WASHINGTON – Donald Trump’s “America First” slogan changed from Monday to “Me First” as the president unloaded on his own secret service and Department of Justice, portraying itself as the victim of a conspiracy to deny him legitimacy. Trump also blamed the American “folly and stupidity” for the poor state of U.S.-Russia relations, returning to themes he has repeated at political meetings around the United States.
This time, however, he was on foreign soil, standing next to Vladimir Putin, the man whose government is accused of interfering in 2016 the election to the favour of Trump. As such, his extraordinary performance fueled criticism of his presidency of both the right and left. And it will probably embolden Putin, who faced no pushback from Trump on the election allegations or a long list of other Kremlin actions, ranging from Syria to Ukraine.
Sure enough, critics and even some usually reliable defenders were quick to pounce.
Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., called it “one of the most shameful performances by an American president in memory.”
The House Of Representatives Paul Ryan, R-Wis., a conservative Trump supporter, said: “The president should understand that Russia is not our ally.” And Rep. Trey Gowdy, R-S. C., who has been critical of the Russian probe, said that “Russia is not our friend” and expressed the hope that Trump’s national security assistants could convince him that “it is possible to conclude Russia interfered with our election in 2016 without delegitimizing his electoral success.”
But after his two hour, one-on-one meeting with Putin in Helsinki, Trump doubt about the U.S. intelligence findings that Russia intervened in the election, and he rejected special counsel Robert Mueller, is the probe in the meddler, suggests there is no reason to doubt Putin’s denials of crimes.
“I have great confidence in my intelligence people, but I will tell you that President Putin was very strong and powerful in its denial today,” he said.
Current and former Trump White House and campaign officials describe the president as are possessed by the suggestion that his elevation to the White House came as something else than the product of his own hard work. They say that the former reality star and relentless tabloid self-promoter is of the opinion that any suggestion of the Russian interference undermines his victory and his brand.
It is for that reason that, since the 2016 campaign, Trump has vigorously rejected any suggestion of the Russian support for his candidacy. After his electoral victory, which captured Asset by surprise, the president reluctantly acknowledged Russian interference in the election — the unanimous consensus of the intelligence community while in the same breath to suggest that other countries could be responsible.
Months later, Trump said he fired FBI Director James Comey due to the ongoing investigation of Russian interference and potential collusion with elements of Trump’s campaign. And Trump continues to reject Müller-elektronik gmbh & probe as a “witch hunt,” despite the indictments of Russian hackers and intelligence officials.
On Monday, Trump also resurrected many different conspiracy theories about his opponent, Hillary Clinton, and the Democratic y, called an FBI agent involved in the interference probe by name and complained about the coverage in the media.
All that time, Trump praised his electoral success, and again denied any form of cooperation with Russia, something Putin was happy to agree with, although the Russian leader has to admit to a preference for Trump, who campaigned for better ties with Moscow.
“We had a brilliant campaign, and that is why I am the president,” Trump said at a given time.
“That was a clean campaign, I beat Hillary Clinton easily,” he said at another. “It is a shame that there might even be a bit of a cloud over.”
Trump included the summit as a victory of the diplomacy, saying, he was the show of statesmanship by agreeing to the meeting with Putin, and savaging those who have expressed concern about the timing and what could be on the table.
Nevertheless, in spite of vague vows better ties and new collaboration in Syria and the nuclear non-proliferation, neither Trump nor Putin was able to provide details of progress or of specific improvements in relationships if they spoke to journalists at a press conference in Helsinki after their long-awaited top.
The only tangible sign of progress was Putin’s gift of a football world cup to Trump. The only points of disagreement came when Putin carefully did Asset for the repeal of the Iran nuclear deal and when the Russian leader, not Trump himself, declared the U.S. position on the Russian annexation of the Crimea.
“He kept insisting that it was illegal for the annex,” Putin said of Trump’s attitude.
Putin, for his part, played the role of statesman, who as a kind of emcee, and parrying questions from the press by professing disbelief in the accusations of meddling, before making an amazing offer of a “deal” with the president. His proposal to trade access to Russians accused of hacking in exchange for Russian researchers involved in the studies of Kremlin critics, was “an incredible offer,” said Trump.
Trump’s openness to the symbolic offer appeared to cede the high ground to Putin. Russia hawks, even consideration of the proposal pointed to the success of Putin’s efforts to shake the foundations of American democracy.
After all, that was the ultimate goal of Russia election of interference, the officials of the V. S. have reviewed.
Putin appeared pocket on the sensitive subject, when he responded to a question about concern with the question, “do you believe the United States is a democracy?”
Editor’S NOTE — AP Diplomatic Writer Matthew Lee is the cover of the AMERICAN foreign policy and international affairs since 1999. Zeke Miller has reported to the government and the politics in Washington since 2011.