FINLAND: President Donald Trump refused to confront Vladimir Putin over meddling in the US election at their first face to face summit, publicly challenging the findings of the US intelligence community and triggering bipartisan outrage at home.
The US and Russian presidents came out of their meeting in Helsinki Monday expressing desire for a fresh start between the world’s leading nuclear powers and more talk on global challenges, after discussing an array of issues from Syria, Ukraine and China to trade tariffs and the size of their nuclear arsenals.
There were indications of an arrangement to work together and with Israel to support a ceasefire in southern Syria, suggesting that the US administration is backing off its demand that Moscow’s ally Bashar al-Assad step down.
If that is anathema to many in Washington, Trump’s apparent concessions to Putin over the election controversy drew stinging condemnation from across the political divide.
Standing alongside the Kremlin boss at a joint news conference, Trump acknowledged that his intelligence chiefs believe Russia hacked and leaked Democrats’ emails containing politically damaging information about his rival Hillary Clinton in 2016.
But, insisting he had won the race fair and square, the wealthy property tycoon said: “I have President Putin, he just said it is not Russia. I will say this: I don’t see any reason why it would be.”
Friday’s US indictment of 12 Russian military intelligence agents exploded with embarrassing timing for Trump as he prepared to meet Putin. On Monday, officials said another Russian agent had been arrested for seeking to influence US politics.