Political News

Trump: US must work with Russia, move past election issues

Posted July 10

— 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 favor. 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 in-person 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 cooperation, 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."

The two sides also agreed to create what Trump described in a tweet as "an impenetrable Cyber Security unit" to ensure that "election hacking, & many other negative things, will be guarded."

However, the idea drew widespread ridicule and Trump sent out another tweet Sunday night in which he seemed to back off: "The fact that President Putin and I discussed a Cyber Security unit doesn't mean I think it can happen. It can't-but a ceasefire can,& did!"

Republican Sen. Lindsey Graham of South Carolina was among critics of the task force on Twitter and Sunday morning news shows.

"It's not the dumbest idea I've ever heard, but it's pretty close," Graham said, adding that, when it comes to Russia, the president has "a blind spot."

"And to forgive and forget when it comes to Putin regarding cyberattacks is to empower Putin and that's exactly what he's doing," he added.

Another Senate Republican, Marco Rubio of Florida, said on Twitter that "partnering with Putin on a 'Cyber Security Unit' is akin to partnering with Assad on a 'Chemical Weapons Unit.'" Rubio was referring to Syrian President Bashar Assad and his regime's use of chemical weapons against its own citizens."

Former Defense Secretary Ash Carter equated the move to "like the guy who robbed your house proposing a working group on burglary."

And Rep. Adam Schiff, D-Calif., the top Democrat on the House intelligence committee, said that expecting Russia to be a credible partner in any cybersecurity initiative "would be dangerously naive for this country."

"If that's our best election defense, we might as well just mail our ballot boxes to Moscow," he said.

Haley, however, defended the move, arguing that working with Russia on cybersecurity "doesn't mean we ever trust Russia. We can't trust Russia and we won't ever trust Russia. But you keep those that you don't trust closer so that you can always keep an eye on 'em and keep them in check."

Trump also tweeted Sunday that sanctions against Russia were not discussed at his meeting with Putin, seemingly contradicting comments made by Tillerson in Germany. Tillerson told reporters that the president had taken "note of actions that have been discussed by the Congress" in the meeting. Congress has been pushing to increase sanctions on Russia and make them harder for Trump to lift.

Haley and Schiff spoke on CNN's "State of the Union," Mnuchin on ABC's "The Week," Priebus on "Fox News Sunday," and Graham on NBC's "Meet the Press."

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Associated Press writer Matthew Lee contributed to this report from Kiev, Ukraine.

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Follow Colvin on Twitter at https://twitter.com/colvinj

7 Comments

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  • William Sherman Jul 10, 10:22 p.m.
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    Back in the day, I had a college room mate whose 3rd cousin knew a Russian student from---Russia. Turn the turnip headed Democrats loose on me--what a dam joke. They are all dumber than tree bark.

  • Raleigh Rose Jul 10, 1:53 p.m.
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    Jared Kushner alone had 3 undisclosed meetings with Russians he tried to hide. That's is just one person on Trump's team. That doesn't count all the other people who had undisclosed meetings they conveniently 'forgot' or tried to hide. The majority of our own intelligence communities have said Russia interfered with our election, so this is hardly a media only issue. I'm guessing you like Trump, but try to understand that just because the news is telling you something you don't like, doesn't mean it's fake news. Trump is a liar. He's a proven liar. Do you really think someone who lies like he does is going to tell the truth about this?
    As for evidence, the investigation is on-going. Last week Trump supporters and Trump himself were all saying that no one in his campaign met with Russians about the campaign, now we know that is a lie. What else are we going to discover as this investigation moves forward?

  • Kenneth Jones Jul 10, 12:26 p.m.
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    To this day all of the "election issues" involving Russia are coming from the media with no evidence. When the media is all positive with the former President and all negative with the current, don't you wonder why? Why would anyone trust an extremely biased media to tell them the truth? It's not possible..

  • Kenneth Jones Jul 10, 12:20 p.m.
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    Similar to the US taking places like Guam and the Philippines? Things happen today just like they did yesterday. We have no moral ground to be grandstanding..

  • Eric Mayo Jul 9, 7:52 p.m.
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    But, let me know when china annexes Crimea with force because they just want it...

  • John Archer Jul 9, 4:15 p.m.
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    I have no problem working with Russia on keeping China at bay. I do feel people fail to realize that the US needs China too, not only to keep a hand on North Korea, but because most of the items we buy in this country are made in China. Imagine the social upheaval here if all of a sudden there are no goods to buy, such as TVs, phones, clothing, toys, shoes, dishes, cookware, lightbulbs, tools, fishing gear, spark plugs, plastic bins, pet food, and laundry detergent. Our society is about 95% dependent on China.

    The troubling part of the Russia coziness is the election sabotage that both Trump and Putin deny happened, despite hard evidence. It's like they think if they ignore it, no one will care. If we do end up forming this cybersecurity joint venture, then we'll never have another clean election ever. Whoever Russia wants to win will win. Russia is not our friend. Putin hates democracy, and would like nothing better than for us to go along.

  • Tim Orr Jul 9, 11:17 a.m.
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    People....WAKE UP!!! We have to get back to having good relations with Russia. It is the only defense we can have against China. Do you forget history or just have selective memory loss? China is the most populated country in the world. If you've been reading any foreign news you would know they have made enormous strides in their MILITARY status. Just as in the 'old days' of my child hood....The US teaming with Russia is the only possible way of keeping China from ruling the world. They already have a sizable economic command in the global aspect, what do you think they're doing with all that economic growth? Growing the military, in technological force. We need Russia and they need us.