Let’s move for­ward to work with Rus­sia, says pres­i­dent

The Guardian Weekly - - International news - Paul Owen

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.

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