I strongly pressed President Putin twice about Russian meddling in our election. He vehemently denied it. I've already given my opinion.....— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) July 9, 2017
...We negotiated a ceasefire in parts of Syria which will save lives. Now it is time to move forward in working constructively with Russia!— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) July 9, 2017
Putin & I discussed forming an impenetrable Cyber Security unit so that election hacking, & many other negative things, will be guarded..— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) July 9, 2017
...and safe. Questions were asked about why the CIA & FBI had to ask the DNC 13 times for their SERVER, and were rejected, still don't....— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) July 9, 2017
...have it. Fake News said 17 intel agencies when actually 4 (had to apologize). Why did Obama do NOTHING when he had info before election?— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) July 9, 2017
President Donald Trump and Secretary of State Rex Tillerson met with Russian President Vladimir Putin and Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov on Friday, along with their translators. No one else was in the room where it happened. Tillerson says: “The president opened the meeting by raising the concerns of the American people regarding Russian interference in 2016 election. Putin denied such involvement, as he has done in the past.” Lavrov says: Putin firmly asserted that Russian authorities had not meddled in the election, and that Trump had indicated “he accepts these assertions—that’s it.” Later, Putin added that he “got the impression that my answers satisfied him.”
The dueling accounts of what my colleague David Graham labeled the Rashomon Summit ignited a furor. Russian commentators crowed. “Believe Lavrov,” Putin’s spokesman said. “The neocons are furious,” smirked another official. American officials raced to contain the damage. A Tillerson associate told The New York Times that Trump had begun the meeting by saying, “I’m going to get this out of the way: Did you do this?” And a senior administration official insisted to the paper that Trump had pressed Putin on the topic for 40 minutes, in sometimes heated exchanges, before turning to Syria. That parallels the account tweeted by the president on Sunday morning.
Trump himself has repeatedly cast doubt on claims that Russia hacked emails, spread misinformation, and otherwise did its best to undermine Hillary Clinton and advance his own candidacy—despite the fact that his own intelligence community insists it’s the case. That placed him in something of a bind in Hamburg; facing intense public and official pressure to make it clear to Putin that it would be unacceptable for Russia to continue doing something Trump himself doesn’t seem to believe it did.
His Sunday morning tweetstorm hit all the familiar notes, mixing legitimate questions, factually incorrect assertions, and mutually exclusive positions. Notably, Trump avoided attributing responsibility to Russia. He rehearsed the questions he uses to sow doubt about what happened. And he said that it was “time to move forward in working constructively with Russia,” pointing to an agreement to create “an impenetrable Cyber Security unit so that election hacking, & many other negative things, will be guarded.”
Given that Trump’s senior intelligence officials all concur in attributing responsibility for “election hacking” to Russia, this amounts to forming a joint task force with a fox to guard the henhouse. The new unit will have plenty of work; The Washington Post reported on Saturday that Russian hackers had penetrated networks associated with nuclear power facilities.
Reactions came thick and fast, not just from liberal foes of the president, but also from his Russia-skeptical conservative allies.
Partnering with Putin on a "Cyber Security Unit" is akin to partnering with Assad on a "Chemical Weapons Unit". 2/3— Marco Rubio (@marcorubio) July 9, 2017
If Trump was hoping to put the question of Russia’s effort to influence the 2016 election behind him, he seemed instead to have intensified the questions surrounding his handling of the issue, and his reluctance to accept the conclusions of his own hand-picked advisers.