'Donald Trump has been condemned as “treasonous” for siding with the Kremlin over his own government agencies after a stunning joint appearance with Vladimir Putin in which he seemingly accepted the Russian leader’s denial of election meddling.
At a joint press conference after one-on-one talks lasting more than two hours in the Finnish capital, the US president offered no criticism of Putin or the cyber-attacks that the US intelligence community says he coordinated to help Trump’s 2016 election campaign.
“They said they think it’s Russia; I have President Putin, he just said it’s not Russia,” Trump told reporters. “I will say this: I don’t see any reason why it would be. 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.”
The comments set off a new firestorm in Washington and critics suggested it was a historically weak performance by a US president against a foreign adversary. It also fuelled the intrigue of why Trump’s refusal to speak ill of Putin remains one of the few constants of his White House tenure.
Asked directly if he took Putin’s word over his own law enforcement and intelligence agencies, Trump veered off in a rambling attempt to change the subject, raising the Democratic National Committee’s server and Hillary Clinton’s missing emails – a move seen by critics as a crude attempt to deflect and distract.
“Where are those servers?” Trump demanded. “Where are Hillary Clinton’s emails?”
And bridling at the suggestion that his election victory might be discredited, Trump added: “I beat Hillary Clinton easily ... We won that race. And it’s a shame that there can even be a little bit of a cloud over it ... We ran a brilliant campaign and that’s why I’m president.”
There was swift condemnation from some of Trump’s opponents in Washington. John Brennan, a former director of the CIA, tweeted: “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.”'
Read more: Trump 'treasonous' after siding with Putin on election meddling
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