President Donald Trump is calling Monday’s meeting with Russian President Vladimir Putin “deeply productive.” The two met for two hours with only translators. No staffers or note takers were present.
Trump did not denounce Russian interference in the 2016 election during his discussions with Putin, despite the findings of all American intelligence agencies.
When asked directly about the election interference and whether Trump would warn Putin to never do it again, Trump said he believed what Putin told him.
Below, a transcript of the question from the AP’s Jonathan Lemire, and Trump’s response.
Lemire Question: A question for each president; President Trump, you first.
Just now, President Putin denied having anything to do with the election interference in 2016. Every U.S. intelligence agency has concluded that Russia did.
What – who – my first question for you, sir, is who do you believe?
My second question is would you now, with the whole world watching, tell President Putin, would you denounce what happened in 2016 and would you warn him to never do it again?
President Trump: So let me just say that we have two thoughts. You have groups that are wondering why the FBI never took the server – haven’t they taken the server. Why was the FBI told to leave the office of the Democratic National Committee?
I’ve been wondering that, I’ve been asking that for months and months and I’ve been tweeting it out and calling it out on social media. Where is the server? I want to know where is the server and what is the server saying?
With that being said, all I can do is ask the question. My people came to me, Dan Coats came to me and some others, they said they think it’s Russia. 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. But I really do want to see the server.
But I have – I have confidence in both parties. I – I really believe that this will probably go on for a while, but I don’t think it can go on without finding out what happened to the server. What happened to the servers of the Pakistani gentleman that worked on the DNC? Where are those servers? They’re missing; where are they? What happened to Hillary Clinton’s e-mails? 33,000 e-mails gone – just gone. I think in Russia they wouldn’t be gone so easily. I think it’s a disgrace that we can’t get Hillary Clinton’s 33,000 e-mails.
So 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.
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. OK?
Both Democrats and Republicans are speaking out about the president’s meeting, including Speaker Paul Ryan, who released this statement:
“There is no question that Russia interfered in our election and continues attempts to undermine democracy here and around the world. That is not just the finding of the American intelligence community but also the House Committee on Intelligence. The president must appreciate that Russia is not our ally. There is no moral equivalence between the United States and Russia, which remains hostile to our most basic values and ideals. The United States must be focused on holding Russia accountable and putting an end to its vile attacks on democracy.”
Arizona Republican Sen. John McCain called it “one of the most disgraceful performances by an American president in memory.”
Today’s press conference in #Helsinki was one of the most disgraceful performances by an American president in memory.
— John McCain (@SenJohnMcCain) July 16, 2018
Trump’s own top intelligence official, Republican Dan Coates, said, “We have been clear in our assessments of Russian meddling in the 2016 election and their ongoing, pervasive efforts to undermine our democracy.”
Illinois U.S. Rep. Adam Kinzinger (R-16th District) tweeted: “The American people deserve the truth, & to disregard the legitimacy of our intelligence officials is a disservice to the men & women who serve this country.”
He said Trump needed to retract the whole Helsinki press conference and continued, “It’s time to wake up & face reality. #Putin is not our friend; he’s an enemy to our freedom.”
They are OUR intelligence people, and this tactic only leads to a brighter future for #Putin and his Cronies. Mr. President, you need to retract the whole #Helsinki press conference, and reassess your view of allies and enemies. https://t.co/Mu2arECzRu
— Adam Kinzinger (@RepKinzinger) July 16, 2018
Senate Democratic Leader Chuck Schumer asked, “What could possibly cause President Trump to put the interests of Russia over those of the United States? Millions of Americans will continue to wonder if the only possible explanation for this dangerous behavior is the possibility that President Putin holds damaging information over President Trump.”
Joining us with their reactions are John Mearsheimer, professor of political science and co-director of the Program on International Security at the University of Chicago; and Cecile Shea, a specialist on global security and diplomacy at the Chicago Council on Global Affairs who spent more than two decades as a U.S. diplomat, including service in Europe, Asia and the Middle East.