Let’s move forward to work with Russia, says president
Donald Trump said last Sunday that it was “time to move forward in working constructively with Russia” after his meeting at the G20 summit with Vladimir Putin.
After returning from the summit in Germany last Saturday night, Trump began the next day with a series of tweets defending himself against criticism that he had been too soft on the Russian leader at their first meeting.
Trump said that he had “strongly pressed” Putin twice over Russian meddling in the 2016 election during their lengthy sit-down, adding: “He vehemently denied it. I’ve already given my opinion ...”
US intelligence agencies have stated that Moscow tried to interfere with the election to help Trump. But the president himself has been equivocal about whether he believes this, stating last Thursday: “I think it could very well have been Russia. I think it could well have been other countries ... Nobody really knows for sure.”
After last Friday’s meeting – attended only by the two presidents, Russian foreign minister Sergey Lavrov, US secretary of state Rex Tillerson, and interpreters – Lavrov claimed Trump had told Putin he accepted the Russian leader’s denials of involvement in attempting to sway last year’s election, and Putin said he thought Trump believed those denials.
“[Trump] asked a lot of questions on this subject,” Putin said. “I, inasmuch as I was able, answered these questions. It seems to me that he took these [answers] on board and agreed with them, but in actual fact it’s best to ask him how he views this.”
But Reince Priebus, the White House chief of staff, took issue with that last Sunday. “The president absolutely didn’t believe the denial of president Putin,” he told Fox News.
In his tweets last Sunday, Trump went on to hail a ceasefire in southwest Syria brokered by the US, Russia and Jordan, which began at noon local time. “We negotiated a ceasefire in parts of Syria which will save lives,” the US president said. “Now it is time to move forward in working constructively with Russia!”
At their meeting in Hamburg, Trump and Putin also announced they would set up a working group on noninterference in future elections.
Adam Schiff, the top Democrat on the House intelligence committee, which is conducting one of the current congressional investigations into Russia’s interference in the election, criticised the president’s comments on CNN last Sunday morning.
“How can we really believe that the president pressed Putin hard when only the day before he was denying whether we really knew Russia was responsible?” Schiff asked. “We’re, I guess, meant to believe that he’s much stronger in private than he’s willing to be publicly, but why does that make any rational sense?” • Donald Trump Jr was informed in an email ahead of a meeting with a Russian lawyer that damaging information about Hillary Clinton to be handed over was part of an effort by the Russian government to help the Trump campaign, the New York Times has reported. The Times did not publish the email, but reported that three people had described it to them.
Trump Jr’s meeting is the first “clear evidence” in public of senior Trump campaign members meeting with Russians while looking for such material, a leading Democrat on the Senate intelligence committee said on Monday.