Trump wants to ‘heal the world’

Asia trip ends as it be­gan for the U.S. pres­i­dent: Shad­owed by Rus­sia

Northern News (Kirkland Lake) - - WORLD NEWS - JONATHAN LEMIRE and JILL COLVIN

MANILA, Philip­pines — U.S. Pres­i­dent Don­ald Trump’s lengthy Asia trip wound down as it be­gan, with a visit meant to be cen­tred on trade and North Korea shad­owed by ques­tions about Rus­sia.

Trump was in the Philip­pines, the fi­nal stop of his trip, on Mon­day, poised to hold for­mal talks with Pres­i­dent Ro­drigo Duterte, who has over­seen a bloody drug war that has fea­tured ex­tra­ju­di­cial killings and fears of vig­i­lante jus­tice. But Trump re­mains dogged by things he has said, and has not said, about Rus­sia.

Days be­fore he left for the five­na­tion Asia trip, Trump’s cam­paign chair­man was in­dicted on charges he laun­dered mil­lions of dol­lars through over­seas shell com­pa­nies and a cam­paign ad­viser pleaded guilty to ly­ing to the FBI. And while White House aides have been pleased with the pres­i­dent’s mes­sag­ing through stops in Ja­pan, South Korea and China, Trump has brought Rus­sia to the fore­front again as he makes his fi­nal stops.

He tried to have it both ways Sun­day on the is­sue of Rus­sian in­ter­fer­ence in last year’s pres­i­den­tial race, say­ing he be­lieves both the U.S. in­tel­li­gence agen­cies when they say Rus­sia med­dled and Rus­sian Pres­i­dent Vladimir Putin’s sin­cer­ity in claim­ing that his coun­try did not.

“I be­lieve that he feels that he and Rus­sia did not med­dle in the elec­tion,” Trump said of Putin at a news con­fer­ence in Hanoi with Viet­nam’s pres­i­dent.

“As to whether I be­lieve it, I’m with our agen­cies,” Trump said. “As cur­rently led by fine peo­ple, I be­lieve very much in our in­tel­li­gence agen­cies.”

U.S. in­tel­li­gence agen­cies have con­cluded that Rus­sia med­dled in the 2016 elec­tion to help the Repub­li­can Trump de­feat Demo­crat Hil­lary Clin­ton. A spe­cial coun­sel’s ex­am­i­na­tion of po­ten­tial col­lu­sion be­tween Moscow and Trump cam­paign aides so far has led to in­dict­ments against Trump’s for­mer cam­paign chair­man and an­other top aide for crimes un­re­lated to the cam­paign, and a guilty plea from a Trump for­eign pol­icy ad­viser.

Mul­ti­ple con­gres­sional com­mit­tees are also in­ves­ti­gat­ing.

On Satur­day, Trump lashed out at for­mer heads of the U.S. in­tel­li­gence agen­cies, claim­ing there are plenty of rea­sons to be sus­pi­cious of their find­ings and dis­miss­ing them as “po­lit­i­cal hacks.”

John Bren­nan, the for­mer CIA di­rec­tor, re­sponded Sun­day on CNN’s State of the Union that Trump was dis­miss­ing the for­mer of­fi­cials — him­self in­cluded — as “po­lit­i­cal hacks” in an at­tempt to “dele­git­imize” the in­tel­li­gence com­mu­nity’s assess­ment that Rus­sia in­ter­fered in the elec­tion.

“I think Mr. Putin is very clever in terms of play­ing to Mr. Trump’s in­ter­est in be­ing flat­tered. And also I think Mr. Trump is, for what­ever rea­son, ei­ther in­tim­i­dated by Mr. Putin, afraid of what he could do or what might come out as a re­sult of these in­ves­ti­ga­tions,” Bren­nan said.

James Clap­per, the for­mer di­rec­tor of na­tional in­tel­li­gence, called the threat from Rus­sia “man­i­fest and ob­vi­ous.”

“To try to paint it in any other way is, I think, as­tound­ing and, in fact, poses a peril to this coun­try,” Clap­per said on State of the Union.

Ques­tions about whether Trump be­lieves the assess­ment about Rus­sian elec­tion-med­dling have trailed him since Jan­uary, when he said for the first time, shortly be­fore tak­ing of­fice, that he ac­cepted that Rus­sia was be­hind the elec­tionyear hacking of Democrats that roiled the White House race.

Trump told re­porters trav­el­ling with him to Hanoi on Satur­day that Putin had again ve­he­mently de­nied the al­le­ga­tions. The two spoke dur­ing an eco­nomic con­fer­ence in Danang, Viet­nam. Trump danced around ques­tions about whether he be­lieved Putin but stressed Putin’s de­nials.

“Ev­ery time he sees me, he says: ‘I didn’t do that.’ And I be­lieve — I re­ally be­lieve — that when he tells me that, he means it,” Trump said, ar­gu­ing that it makes no sense for him to be­labour the is­sue when Rus­sia could help the U.S. on North Korea, Syria and other is­sues.

In Hanoi on Sun­day, Trump also pointed to sanc­tions the U.S. has im­posed on Rus­sia as pun­ish­ment for elec­tion med­dling. “They were sanc­tioned at a very high level, and that took place very re­cently,” he said. “It’s now time to get back to heal­ing a world that is shat­tered and bro­ken.”

Trump was orig­i­nally slated to de­part Manila for Wash­ing­ton on Mon­day. He added a day to the sched­ule amid crit­i­cism that he would have missed the fi­nal sum­mit.

Now Trump is slated to at­tend the As­so­ci­a­tion for South­east Asian Na­tions con­fer­ence on Mon­day to urge al­lies to pres­sure North Korea to give up its nu­clear weapons pro­gram. And he is ex­pected, in meet­ings with other lead­ers, to push his agenda for bi­lat­eral, rather than multi­na­tional, trade agree­ments.

MINH HOANG/THE ASSOCIATED PRESS

U.S. Pres­i­dent Don­ald Trump waves good­bye be­fore de­part­ing from Noi Bai in­ter­na­tional air­port in Hanoi, Viet­nam on Sun­day.

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