Sunday, February 23, 2020 | ePaper

No reason to believe Russia behind election meddling

Trump satisfied after talks with Putin

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U.S. President Donald Trump receives a football from Russian President Vladimir Putin as they hold a joint news conference after their meeting in Helsinki.

Reuters, Helsinki :
U.S. President Donald Trump emerged from a meeting with Vladimir Putin on Monday saying he saw no reason to believe Russia had hacked the 2016 U.S. presidential election, and the Russian leader "was extremely strong and powerful" in denying it.
Trump held his meeting just days after a special prosecutor in the United States indicted 12 Russian agents for stealing Democratic Party documents to help him win the vote. At a rambling news conference after one-on-one talks, Trump said not a single critical word about Russia on any of the issues that have brought relations between the Washington and Moscow to a post-Cold War low, from Ukraine to Syria.
Asked if he trusted U.S. intelligence agencies, which concluded that Russia interfered in the 2016 election, Trump said he had been told by his CIA chief that Russia was to blame, but he was not certain. "I don't see any reason why it would be" Russia, Trump said. "President Putin was extremely strong and powerful in his denial today."
Before the summit even began, Trump blamed his own country for the deterioration in relations.
"Our relationship with Russia has NEVER been worse thanks to many years of U.S. foolishness and stupidity and now, the Rigged Witch Hunt!"
The Russian foreign ministry "liked" his words and tweeted back: "We agree". At the news conference Trump was invited by reporters to offer even a single criticism of Russia, but repeatedly declined. Asked if Russia was at all to blame for the poor ties, he said: "I hold both countries responsible. I think the U.S. has been foolish. We've all been foolish," he said, before veering into discussion about his election victory.
"I beat Hillary Clinton easily and frankly we beat her...We won that race and it's a shame that there can be even a little bit of a cloud over it," he said.
Trump's repeated warm words for Russia were a marked contrast from the past week when he repeatedly rebuked traditional U.S. allies at a summit of NATO and a visit to Britain.
Going into the tournament, it was the lowest ranked of the 32 nations represented. As it was, after a series of encounters in which the team displayed discipline and flair under head coach Stanislav Cherchesov that surprised many, they made it to the quarter-finals, only to lose to Croatia after extra time and penalties. But if Vladimir Putin already had plenty to smile about given his team's better-than-expected performance, and Russia's organisastion of a tournament which was widely praised, in Helsinki on Monday he received a prize he may have treasured even more than if his team had won the 18 carat gold World Cup Trophy.
At a press conference with Donald Trump following their first formal bi-lateral summit, Putin stood and watched as the US president told the world he trusted the word of the Russian leader as much as that of his own intelligence chief.
A week after berating Nato allies in Brussels, undermining British prime minister Theresa May's position on Brexit and angering sticklers on royal protocol by walking in front of the Queen, Trump was asked whether he accepted the assessment of his intelligence community that Moscow had interfered in the 2016 election.
"All I can do is ask the question - my people came to me, Dan Coats [the Director of National Intelligence] came to me and some others, they said they think it's Russia," he said.
"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."
Earlier he had said: "The world wants to see us get along. I think we'll end up having an extraordinary relationship."

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