President Donald Trump did the opposite of what his staff recommended ahead of his joint presser with Vladimir Putin, ignoring most of about 100 pages of briefing materials outlining a tough stance toward the Russian strongman, according to a report.
Trump’s remarks during the 46-minute news conference in Helsinki, where he expressed skepticism about the US intelligence community’s findings that Russia meddled in the 2016 election, were “very much counter to the plan,” a source told the Washington Post.
“Everyone around Trump” urged him to take a firm posture with the Russian leader, according to a second person familiar with the preparations.
Aides covered matters from Russia’s annexation of Crimea to its interference in the US elections, but the president threw out the playbook and “made a game-time decision” to handle the summit his way, the second source told the paper.
“I think that the United States has been foolish,” Trump, standing a few feet from Putin, said at the press conference, referring to tensions with Russia. “I think we’ve all been foolish. We should’ve had this dialogue a long time ago; a long time, frankly, before I got to office.”
A senior White House official disputed the notion that Trump acted unilaterally, saying he had several sessions with senior administration officials preparing for the sit-down in addition to the briefing materials.
But despite his staff’s efforts, the president attacked his own intelligence agencies while lavishing warm praise on US archrival Russia and its leader on foreign soil.
During the freewheeling news conference, Trump repeated a litany of his oft-repeated grievances, renewed his attacks against special counsel Robert Mueller and asked about Hillary Clinton’s 33,000 missing emails.
Signs that the president might go rogue emerged during the two days he spent at his luxury seaside golf resort in Turnberry, Scotland, according to the Washington Post, which interviewed more than a half-dozen White House officials, advisers and diplomats.
Trump spent much of the weekend “growling,” one White House official said on condition of anonymity, in the wake of the Justice Department’s indictment of 12 Russian intelligence officials for meddling in the 2016 election.
He groused that the release of the indictments Friday, just before the meeting, could hurt him politically, the official said.
But a senior White House official said the president had been in favor of announcing the indictments before his trip so he could broach the subject privately with Putin.
Trump also made it clear that he was more excited to meet Putin than he had been to visit with NATO allies earlier in the week in Brussels, where he lambasted them over defense spending.
“He loved the summit with Kim Jong Un,” the White House official said, referring to the North Korean despot with whom Trump met last month in Singapore.
“He thinks he can sit down eye to eye with these guys, flatter them and make a deal.”
Source: NY Post Yaron Steinbuch
Photo Credit: WNYC
Photo Credit: EurActiv