled in the 2016 election.
“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,” the reporter started out. “Do you hold Russia at all accountable for anything in particular? And if you do, what would you consider them — that they are responsible for?”
From a WH source: Even those who like Trump no longer like Trump.
— Brian J. Karem (@BrianKarem) July 16, 2018
Trump dodged the question harder than a rugby player dodging a tackle.
“Yes I do, I hold both countries responsible,” Trump replied. “I think that the United States has been foolish. I think that 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,” Trump continued. “I think the United States has stepped forward, along with Russia, and we’re getting together and we have a chance to do some great things …”
Trump was given multiple opportunities to condemn Russia’s actions during the election, but each time he chose what seemed to be deference to Putin.
“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 want to see the server but, I have confidence in both parties.”
Reporter: Do you hold Russia accountable for anything?
Trump: We’re all to blame pic.twitter.com/nFoSS7UVCK
— POLITICO (@politico) July 16, 2018
According to Trump, Putin’s denial that he had anything to do with meddling in the U.S. election was “strong and powerful.”
CBS News reports that Trump’s top national security advisers “had advised him publicly and privately to adopt a more hawkish tone towards Russia” during the summit. This Friday, the Justice Department announced a new round of indictments against 12 Russians for their alleged attempts at election meddling.
Needless to say, Trump’s failure to do so has brought condemnation from both sides of the political aisle. On Monday, Arizona GOP Senator Jeff Flake slammed the display as “shameful.”
“I never thought I would see the day when our American President would stand on the stage with the Russian President and place blame on the United States for Russian aggression,” Flake tweeted. “This is shameful.”
I never thought I would see the day when our American President would stand on the stage with the Russian President and place blame on the United States for Russian aggression. This is shameful.
— Jeff Flake (@JeffFlake) July 16, 2018
According to conservative commentator Ben Shapiro, Trump presser with Putin was “utterly grotesque.”
With that said, only Trump is the president – and his behavior today was self-serving and utterly grotesque.
— Ben Shapiro (@benshapiro) July 16, 2018
Former CIA Director John Brennan slammed the presser as “nothing short of treasonous.”
“Donald Trump’s press conference performance in Helsinki rises to & exceeds the threshold of ‘high crimes & misdemeanors,'” Brennan tweeted. “It was nothing short of treasonous. Not only were Trump’s comments imbecilic, he is wholly in the pocket of Putin. Republican Patriots: Where are you???”
Donald Trump’s press conference performance in Helsinki rises to & exceeds the threshold of “high crimes & misdemeanors.” It was nothing short of treasonous. Not only were Trump’s comments imbecilic, he is wholly in the pocket of Putin. Republican Patriots: Where are you???
— John O. Brennan (@JohnBrennan) July 16, 2018
Watch the press conference below:
Featured image via screen grab