Trump faces outrage back home after Putin summit
Washington, Jul 17 : President Donald Trump today faced political outrage in the US for not backing the American intelligence community's claim that Russia interfered in the 2016 presidential election, following the Helsinki summit with his Russian counterpart Vladimir Putin.
From describing his comments at the joint press conference as “disgraceful”, “shameful” to “treacherous”, even some of his closest supporters described Trump's statements as the most serious mistake of his presidency.
Trump, who arrived at the White House after his week-long trip to Europe, has defended his comments.
“As I said today and many times before, 'I have GREAT confidence in MY intelligence people'. However, I also recognise that in order to build a brighter future, we cannot exclusively focus on the past – as the world's two largest nuclear powers, we must get along!” Trump said in a tweet aboard Air Force One on his way back home.
“I would rather take a political risk in pursuit of peace, than to risk peace in pursuit of politics,” he said, adding that a productive dialogue is not only good for the US and Russia, but is also good for the world.
US analysts said Trump refused to convincingly state that the Russians interfered in the 2016 presidential election at his press conference with Putin after their first summit meeting.
“They said they think it's Russia. I have President Putin — he just said it's not Russia," Trump said, adding that he does not "see any reason why it would be" Russia. Putin too has rejected the allegations.
“Today's press conference in Helsinki was one of the most disgraceful performances by an American president in memory. The damage inflicted by President Trump's naiveté, egotism, false equivalence, and sympathy for autocrats is difficult to calculate. But it is clear that the summit in Helsinki was a tragic mistake,” said Republican Senator John McCain, who chairs the powerful Senate Armed Services Committee.
“President Trump proved not only unable, but unwilling to stand up to Putin. He and Putin seemed to be speaking from the same script as the president made a conscious choice to defend a tyrant against the fair questions of a free press, and to grant Putin an uncontested platform to spew propaganda and lies to the world,” he said.
Former House Speaker Newt Gingrich and one of the president's closest supporters too criticised him.
“President Trump must clarify his statements in Helsinki on our intelligence system and Putin. It is the most serious mistake of his presidency and must be corrected - immediately,” Gingrich tweeted.
Soon the head of the US intelligence agencies and a Trump appointee issued a statement reiterating that Russians interfered in the 2016 presidential elections. “We have been clear in our assessments of Russian meddling in the 2016 election and their ongoing, pervasive efforts to undermine our democracy, and we will continue to provide unvarnished and objective intelligence in support of our national security,” Dan Coats, Director of National Intelligence said.
“Donald Trump's press conference performance in Helsinki rises to & exceeds the threshold of 'high crimes & misdemeanors'. It was nothing short of treasonous. Not only were Trump's comments imbecilic, he is wholly in the pocket of Putin. Republican Patriots: Where are you???” tweeted John Brennan, said former CIA director John Brennan.
“Today, in a disgusting, disturbing and deeply dangerous appearance seen around the world, Donald Trump sided with an authoritarian leader of another country over our own intelligence agencies,” said Indian American Congresswoman Pramila Jayapal.
“What we saw today was the President of the United States belittling our country's own men and women in the intelligence community, refusing to acknowledge or hold accountable Putin for Russian hacking in our elections, and standing in the most servile way next to Putin, advancing Russia's interests in spite of what that means for America," she said.
Indian American Congressman Raja Krishnamoorthi said Trump failed to confront Putin on Russian interference in US elections and placed more trust in the Russian dictator's denials than in the assessments of US intelligence.
“President Trump did not carry out his responsibility as a global leader, and he should have done much more than simply asking the question of whether interference occurred. President Trump's failure to stand up to the Kremlin has given it carte blanche to interfere in our upcoming elections, and that should frighten us all,” he said.
The mainstream US media also expressed outrage.
“Putin's poodle: Trump sells out US intelligence agencies with the world watching,” said The New York Daily News.
“Why Won't Donald Trump Speak for America? The president lays himself at Vladimir Putin's feet,” The New York Times said in an editorial.
“Trump just colluded with Russia. Openly,” wrote the Washington Post's editorial board. “Mr Trump appeared to align himself with the Kremlin against American law enforcement before the Russian ruler and a global audience,” the daily said.
“The world hasn't seen a US president like this in modern times, and as ever in Trump World everyone else will have to adapt. Let's navigate between the critics who predict the end of the world order and the cheerleaders who see only genius, and try to offer a realistic assessment of the fallout from a troubling week,” The Wall Street Journal said in its editorial.