Trump tells Rus­sia to quit ‘desta­bi­liz­ing’

Northwest Arkansas Democrat-Gazette - - FRONT PAGE - In­for­ma­tion for this ar­ti­cle was con­trib­uted by Ken Thomas, Dar­lene Superville, Josh Lederman, Vi­vian Salama and Jill Colvin of The As­so­ci­ated Press; by Abby Phillip, John Wag­ner, Michael Birn­baum and Stephanie Kirch­ner of The Wash­ing­ton Post; and by Glen

WAR­SAW, Poland — On the eve of his first meet­ing with Rus­sian Pres­i­dent Vladimir Putin, Pres­i­dent Don­ald Trump vowed Thurs­day to con­front “new forms of ag­gres­sion” tar­get­ing the West and called for Moscow to stop fo­ment­ing un­rest around the world.

But he stopped short of con­demn­ing Rus­sia for med­dling in the U.S. elec­tion.

Buoyed by an elec­tri­fied crowd of thou­sands in Poland chant­ing his name, Trump sought to show that he wasn’t over­look­ing Rus­sian ac­tions that have elicited global con­ster­na­tion, es­pe­cially from nearby na­tions in east­ern and cen­tral Europe. He warned that West­ern in­ter­ests are be­ing tested by “pro­pa­ganda, fi­nan­cial crimes and cy­ber­war­fare,” forc­ing NATO to adapt.

“We urge Rus­sia to cease its desta­bi­liz­ing ac­tiv­i­ties in Ukraine and else­where, and its sup­port for hos­tile regimes in­clud­ing Syria and Iran, and to join the com­mu­nity of re­spon­si­ble na­tions in our fight against com­mon en­e­mies and in de­fense of civ­i­liza­tion it­self,” Trump said in a speech in War­saw’s Krasin­ski Square.

It was a cri­tique that the pres­i­dent did not ap­pear to ex­tend to Rus­sia’s ac­tions last year dur­ing the pres­i­den­tial cam­paign. In a news con­fer­ence be­fore his speech, Trump ques­tioned the ve­rac­ity of Amer­i­can in­tel­li­gence about for­eign med­dling in the U.S. elec­tion, ar­gu­ing that Rus­sia wasn’t the only coun­try that may have in­ter­fered.

“No­body re­ally knows for sure,” Trump said.

As U.S. in­ves­ti­ga­tions into

Rus­sia’s med­dling forge ahead, Trump is un­der scru­tiny for how he han­dles his first face-to-face ses­sion with Putin. U.S. in­tel­li­gence of­fi­cials say the Rus­sian leader or­dered in­ter­fer­ence into the 2016 elec­tion that helped elect Trump to the White House.

From Poland, Trump took a short flight to Ham­burg, Ger­many, where he met with Ger­man Chan­cel­lor An­gela Merkel. The two shook hands and chat­ted ca­su­ally but made no com­ments to re­porters be­fore their meet­ing.

Trump and Putin plan to sit down to­gether to­day in Ham­burg, on the side­lines of the Group of 20 sum­mit of in­dus­tri­al­ized and de­vel­op­ing economies. Asked in Poland whether he planned to dis­cuss elec­tion med­dling with Putin, Trump de­murred.

But back in Wash­ing­ton, pres­sure was mount­ing from Trump’s crit­ics in Con­gress for him to force­fully con­front Putin.

Cal­i­for­nia U.S. Rep. Adam Schiff, the top Demo­crat on the House in­tel­li­gence panel, urged Trump to “have the courage” to raise the elec­tion is­sue di­rectly, while sev­eral Sen­ate Democrats in­sisted Thurs­day in a let­ter to Trump that it would be a “se­vere dere­lic­tion” of Trump’s du­ties if he doesn’t.

Trump has avoided firmly blam­ing Moscow for cam­paign hack­ing in the past, and on Thurs­day, he was sim­i­larly elu­sive. He ar­gued vari­ably that it could have been Rus­sia, prob­a­bly was Rus­sia and

in­deed was Rus­sia, while in­sist­ing that it could have been other coun­tries, too, and adding: “I won’t be spe­cific.”

The pres­i­dent in­stead ac­cused his pre­de­ces­sor, Barack Obama, of al­low­ing Moscow to med­dle on his watch. Though the Obama ad­min­is­tra­tion warned Rus­sia pub­licly and pri­vately be­fore Elec­tion Day to stop in­ter­fer­ing, ques­tions have since been raised about whether Obama acted ag­gres­sively enough to stop the threat.

“They say he choked. Well, I don’t think he choked,” Trump said. “I think he thought Hil­lary Clin­ton was go­ing to win the elec­tion, and he said, ‘Let’s not do any­thing about it.’”

Us­ing in­for­ma­tion col­lected by the FBI, CIA and Na­tional Se­cu­rity Agency, the U.S. na­tional in­tel­li­gence di­rec­tor last year con­cluded that Moscow was be­hind the hack of Demo­cratic Party email sys­tems and at­tempted to in­flu­ence the 2016 elec­tion to ben­e­fit Trump. The Obama ad­min­is­tra­tion said the ef­fort was di­rected from the “high­est lev­els” of Rus­sia’s govern­ment.

Driv­ing home his mes­sage about un­cer­tainty of whether Rus­sia did in fact in­ter­fere in the 2016 elec­tion and to what ex­tent, Trump re­called the in­tel­li­gence fail­ures that pre­ceded Pres­i­dent Ge­orge W. Bush’s de­ci­sion to in­vade Iraq in 2003.

“Ev­ery­body was 100 per­cent sure that Iraq had weapons of mass de­struc­tion,” Trump said. “They were wrong, and it led to a mess,” he said, re­fer­ring to the Iraq War.

BOTH LASH OUT AT ME­DIA

Trump used part of a joint news con­fer­ence with Pol­ish Pres­i­dent An­drzej Duda to at­tack sev­eral U.S. news or­ga­ni­za­tions for their cov­er­age of his pres­i­dency. That elicited some sym­pa­thy from Duda, who sug­gested that he, too, was cov­ered un­fairly.

Trump lashed out at CNN and de­fended what he sug­gested was a light­hearted tweet of a video de­pict­ing him body-slamming a fig­ure whose head had been re­placed by the CNN logo.

“They have been fake news for a long time,” Trump said of CNN when asked about the tweet, adding that the net­work had been cov­er­ing him in “a dis­hon­est way.”

“We don’t want fake news,” he con­tin­ued, as Duda nod­ded in agree­ment.

Duda’s cen­ter-right party, Law and Jus­tice, pro­posed re­strict­ing the news me­dia’s ac­cess to Par­lia­ment last year, but the govern­ment backed down after street protests.

Duda, re­spond­ing to a U.S. re­porter’s ques­tion about his own ac­tions to­ward the me­dia, blamed Pol­ish jour­nal­ists for in­ten­tion­ally dis­tort­ing his record and for fail­ing to in­clude his po­si­tions in ar­ti­cles crit­i­cal of his govern­ment.

Poland’s right-lean­ing pop­ulist na­tion­al­ist govern­ment is a nat­u­ral ally for Trump. The coun­try’s Law and Jus­tice Party has em­braced some of the main pil­lars of Trump’s can­di­dacy, in­clud­ing a sim­i­lar re­sis­tance to ac­cept­ing Mus­lim refugees into that coun­try.

“While we will al­ways wel­come new cit­i­zens who share our val­ues and love our people, our bor­ders will

al­ways be closed to ter­ror­ism and ex­trem­ism,” Trump said in his speech. “We can­not accept those who re­ject our val­ues and who use ha­tred to jus­tify vi­o­lence against the in­no­cent.”

At the news con­fer­ence, Trump praised Poland for aid­ing in the fight against the Is­lamic State. And in his pub­lic re­marks, he sug­gested that the two na­tions’ shared po­si­tion on refugees was not aimed at clos­ing their re­spec­tive bor­ders but rather was an ef­fort to pro­tect their na­tions from ex­trem­ism.

“We must stand united against these shared en­e­mies to strip them of their ter­ri­tory, their fund­ing, their net­works, and any form of ide­o­log­i­cal sup­port,” Trump said.

Be­fore his ad­dress to the Pol­ish people, the pres­i­dent joined first lady Me­la­nia Trump for a wreath-lay­ing cer­e­mony at a mon­u­ment com­mem­o­rat­ing the 1944 War­saw Upris­ing against Nazi oc­cu­pa­tion. Crowds wav­ing U.S. and Pol­ish flags gath­ered near TV screens erected in the square to broad­cast the visit­ing Amer­i­can’s speech.

A spokesman for the War­saw po­lice, Syl­wester Mar­czak, said about 15,000 people at­tended Trump’s Krasin­ski Square speech.

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