Donald Trump has sparked controversy yet again after he refused to blame Vladimir Putin for meddling in the 2016 US election despite pressure from allies and advisors to take a tough stance, and instead casting doubt on the findings of American intelligence agencies, Reuters reports.
“They said they think it’s Russia; I have President Putin, he just said it’s not Russia,” Trump told reporters. “I will say this: I don’t see any reason why it would be. 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.”
Trump did not make any criticism of Russia during the press conference after his one-to-one meeting with Putin in Helsinki. Before the meeting, on Twitter, he denounced the “stupidity” of US policies, especially the decision to investigate Russian interference in the 2016 election.
Two days before the Helsinki summit, the US Justice Department indicted 12 Russian spies for hacking into Democratic Party computer networks.
Criticism came from all sides, including Trump’s own Republican Party. John McCain said after the summit: “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 naivety, egotism, false equivalence, and sympathy for autocrats is difficult to calculate. But it is clear that the summit in Helsinki was a tragic mistake.”
House Speaker Paul Ryan also said that both the US intelligence community and the House intelligence committee concluded that Russia had interfered in the election.
Chuck Schumer, the Democratic minority leader in the Senate, said: “In the entire history of our country, Americans have never seen a president of the United States support an American adversary the way President Trump has supported President Putin.