President Trump missed an opportunity to hold President Vladimir Putin accountable for Russia's interference in the U.S. election system in Helsinki, Finland Monday. Instead of calling out Russia, he suggested that he believed Putin when he said he did not meddle. All he could do was ask the question, and he accepted Putin's answer.
Here's the transcript of Trump's answer when he was asked whether he believes Putin or U.S. intelligence. pic.twitter.com/i4xs4H4QKh— Daniel Dale (@ddale8) July 16, 2018
Former intelligence officials are outraged, including former CIA Director John Brennan. He called what happened today treasonous.
Donald Trump’s press conference performance in Helsinki rises to & exceeds the threshold of “high crimes & misdemeanors.” It was nothing short of treasonous. Not only were Trump’s comments imbecilic, he is wholly in the pocket of Putin. Republican Patriots: Where are you???— John O. Brennan (@JohnBrennan) July 16, 2018
A few Republicans did speak up, including Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-SC) and noted Trump critic Sen. Jeff Flake (R-AZ).
Missed opportunity by President Trump to firmly hold Russia accountable for 2016 meddling and deliver a strong warning regarding future elections.— Lindsey Graham (@LindseyGrahamSC) July 16, 2018
This answer by President Trump will be seen by Russia as a sign of weakness and create far more problems than it solves. (1/3)
I never thought I would see the day when our American President would stand on the stage with the Russian President and place blame on the United States for Russian aggression. This is shameful.— Jeff Flake (@JeffFlake) July 16, 2018
James Clapper, the former Director of National Intelligence, was just as shocked by Trump's "incredible" presser.
"He is very reticent about direct confrontation," Clapper observed during a phone interview with CNN.
Trump's recent trip to the UK was indicative of that, Clapper said. Trump had no issue "badmouthing" Prime Minister Theresa May in an interview with The Sun. Yet, when it came to personal engagement, he wouldn't do it.
Today's spectacle was "worse," Clapper noted, because Russia is our "arch adversary."
"It has more to do with projecting image of being a tough guy, he really isn't."
CNN analyst Gloria Borger wondered aloud how current intelligence officials could stay in their jobs after Trump's remarks today. They told the president repeatedly that Russia meddled, but Trump appears to have come to a different conclusion.