As the most powerful man in the world you’d expect Donald Trump would be the first one to recap the “summit,” or as Vladimir Putin called it “the negotiations” between the two leaders. Instead, Putin spoke first for about 11 minutes, then Trump chimed in for 9 minutes. The President gave Putin the upper hand from the beginning and it was clear throughout the entire news conference that Putin was the one in control. It was near the end of the q&a portion though that Trump went completely off the rails. It is something that will be talked about for years to come. CNN’s Anderson Cooper summed it up afterward by saying, “You have been watching perhaps one of the most disgraceful performances by an American president at a summit in front of a Russian leader certainly that I’ve ever seen.”
As for the elephant in the room, Putin addressed it near the end of his remarks saying:
“President Trump mentioned issue of so-called interference from Russia with the American elections. 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 in internal American affairs, including election process. Any specific material, if such things arise, we are ready to analyze together.”
Trump’s only mention of this topic in his opening statement was this remark:
“I addressed directly with President Putin the issue of Russian interference in our elections. I felt this was a message best delivered in person. spent a great deal of time talking about it.”
How that conversation actually went we may never know because no one other than a translator was allowed in the room. What we do know is the way Trump answered questions about that interference. Here’s one of the questions:
“Do you hold Russia at all accountable for anything in particular? If so, what would you consider them that they are responsible for?”
Trump’s reply was certainly not a condemnation of anything. Instead, it harkened back to Trump’s famous phrase “there are fine people on both sides.” In this case, though Trump decided there was blame on both sides. YES, he is blaming the U.S. for Russian interference:
“I hold both countries responsibility. I think the United States has been foolish. I think we have all been foolish. We should have had this dialogue a long time ago, a long time frankly before I got to office. I think we’re all to blame. I think that the United States now has stepped forward along with Russia. We’re getting together and we have a chance to do some great things.”
Where was the condemnation for the hacking, for the annexation of Crimea, for the nerve agent attacks in the United Kingdom?
Things went really awry when Trump was again pressed on the Russian interference in the elections and he replied with the equivalent answer of “but her emails.” It was a rambling pivot that we can’t say we are surprised to hear, but it doesn’t make it any easier to hear. Here’s the full exchange:
“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. 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?”
“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 and 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.they? What happened to Hillary Clinton’s e-mails? 33,000 e-mails 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 e-mails.
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.”
He then added, “you would say that was a total witch hunt.”
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 full news conference above.