President Trump and Vladimir Putin tackled allegations of election meddling in unprecedented terms following their one-on-one summit Monday, with Trump opening the door to an unusual offer of cooperation in the special counsel probe and the Russian president suggesting he indeed favored the billionaire businessman in 2016.
But Putin, emphatically and repeatedly, denied meddling in the U.S. election, saying there’s “no evidence.” And Trump, while saying they spent a “great deal of time” discussing the allegations, blasted the ongoing probe as a “disaster for our country.” The two leaders spoke at a freewheeling joint press conference following a pair of meetings — one private — in Helsinki, Finland. Trump and Putin touted the summit as a “success,” vowing to improve ties on a range of issues.
“I would rather take a political risk in pursuit of peace than to risk peace in pursuit of politics,” Trump declared. During their press conference, few topics were off limits. The session with international reporters ended with Putin being asked whether he had compromising material on Trump, which he dismissed as “nonsense.” Even that moment was overshadowed by the extensive comments on election meddling.
The president took a risk by going to the summit with the Russian president. President Trump sought to improve relations with the former superpower, and has sought to do so since the campaign. Because of the many areas where the United States and Russia are at odds, the president employed a softer tone than he is known for, drawing criticism from both sides of the aisle. It isn’t clear what the president has secured from the Russians by meeting with them, but we should know more in the coming days.