US President, Donald Trump, said Wednesday he got on well with Russian
President Vladimir Putin at their summit in Finland and “big results will come”.
“So many people at the higher ends of intelligence loved my press conference performance in Helsinki.
“Putin and I discussed many important subjects at our earlier meeting. We got along well which truly bothered many haters who wanted to see a boxing match.
“Big results will come!” he said on Twitter.
Trump stunned the world on Monday by shying away from criticizing the Russian leader for Moscow’s actions to undermine the election and cast doubt on US intelligence agencies, prompting calls by some US lawmakers for tougher sanctions and other actions to punish Russia.
“I said the word ‘would’ instead of ‘wouldn’t,’” Trump told newsmen at the White House, more than 24 hours after his appearance with Putin.
“The sentence should have been, ‘I don’t see any reason why it wouldn’t be Russia.’”
A Reuters/Ipsos poll conducted after his news conference with Putin found that 55 per cent of registered US voters disapproved of his handling of relations with Russia, while 37 per cent approved.
Trump, who had the opportunity to publicly rebuke Putin during the news conference in Helsinki, instead praised the Russian leader for his “strong and powerful” denial of the conclusions of US intelligence agencies that the Russian state meddled in the election.
Standing alongside Putin in Helsinki, Trump told newsmen he was not convinced it was Moscow. “I don’t see any reason why it would be,” Trump said.
Although, he faced pressure from critics, allied countries and even his own staff to take a tough line, Trump said not a single disparaging word in public about Moscow on any of the issues that have brought relations between the two nuclear powers to the lowest ebb since the Cold War.
Republicans and Democrats accused him of siding with an adversary rather than his own country.
In spite of a televised interview and numerous postings to Twitter, Trump did not correct himself until 27 hours later.
Reading mainly from a prepared statement, Trump said on Tuesday he had complete faith in US intelligence agencies and accepted their conclusions.
He then veered from his script to hedge on who was responsible for the election interference: “It could be other people also. There’s a lot of people out there”.
His backtracking failed to quell the controversy. Democrats dismissed Trump’s statement as political damage control.
“This has to be recognized for what it is, which is simply an effort to clean up the mess he made yesterday, which is beyond the capacity of any short statement to repair,” said Adam Schiff, the senior Democrat on the House of Representatives Intelligence Committee.
Senate Democratic leader, Chuck Schumer, said Trump’s comments on Tuesday were another sign of weakness, particularly his statement that it “could be other people” responsible for the election meddling.
“He made a horrible statement, tried to back off, but couldn’t even bring himself to back off,” Schumer said on the Senate floor. “It shows the weakness of President Trump that he is afraid to confront Putin directly”.
The political firestorm over Trump’s performance in Helsinki has engulfed the administration and spread to his fellow Republicans, eclipsing most of the frequent controversies that have erupted during Trump’s turbulent 18 months in office.
Trump sought on Tuesday to calm the storm over what critics said was his failure to hold Putin accountable for meddling in the 2016 US election, saying he misspoke in the joint news conference in Helsinki.