President Trump had multiple opportunities Monday to condemn President Vladimir Putin for Russia’s meddling in the 2016 election.
Instead, at a press conference after his highly anticipated summit with Putin, Trump took a number of shots at the law enforcement officials investigating his campaign and even at his own intelligence agencies, which have concluded that Russia was behind the effort.
He dredged up from the hard right fever swamps debunked myths seeking to blame Democrats for the hacking of their own networks, and reiterated wild-eyed claims about his 2016 opponent, Hillary Clinton.
He said that “we’re all” to blame for tensions with Russia, and said that special counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation specifically was having a “negative” impact on the U.S.-Russia relationship.
Here are the five most bonkers moments from the 30-minute press conference.
Trump: “Mueller’s probe is a disaster for our country.”
Asked to name actions taken by Russia that have damaged its relationship with the United States, Trump dodged by saying “we’re all to blame” and then turned his ire on Mueller’s investigation.
“I do feel that we have both made some mistakes. I think that the probe is a disaster for our country. I think it’s kept us apart. It’s kept us separated,” Trump said. “There was no collusion, at all. Everybody knows it. People are being brought out to the fore. So far that I know virtually none of it related to the campaign.”
He claimed to run a “clean campaign” and bragged about beating Clinton “easily.”
“But the main thing, and we discussed this also, is zero collusion, and it has had a negative impact upon the relationship of the two largest nuclear powers in the world,” Trump said, adding that it was “ridiculous what’s going on with the probe.”
Will Russia extradite the 12 Russians Mueller accused Friday of hacking?
Trump deferred to Putin a question about extraditing the 12 Russian military intelligence officers named in a Friday indictment for the alleged 2016 hacking of Democrats, while accusing Democrats of using the “collusion” allegations to explain why they lost to Trump.
Putin, meanwhile, said he will “look into” the indictment and brought up a treaty between the two countries on dealing with criminal cases.
“We can offer that the appropriate commission headed by special attorney Mueller, he can use this treaty as a solid foundation and send a formal, an official request to us so that we would interrogate, hold the questioning of these individuals whom he believes are privy to some crimes,” Putin said, going on to offer that he’d even permit Mueller’s team to come to Russia to be present for the questioning.
Putin said, however, that Russia would impose “another condition,” so that it was a “mutual” effort.
“We would expect that the Americans would reciprocate and they would question officials, including the officers of law enforcement and intelligence service of the United States, whom we believe are—who have something to do with illegal actions on the territory of Russia,” Putin said, citing specifically allegations about Bill Browder, a Putin critic who led a campaign to impose sanctions on Russian individuals.
Trump: Putin offered ‘strong’ denial of 2016 meddling
Trump was asked to pick a side, between Putin’s denials of election meddling and the conclusion of U.S. intel and law enforcement officials — many of them Trump appointees — that Russia was behind the interference efforts.
“[Director of National Intelligence] , Dan Coats came to me and some others. They said they think it’s Russia,” Trump said. “I have President Putin. He just said it’s not Russia. I will say this. I don’t see any reason why it would be.”
Most of his answer to the question was consumed with conspiracy theories about the FBI’s response in 2016 to the hacking of Democratic networks, and “missing” Clinton emails and DNC servers.
“I have great confidence in my intelligence people, but I will tell you that President Putin was extremely strong and powerful in his denial today,” Trump said. “And what he did is an incredible offer. He offered to have the people working on the case come and work with their investigators, with respect to the 12 people. I think that’s an incredible offer. “
Putin on Trump 2013’s trip fueling pee-tape rumors: “I didn’t even know that he was in Moscow”
Putin on multiple occasions made troll-y remarks about the allegations that Russia had dirt on Trump.
“I was an intelligence officer myself. And I do know how dossiers are made up,” Putin said, apparently referencing the dossier assembled by an ex-British spy alleging, among other things, that the Kremlin has a videotape of women peeing on a Moscow hotel bed in Trump’s presence.
Putin was asked specifically to confirm or deny that the Russian government had “compromising material” on Trump and his family. He laughed when the question was translated for him.
Putin danced around the question, claiming he did not know that Trump was in Moscow, a reference to the 2013 Miss Universe trip, when the alleged tape was filmed.
(Trump wrote Putin a letter then personally inviting him to the Miss Universe pageant. Trump would later claim to have been in contact with Putin about the trip.)
Putin then spoke more generally about the idea that he’d try to collect compromising material on “high-level” U.S. businessmen visiting his country, such as the 500 businessmen Putin said visited St. Petersburg for an economic forum.
“It’s difficult to imagine an utter nonsense of a bigger scale than this,” Putin said. “Please, just disregard these issues and don’t think about this anymore again.”
Trump takes one last swipe at that “total witch hunt”
Trump couldn’t let the press conference end without taking one last shot at the Justice Department’s investigation into Russian election meddling. Unprompted, he brought up last week’s appearance in front of a congressional committee of an FBI agent who sent anti-Trump texts during the 2016 campaign.
“It was a disgrace to the FBI. It was a disgrace to our country. And you would say that was a total witch hunt,” Trump said, in his final remarks to the reporters.
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