Trump again praises Putin summit as success

Washington: US President Donald Trump on Wednesday insisted his summit with Vladimir Putin had been a success, despite the uproar over his apparent acceptance of the Russian leader’s denial of election meddling —and criticism of his convoluted efforts to explain away his comments.
And in a move that could trigger further international worry, he also cast doubt on US commitment to Nato’s central principle of mutual defence, calling out new member Montenegro and warning that its “very aggressive” people could draw the alliance into war with Russia.
Trump was due to face the media once again on Wednesday at the start of a White House meeting with his cabinet. With a firestorm raging over the summit — and particularly the press conference that followed in which Trump failed to confront Putin or hold him to account — the US president backpedaled on Tuesday.
But by Wednesday, he was citing the “many positive things” he expects to come from the summit, where Trump and Putin met privately for some two hours, apparently with no one else present but their translators.
“While the Nato meeting in Brussels was an acknowledged triumph, with billions of dollars more being put up by member countries at a faster pace, the meeting with Russia may prove to be, in the long run, an even greater success,” Trump tweeted ahead of the cabinet meeting.
“So many people at the higher ends of intelligence loved my press conference performance in Helsinki,” Trump added.
“Some people HATE the fact that I got along well with President Putin of Russia. They would rather go to war than see this,” he said. “It’s called Trump Derangement Syndrome!”
At their meeting in Helsinki on Monday, Trump failed to challenge Putin over the 2016 presidential election, seeming to accept at face value the strongman’s denial that Moscow interfered in a bid to undermine Democratic candidate Hillary Clinton.
But faced with outrage at home, with even some of his political allies demanding that he reverse course, Trump — in an extraordinary postscript to the high-stakes summit — sought to walk back his remarks on Tuesday.
Trump said he accepted the intelligence community’s assessment that Russia had meddled in the election, and offered a rambling explanation of his assertion that he could not see “any reason” why Russia would interfere.
“In a key sentence in my remarks, I said the word ‘would’ instead of ‘wouldn’t’,” Trump said, speaking at the White House ahead of a meeting with Republican lawmakers.
“The sentence should have been, ‘I don’t see any reason why it wouldn’t be Russia.’ Sort of a double negative,” he added. Trump found precious little support from either side of the political aisle for his decision not to confront the Russian leader. — AFP