READING from a script, President Donald Trump attempted to clean up the mess he created during the joint press conference with Russia President Vladimir Putin in Helsinki, Finland on Monday, July 16. This follows intense criticism from Republicans, Democrats, and our allies in the international community when Trump said he believed Putin’s denial over the findings of the U.S. intelligence community that Russia interfered in the 2016 U.S. presidential election to damage Hillary Clinton and help Trump win.
Trump’s critics say he failed in his duty as president to protect the United States from Putin’s Russia, despite evidence proving this foreign adversary meddled in our elections through cyber warfare, hacked our power grid, hacked the state election websites stealing personal information of more than 500,000 voters, etc.
The transcript of the press conference stated: “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. He just said it’s not Russia. I will say this: I don’t see any reason why it would be.”
Trump said in a news conference that he “misspoke” and had to clarify what he said, claiming “In a key sentence in my remarks, I said ‘would’ instead of ‘wouldn’t.’ The sentence should have been, ‘I don’t see any reason why it wouldn’t be Russia.’ You can put that in.”
He added, “I think that probably clarifies it.”
The president affirmed that he believes, supports and has faith in the U.S. intelligence agencies, but continued on to say the meddling could also have been done by “others” — an attempt to water down Russia’s culpability, and is an assertion that is not part of the 65-page detailed report about Russia’s meddling that resulted in the indictment of 12 top ranking Russian officials, in addition to others previously indicted in the probe that is still ongoing.
While Trump’s ever-loyal fan base may believe this alibi, all his other statements prior to the summit when he already got the intelligence report days before it was made public, and during the summit with Putin, would negate such defense.
Trump continued to call the Mueller investigation a “witch hunt,” blamed the Russia probe as the reason for the strained U.S.-Russia relationship, and accused past administrations, the Democratic National Committee, and the U.S. intelligence agency for and of the hacking. He pointed the finger at everyone else except Vladimir Putin and Russia.
During the news conference, Trump had all the opportunity to bring out that issue of Russia’s assault in our democracy and make Putin accountable, but he did NOT. He had the opportunity to ask Putin about his government’s culpability in Crimea and Ukraine, but he did NOT. Instead, he stood there with Putin, side by side, and hailed the Russian dictator — the adversary of the United States and the free world — for his strength and power.
How could Trump even be successful in working toward peace and healing as he professed were his goals in meeting with Putin without addressing these issues with transparency? And why did he have to attack our allies calling them our “foes,” and our intelligence agencies while being meek as a lamb with Putin?
No wonder Russia was celebrating after the summit, because he just gave Putin all that he wanted without being made accountable for Russia’s transgressions against the United States and other parts of the world.
The bigger concern is this: what really transpired between the private meeting between Trump and Putin with only their interpreters with them? Why the secrecy? Many worry that Trump could have made concessions to Putin, otherwise why did the president of the United States choose NOT to be transparent?
THINK ABOUT THAT.
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Gel Santos Relos is the anchor of TFC’s “Balitang America.” Views and opinions expressed by the author in this column are solely those of the author and not of Asian Journal and ABS-CBN-TFC. For comments, go to www.TheFil-AmPerspective.com,