US President Donald Trump ascribed the blame for the strained relations between the two counties to "many years of US foolishness and stupidity" just before the summit.

US President Donald Trump was roundly criticised for siding with his Russian counterpart, Vladimir Putin, and refusing to back the US intelligence on the alleged involvement of Kremlin in the 2016 presidential elections. Trump said that he saw no reason to believe the Russians meddled in the 2016 US presidential election and that Putin “was extremely strong and powerful” in denying the charge.

Not only this, Trump also ascribed the blame for the strained relations between the two countries to “many years of US foolishness and stupidity” just before the summit.

Trump had said that though he has great confidence in his “intelligence people”, he cannot only focus on the past and the two superpowers of the world must get along for a bright future.

“I would rather take a political risk in pursuit of peace, than to risk peace in pursuit of politics,” Trump said, adding that a productive dialogue is not only good for the two countries, but also for the world.

Prelude

Trump had raised doubts about the Russia investigation two days ago, calling FBI agent Peter Strzok “a disgrace to our country” and saying the probe “hurts our relationship with Russia”. In an interview given to CBS news, Trump had said, “I thought (Strzok’s testimony) was an absolute disgrace. Where he wants to do things against me before I was even, I guess before I was even the candidate. It was a disgrace.”


On July 14, the US Justice Department had indicted 12 Russian nationals as part of special counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation in the Russian hand in US elections, accusing them of hacking the emails of Democrat leaders and passing over the information to Republicans. The department found that the hacking harmed Democratic candidate Hillary Clinton’s campaign.

Trump remarks ‘treasonous’

Members of Congress, including some very powerful Republican leaders, expressed their shock at the President’s remarks, terming them as “disgraceful”, “shameful” and “treasonous”. Senator John McCain said that Trump’s comments were “one of the most disgraceful performances by an American president in memory”. Senate Foreign Relations Chairman Bob Corker too followed the tune and said the President “made us look like a pushover”.

Republican leader and House Speaker Paul Ryan said, “The president must appreciate that Russia is not our ally.” He also lent his support to the US intelligence findings, stating, “There is no question that Russia interfered in our election and continues attempts to undermine democracy here and around the world.”

Republican leader Trey Gowdy, who has been critical of the Russia probe, said that Trump’s national security aides should convince him that “it is possible to conclude Russia interfered with our election in 2016 without delegitimizing his electoral success”.

Former House Speaker Newt Gingrich and one of the president’s closest supporters too criticised him. “President Trump must clarify his statements in Helsinki on our intelligence system and Putin. It is the most serious mistake of his presidency and must be corrected – immediately,” Gingrich tweeted.


Democrat leader Senator Chuck Schumer said never in the history of the country has a POTUS support an adversary the way Trump sided with Putin. He also challenged Republicans to move beyond words and confront the president directly by increasing sanctions on Russia.

House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi said that Trump’s remarks were not only embarrassing but also “prove that the Russians have something on the President, personally, financially or politically”.

How US media reacted

The US media was also largely taken aback by Trump’s remarks after the meeting. CNN Editor-at-large Chris Cilliza called his statement as “the most shameful, stunning moment of the Trump presidency”. In an article published in the cnn.com, Cilliza said, “Not only has Trump actively worked to realign geopolitics with his attacks on the European Union and NATO but, as of Monday, he made clear that he trusts Putin at least as much — and maybe more — than his own intelligence officials.” He also said that how can the President oversee the findings by his own Intelligence agency by just believing in the “powerful denial” of Putin.

CNN anchor and political analyst John Avlon wrote that the Russian desire to undermine the US-led liberal democratic order has been met with unexpected enthusiasm from the American President.

The New York Times analysis of meeting stated that Putin finally got the “Summit He Has Dreamed of for 18 Years”. It described how Putin managed to get his name cleared from the allegations of meddling in US elections, with state-controlled Russian news agencies declaring their meeting “better than super” and “fabulous”.

NYT columnist Michelle Goldberg wrote that people should not be shocked at such behaviour by Trump as his fealty to Putin is so blatant and undisguised. “None of us yet know the exact contours of Trump’s relationship with Russia, whether Putin is his handler, his co-conspirator or just his hero. But it’s clear that Trump is willing to sell out American democracy for personal gain,” the column read.

The Guardian wrote, “It’s hard to size up what’s riskier: Putin the mischief-maker or an American president who refuses to believe his own intelligence community’s legwork on Putin’s chicanery.”

Impeachment?

With these remarks, the motion for Donald Trump’s impeachment under charges of “treason” has resurfaced in the media. Former CIA director John Brennan tweeted: “It was nothing short of treasonous. Not only were Trump’s comments imbecilic, he is wholly in the pocket of Putin.”

The US Constitution defines treason in article 3, section 3, clause 1 as: “Treason against the United States, shall consist only in levying war against them, or in adhering to their enemies, giving them aid and comfort.”

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