PRESS CONFERENCE TO FOLLOW
by Sharon Rondeau
(Jul. 16, 2018) — Just after 2:00 p.m. local time on Monday, President Donald Trump and President Vladimir Putin met at the presidential palace in Helsinki, Finland for what Fox News and Trump himself have called a “summit.”
On Sunday CBS News’s Mark Knoller pointed out that Trump was terming the meeting a “summit.”
Unlike the Singapore summit between Trump and North Korea’s Kim Jong-Un on June 12, the meeting began with public remarks by each leader, with Trump opening by congratulating Putin on the successful “World Cup” final soccer playoff hosted in Moscow on Sunday.
Relations between the U.S. and Russia have been deteriorating over at least the last two years given that Russians have reportedly “meddled” in U.S. elections, including the highly-controversial 2016 presidential election, and Putin’s support of Syrian dictator Bashar al-Assad.
In an opening statement, Trump suggested that nuclear weapons, the political future of Ukraine, trade, “missiles,” and China could be discussed. He also said that eventually he hopes to have an “extraordinary relationship” with Putin.
On Friday, U.S. Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein announced the grand-jury indictments of 12 Russian-government operatives for allegedly infiltrating the DNC and Hillary Clinton campaign computer systems. Rosenstein said no votes were changed and no Americans named as co-conspirators.
One of the aspects of an ongoing investigation led by Special Counsel Robert Mueller is whether or not Trump or any of his campaign aides “colluded” with Russians to tip the U.S. election in Trump’s favor.
In a similar press conference in February, Rosenstein announced indictments of three Russian companies and ten individuals who allegedly attempted to interfere in the 2016 U.S. elections by inventing fake social-media accounts and placing propaganda-like ads.
It is unclear if any of the indicted Russians will be brought to the U.S. to stand trial, as there is no extradition treaty between the two countries. One of the entities indicted is fighting the charges in court, represented by an American law firm.
During their public remarks, Trump spoke and paused to allow the translator to restate his words in Russian for Putin’s benefit. Early on, however, Putin said, “Thank you” to Trump and shook his hand.
The brief public meeting is being followed by a 90-minute private discussion between the two leaders. As with Trump’s meeting with Jong-Un, the only other individuals who will reportedly be present are two interpreters.
The schedule includes a working lunch with a press conference afterward. According to Fox News on Monday morning, Putin arrived late to the meeting and the presser, originally scheduled for 9:50 a.m. EDT, will be delayed.
Critics of Trump’s decision to meet with Putin have said that no official agenda has been issued and that Trump is ill-prepared to handle Putin, who has controlled Russian politics for approximately two decades and is a former Soviet KGB officer. After Rosenstein’s announcement of the indictments on Friday, many politicians called for Trump to cancel the meeting.