Photo via the Kremlin
President Donald Trump’s disregard for global diplomatic standards continued on Monday, as the embattled U.S. leader departed a contentious weekend in the United Kingdom to meet with controversial Russian leader Vladimir Putin.
The unprecedented meeting between Trump and Putin came only days after Special Counsel Robert Mueller indicted twelve Russian nationals for their role in hacking the Democratic Party and acting to sway the 2016 election in Trump’s favor. Convened on Monday morning in Helsinki, Finland, Trump said that he asked Putin if his country had hacked the U.S. election, and was satisfied with the Russian president’s denial.
“I addressed directly with President Putin the issue of Russian interference in our elections,” Trump said Monday morning. “I felt this was a matter best discussed in person. President Putin may very well want to address it, and very strongly, because he feels very strongly about it, and he has an interesting idea.” Trump then stopped short before explaining any further.
As Trump continues to trust the Kremlin over his own stateside intelligence agencies, the jaw-dropping statement was just the latest in yet another week of diplomatic blunders from the American president.
Beginning with NATO meetings in Brussels last week, Trump once again threatened American allies over what he sees as unfair trade and defense agreements, pushing the international organization to expand its military spending under threats of U.S. departure from the pact. During those tense discussions, Trump began his tirades against U.K. Prime Minister Theresa May, once again referring to himself as a “stable genius.”
From Brussels, Trump flew to Britain, where he met with P.M. May and the Queen of England, while trying his hardest to ignore the hundreds of thousands of protestors that proudly flew signs and a gigantic blow-up baby denouncing the U.S. leader’s visit. In an interview with The Sun conducted the day he arrived in the U.K., Trump admonished the Mayor of London and insulted May’s Brexit strategy. In his discussion with P.M. May, Trump suggested that the U.K. sue the European Union to push Brexit forward — an idea May has rejected as too extreme.
In between the heated weekend in England and his trip to Helsinki, Trump stopped in Scotland to play golf, where he was met by some 9,000 more protesters. In yet another act of nearly unbelievable hubris, Trump told reporter Piers Morgan that “some of them are protesting in my favor, you know that? There are many, many protests in my favor.”
Finally, putting a face-palming bow on Trump’s latest round of international travel, the U.S. president met with Putin on Monday morning, but not before taking to Twitter to blame the American intelligence community for disrupting relations with Russia. Once again calling Mueller’s investigation a “witch hunt,” Trump blamed the U.S. for a relationship between the two countries that he said has “never been worse.”
Those comments, immediately endorsed by the Russian government, were rebuked by American legislators from both sides of the aisle.
We agree https://t.co/7l087Qwmj3— MFA Russia 🇷🇺 (@mfa_russia) July 16, 2018
“The U.S. intelligence community knows that the Russian government attacked the U.S. This is not a Republican or a Democrat view -- it is simply the reality,” Republican Senator Ben Sasse tweeted. “All patriotic Americans should understand that Putin is not America's friend, and he is not the President's buddy.”
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After shaking hands in front of media, Trump and Putin spoke in private for two hours, where experts both domestic and abroad worried that the former Russian spy may have manipulated the often-confused American president. Rejecting those worries, Trump told reporters before the meeting that he had spent his whole life getting ready to talk with Putin.
“You know, ‘President Putin is K.G.B.,’ and this and that,” Trump said before the meeting, according to the New York Times. “You know what? Putin’s fine. He’s fine. We’re all fine. We’re people. Will I be prepared? Totally prepared. I’ve been preparing for this stuff my whole life.”