Even though each U.S. intelligence agency has verified that Russia interfered in the 2016 elections, President Donald Trump clearly stated his trust in Russian President Vladimir Putin at their joint press conference from Helsinki on Monday.
Furthermore, President Trump stated his opinion that relations between Russia and America have never been worse, but his and Putin’s closed-door meeting solved this previously-existing tension.
Past and present intelligence officials, as well as legislators from across the political spectrum, have publicly criticized President Trump’s comments. Some called his comments bizarre and untrue while others went so far as to call his words treasonous.
On the range of reactions in Washington D.C.:
“It was like jaws on the floor,” says Casey. “It was so astounding as the press conference veered into this territory where President Trump was siding with Vladimir Putin, the leader of Russia, the head of the country that’s been accused with meddling in the 2016 elections by all of the intelligence agencies here in Washington.”
On President Trump’s demeanor during the press conference:
“President Trump loves to be the top dog. He loves to be the big character in the room and that’s one reason why some of these meetings in places like NATO have been a little chafing for him because he’s not the singular voice,” says Casey. ”In this moment, he really deferred to Vladimir Putin so Putin came across as the tough guy, the one in charge, and the one calling the shots.”
On President Trump’s treatment of Putin:
“He could’ve taken a tough guy moment and said knock it off, let’s move forward, let’s have a clean relationship going forward. He chose not to,” says Casey. “Trump went out of his way to defend him in a way that was remarkable and really unnecessary.”
On what this conference means for diplomatic relations between the U.S. and Russia:
“Trump did not respond with any criticism and that was itself surprising,” says Retish. “He didn’t talk about Crimea. He didn’t talk about the poisoning in the UK. He didn’t push him on the electoral interference. There were several places where the United States actually could have asserted its policies and just didn’t. So it was bizarre.”
“Putin was much more deliberate, calculating, and he showed his experience as a diplomat over Trump. Putin knows what to do in these types of situations to get the best of a summit. He knows that the best way to get to Donald Trump is to flatter Trump. He safeguarded Trump. He answered the questions. He said there was no interference. But he also didn’t go out of his way to praise Trump personally.”
Click on the audio player above to hear the full conversation.