Fallout after Trump-Putin meeting

By Meg Wagner, Veronica Rocha, Brian Ries and Sheena McKenzie, CNN

Updated 9:56 p.m. ET, July 17, 2018
60 Posts
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3:12 p.m. ET, July 16, 2018

US intelligence director: "We have been clear" on Russian election interference

From CNN's Jim Sciutto

Dan Coats, director of National intelligence, said the US intelligence community has "been clear" in its assessments of Russian interference the in the 2016 election, describing their actions as "ongoing, pervasive efforts to undermine our democracy."

"We will continue to provide unvarnished and objective intelligence in support of our national security," Coats said in a statement.

Here's the full statement:

The role of the Intelligence Community is to provide the best information and fact-based assessments possible for the President and policymakers. We have been clear in our assessments of Russian meddling in the 2016 election and their ongoing, pervasive efforts to undermine our democracy, and we will continue to provide unvarnished and objective intelligence in support of our national security.

A senior intel official said Coats made the decision to issue the statement after internal discussions this morning. The official said Coats and his team were presented with “a choice” after they received Trump’s comments and chose to move forward with a public statement in Coats’ name backing the intel assessment. 

The official said the statement was not cleared with the White House.

2:21 p.m. ET, July 16, 2018

Mike Pence: Trump "will always put the prosperity and security of America first"

From CNN’s Kevin Liptak

Vice President Pence is speaking at the Commerce Department today and mentioned President Trump's meeting with Putin at the top of his remarks.

"The world saw once again that President Donald Trump stands without apology as leader of the free world," Pence said. "Earlier today, President Trump completed what he described as a direct, open, and deeply productive dialogue with President Putin in Helsinki. As the President said, it was a constructive day. But it was only the beginning."

Pence continued: "Disagreements between our countries were discussed at length, and what the world saw, and the American people saw, is that President Donald Trump will always put the prosperity and security of America first."

Since the meeting — in which Trump declined to side with US intelligence on Russian interference in the 2016 US presidential election — numerous Republicans and Democrats have criticized his performance.

2:18 p.m. ET, July 16, 2018

John McCain: Today was "one of the most disgraceful performances by an American president in memory"

In a blistering shot at President Trump, Republican Sen. John McCain called today’s news conference "one of the most disgraceful performances by an American president in memory."

He added that it was a “recent low point” in the history of the presidency, calling the summit “a tragic mistake."

Read his full statement:

"Today’s press conference in Helsinki was one of the most disgraceful performances by an American president in memory. The damage inflicted by President Trump’s naiveté, egotism, false equivalence, and sympathy for autocrats is difficult to calculate. But it is clear that the summit in Helsinki was a tragic mistake. President Trump proved not only unable, but unwilling to stand up to Putin. He and Putin seemed to be speaking from the same script as the president made a conscious choice to defend a tyrant against the fair questions of a free press, and to grant Putin an uncontested platform to spew propaganda and lies to the world. It is tempting to describe the press conference as a pathetic rout – as an illustration of the perils of under-preparation and inexperience. But these were not the errant tweets of a novice politician. These were the deliberate choices of a president who seems determined to realize his delusions of a warm relationship with Putin’s regime without any regard for the true nature of his rule, his violent disregard for the sovereignty of his neighbors, his complicity in the slaughter of the Syrian people, his violation of international treaties, and his assault on democratic institutions throughout the world. Coming close on the heels of President Trump’s bombastic and erratic conduct towards our closest friends and allies in Brussels and Britain, today’s press conference marks a recent low point in the history of the American Presidency. That the president was attended in Helsinki by a team of competent and patriotic advisors makes his blunders and capitulations all the more painful and inexplicable. No prior president has ever abased himself more abjectly before a tyrant. Not only did President Trump fail to speak the truth about an adversary; but speaking for America to the world, our president failed to defend all that makes us who we are—a republic of free people dedicated to the cause of liberty at home and abroad. American presidents must be the champions of that cause if it is to succeed. Americans are waiting and hoping for President Trump to embrace that sacred responsibility. One can only hope they are not waiting totally in vain.”
2:09 p.m. ET, July 16, 2018

Top Senate Republican: "I believe our intelligence community and their assessment"

From CNN’s Ted Barrett

Sen. John Cornyn, the No. 2 Senate Republican, made it clear that he believes the intelligence community and special counsel Robert Mueller's indictments. 

Cornyn says Trump seems concerned his election is being delegitimized by critics. 

“I don’t think we should be taking a former KGB colonel’s word for what their intelligence apparatus is doing or not doing. I believe our intelligence community, and their assessment, and I think what special counsel Bob Mueller just indicted — the 12 GRU officials — is spot on. So I don’t know what the President is trying to use some sort of carrot-and-stick approach with Putin, but I believe the intelligence community.”

Asked why he thinks President Trump has trouble believing the intelligence community, is it because he thinks it undermines his election, here's what Cornyn said:

“I think there is some element of that. He takes it all very personally like this is an attempt by Hillary supporters to delegitimize his election. But everyone agrees it didn’t change the outcome, and, to me, I think that is a critical point.”

2:38 p.m. ET, July 16, 2018

GOP congressman: "Russia is not our friend"

Outgoing South Carolina Republican Rep. Trey Gowdy, in a statement, said he's confident that US intelligence officials and others will explain to President Trump that "it is possible to conclude Russia interfered with our election in 2016 without delegitimizing his electoral success."

Gowdy, chairman of the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee, reiterated what several other Republican lawmakers said today: "Russia is not our friend."

Read Gowdy's full statement:

“Russia is not our friend. Russia attempted to undermine the fundamentals of our democracy, impugn the reliability of the 2016 election, and sow the seeds of discord among Americans. Our intelligence community, including the current one, concluded this, as did the Majority House Intelligence Committee report, as did our fellow Americans who served on grand juries which returned true bills on two separate occasions. I am confident former CIA Director and current Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, DNI Dan Coats, Ambassador Nikki Haley, FBI Director Chris Wray, Attorney General Jeff Sessions and others will be able to communicate to the President it is possible to conclude Russia interfered with our election in 2016 without delegitimizing his electoral success.”
1:46 p.m. ET, July 16, 2018

GOP senator: Trump-Putin meeting was not a "good moment for our country"

Republican Sen. Bob Corker said President Trump should have been more forceful with Russian President Vladimir Putin.

"I did not think this was a good moment for our country," Corker said.

He said he was disappointed by Trump's remarks, which he added made the US look like a "pushover."

Corker said he doesn't know why Trump is denying Russia's interference in the US election. Corker insisted that Russia attacked the US election.

"I just don't know what it is about the President that continues to deny that that occurred," he said.

Corker said Putin gained a “tremendous amount” today and was probably eating caviar on the plane home.

Watch more:

1:44 p.m. ET, July 16, 2018

Paul Ryan: "Russia is not our ally"

From CNN"s Phil Mattingly

In a statement released after President Trump's news conference with Russian President Vladimir Putin, Speaker of the House Paul Ryan said Trump "must appreciate that Russia is not our ally."

"There is no moral equivalence between the United States and Russia," he said in a statement.

 Here's Ryan's full statement:

“There is no question that Russia interfered in our election and continues attempts to undermine democracy here and around the world. That is not just the finding of the American intelligence community but also the House Committee on Intelligence."The president must appreciate that Russia is not our ally. There is no moral equivalence between the United States and Russia, which remains hostile to our most basic values and ideals. The United States must be focused on holding Russia accountable and putting an end to its vile attacks on democracy."


1:38 p.m. ET, July 16, 2018

President Trump just left Helsinki

President Trump just departed Helsinki, Finland, after his one-on-one meeting with Russian President Vladimir Putin.

He is now headed to Joint Base Andrews in Maryland. 

1:26 p.m. ET, July 16, 2018

Trump's translator will be debriefed by US officials

From CNN's Kevin Liptak

A US official says the translator in President Trump's one-on-one with Russian President Vladimir Putin will likely be debriefed, at least informally, by other US officials about some of what took place in the meeting. 

The official said this was not unusual practice for one-on-one meetings, but after Trump's performance at the press conference the contents of that session are gaining greater scrutiny.

The translator's main focus in the meeting is to translate the leaders' words, not to take notes for posterity, so her accounting of the meeting is not considered an official record.

About the translator: Marina Gross has previously translated for the State Department and other government entities. She accompanied first lady Laura Bush to Sochi, Russia, in 2008.