Trump’s Historic Meltdown In Helsinki: “I Don’t See Any Reason Why It Would be Russia”

What just happened.

Pablo Martinez/AP

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In a stunning press conference with Russian President Vladimir Putin following their one-on-one meeting Monday in Helsinki, President Donald Trump cast doubt on whether Russia interfered in the 2016 election, raised conspiracy theories about Hillary Clinton’s emails, denounced special counsel Robert Mueller’s ongoing probe, and dismissed allegations of collusion between his presidential campaign and the Kremlin.

“I think the probe is a disaster for our country,” he told reporters on Monday. “I think it’s kept us apart. It’s kept us separated. There was no collusion at all. Everybody knows it.”

When asked directly about issues that Trump might fault Putin for, the president said that both sides were to blame for the breakdown in relations between Russia and the US. “I do feel like we’ve both made some mistakes,” Trump said. 

Both Trump and Putin said the US president raised the issue of Russian election interference during the meeting. But when AP reporter Jon Lemire asked whether Trump would denounce Russia’s meddling efforts, the president suggested that he accepted Putin’s denial that Russia had intervened in the 2016 presidential race. 

“I don’t see any reason why it would be Russia,” Trump said, a statement that contradicts the assessment of the US intelligence community, as well as the special counsel’s indictment on Friday of 12 Russian intelligence officials for their alleged role in hacking various Democratic targets during the 2016 campaign. 

Instead of confronting Putin, Trump quickly defended the legitimacy of his election, raised his electoral college results, and praised his campaign as “brilliant.”

“I beat Hillary Clinton easily,” Trump said. “It’s a sham there could even be a little bit of cloud over that.”

Trump’s meeting with Putin marks the end of his chaotic visit to Europe, during which he repeatedly attacked America’s European allies and referred to the European Union as a “foe.” As the press conference concluded, US lawmakers, former intelligence officials, and members of the media swiftly condemned Trump’s remarks.

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THE BIG PICTURE

You expect the big picture, and it's our job at Mother Jones to give it to you. And right now, so many of the troubles we face are the making not of a virus, but of the quest for profit, political or economic (and not just from the man in the White House who could have offered leadership and comfort but instead gave us bleach).

In "News Is Just Like Waste Management," we unpack what the coronavirus crisis has meant for journalism, including Mother Jones’, and how we can rise to the challenge. If you're able to, this is a critical moment to support our nonprofit journalism with a donation: We've scoured our budget and made the cuts we can without impairing our mission, and we hope to raise $400,000 from our community of online readers to help keep our big reporting projects going because this extraordinary pandemic-plus-election year is no time to pull back.

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