Trump: U.S. must work with Rus­sia, move past elec­tion is­sues

The Guardian (Charlottetown) - - WORLD -

Pres­i­dent Don­ald Trump said Sun­day that “it is time to move for­ward in work­ing con­struc­tively with Rus­sia’’ af­ter his lengthy meet­ing with Rus­sian Pres­i­dent Vladimir Putin in Germany. But he is still avoid­ing the ques­tion of whether he ac­cepts Putin’s de­nial that Rus­sia was re­spon­si­ble for med­dling in the 2016 elec­tion.

Speak­ing in a se­ries of tweets the morn­ing af­ter re­turn­ing from a world lead­ers’ sum­mit in Germany, Trump said he “strongly pressed’’ Putin twice over Rus­sian med­dling dur­ing their meet­ing Fri­day.

Trump said that Putin “ve­he­mently de­nied’’ the con­clu­sions of Amer­i­can in­tel­li­gence agen­cies that Rus­sian hack­ers and pro­pa­gan­dists tried to sway the elec­tion in Trump’s favour. But Trump would not say whether he be­lieved Putin, tweet­ing only that he’s “al­ready given my opin­ion.’’

Trump has said he thinks Rus­sia prob­a­bly hacked the emails of the Demo­cratic Na­tional Com­mit­tee and Hil­lary Clin­ton staffers, but that “other peo­ple and/or coun­tries’’ were likely in­volved as well. He said ahead of the meet­ing that, “No­body knows for sure.’’

Rus­sian For­eign Min­is­ter Sergey Lavrov first told re­porters in Germany on Fri­day that Trump had ac­cepted Putin’s as­sur­ances that Rus­sia hadn’t med­dled — an as­ser­tion Putin re­peated Satur­day af­ter the Group of 20 sum­mit. Putin said he left the meet­ing think­ing that Trump had be­lieved his in­per­son de­nials.

“He asked ques­tions, I replied. It seemed to me that he was sat­is­fied with the an­swers,’’ Putin said.

Sec­re­tary of State Rex Tiller­son did not an­swer di­rectly when asked Sun­day if Trump had ac­cepted Putin’s de­nial, but told re­porters in Ukraine that Trump’s con­ver­sa­tion with Putin on elec­tion in­ter­fer­ence went “about the way we ex­pected.’’ Tiller­son was the only other Amer­i­can of­fi­cial in the room.

Trea­sury Sec­re­tary Steven Mnuchin also de­clined to say whether Trump ac­cepted Putin’s de­nial. “Why would Pres­i­dent Trump broad­cast ex­actly what he said in the meet­ing? Strate­gi­cally that makes no sense,’’ Mnuchin said. “He’s made it very clear how he feels. He’s made it very clear that he ad­dressed it straight on.’’

But White House chief of staff Reince Priebus took is­sue with Putin’s char­ac­ter­i­za­tion.

“The pres­i­dent ab­so­lutely didn’t be­lieve the de­nial of Pres­i­dent Putin,’’ Priebus said. He said Trump had spent a “large part of the meet­ing on the sub­ject,’’ but wanted to move onto other sub­jects.

He and other ad­min­is­tra­tion of­fi­cials said Trump did not want Rus­sian in­ter­fer­ence in last year’s elec­tion to pre­vent him from work­ing with Putin’s gov­ern­ment on other is­sues, in­clud­ing the civil war in Syria.

“You know, the past, I don’t know if we will ever come to an agree­ment, ob­vi­ously with our Rus­sian coun­ter­parts on that. I think the im­por­tant thing is how do we as­sure that this doesn’t hap­pen again,’’ Tiller­son said.

Tiller­son said that, “In all can­did­ness, we did not ex­pect an an­swer other than the one we re­ceived’’ from Rus­sia.

“Ev­ery­body knows that Rus­sia med­dled in our elec­tions,’’ added Nikki Ha­ley, the U.S. am­bas­sador to the United Na­tions. “This is Rus­sia try­ing to save face.’’

But in a show of U.S.-Rus­sian co-op­er­a­tion, of­fi­cials an­nounced dur­ing the trip that the two sides had bro­kered a cease-fire in south­ern Syria that went into ef­fect Sun­day. Trump tweeted that the deal “will save lives.’’

AP PHOTO

Pres­i­dent Don­ald Trump shakes hands with Rus­sian Pres­i­dent Vladimir Putin at the G20 Sum­mit on Fri­day.

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