Unfiltered Political News

Trump’s step toward Putin seals a new world order

President Donald Trump cast his meeting Monday with Russian President Vladimir Putin as a step “towards a brighter future.”

But the global community had a different assessment: The summit in Helsinki signaled the manifestation of a new world order.

As Trump decamped from his weeklong trip to Europe, he was holding up America’s friends as its “foes” and presenting Russia, the former superpower scorned by his predecessor as a fading regional player, as significant enough to be in competition with the U.S.

Trump, during a surreal joint news conference following the meeting, showed deference to Putin by repeatedly refusing to criticize the Russian president, noting that his description of him as a “competitor” was meant purely as a compliment.

At another point, Trump stepped in to answer a pointed question directed at Putin, only days after special counsel Robert Mueller indicted a dozen Russian intelligence agents for allegedly hacking the Democratic National Committee and his 2016 opponent Hillary Clinton’s campaign to help Trump win the contest. Trump told reporters that while he has “great confidence” in U.S. intelligence officials, “President Putin was extremely strong and powerful in his denial today.”

Mueller’s spokesman declined comment.

The president’s regard for Putin — who on Monday affirmed his preference for Trump in the 2016 election — contrasted sharply with his increasingly tough talk toward Europe, language that chips away at international order, to still unclear effect. A similar dynamic played out last month in Singapore, when Trump left flustered allies, including Canada, behind after departing the G-7 summit to meet with North Korean leader Kim Jong Un, whom he called “tough” and “very smart.”

“It’s just really striking,” said Thomas Wright, director of the Center on the United States and Europe at the Brookings Institution. “I think it shows he’s much more comfortable with strong-man adversaries than he is with democratic allies.”

For Trump, who often expresses his views on trade and economics as a zero-sum game, his friendliness toward a country or region can be measured by the degree to which they are seen as an economic threat to the U.S., experts noted. By that measure, Europe and Canada are far scarier than Russia — despite it being at the center of years of Republican attacks on Democrats over security issues.

Though Trump has long expressed affection for authoritarian rulers, it’s the degree to which Trump is eroding U.S. relationships with other countries around the world that is leading some to call for the resignation of his top officials and commanding the focus of spurned foreign leaders.

Trump over the past week lashed out at European leaders, suggesting that NATO nations double the amount of their gross domestic product that they spend on defense; ripped German officials for approving a natural gas pipeline link from Russia; falsely denied criticizing British Prime Minister Theresa May behind her back; and answered a CBS interviewer’s question about who he considers to be his biggest foe by naming the European Union. Trump specifically cited “what they do to us on trade.”

“Now you wouldn’t think of the European Union, but they’re a foe,” he added. “Russia is a foe in certain respects. China is a foe economically, certainly a foe.”

In Germany, Trump’s rebuke left such a lashing that the country’s foreign minister said he has no choice but to believe that Europe can no longer count on the president and must begin further turning inward for support.

“We can no longer completely rely on the White House,” Heiko Maas told the Funke newspaper group. “To maintain our partnership with the USA we must readjust it. The first clear consequence can only be that we need to align ourselves even more closely in Europe.”

Added Maas: “Europe must not let itself be divided however sharp the verbal attacks and absurd the tweets may be.”

The backlash in Britain was already setting in when Trump slammed May in The Sun tabloid and spoke glowingly about her political rival.

Thousands protested in the streets under a giant balloon depicting Trump as an orange baby and headlines blasted his break with protocol by walking in front of Queen Elizabeth.

Trump opened Monday blaming historically strained relations with Russia on American “foolishness and stupidity” and the investigation into Russian election meddling, which he dismisses as a “rigged witch hunt.” Despite earlier putting Russia on his list of adversaries, Trump’s Europe trip seemed to give Putin few reasons to be displeased overall.

Putin, for his part, seemed to shape-shift from international outlaw into veteran statesman, calm, cool and collected. Only once did he seem to directly confront the Trump agenda, when he credited the Iran nuclear deal that Trump tore up for allowing the Middle East country to “become the most controlled in the world.”

But experts who lauded the relationship-building goals of the meeting suggest the larger context surrounding it were not conducive to long-term success, including the Russian hacking indictments handed down Friday, last week’s NATO summit and last month’s G-7. The former is a particularly sensitive subject for Trump because it threatens to undercut his own role in the 2016 victory.

“The whole concept of that came up perhaps a little bit before, but it came out as a reason why the Democrats lost an election which, frankly, they should have been able to win, because the Electoral College is much more advantageous for Democrats, as you know, than it is to Republicans,” Trump said in response to a question meant for Putin about why he should be believed that Russia didn’t interfere.

Christopher Preble, vice president for defense and foreign policy studies at the Cato Institute, and a proponent of the meeting, said Trump’s answers won’t soon settle the charged subject.

“It amounts to the president of the United States appearing to give more credence to the claims of Vladimir Putin than to the claims of his own intelligence, law enforcement and national security agencies.”

But Preble, noting the awkward timing of the meeting, urged skeptics not to discount possible long-term benefits for the U.S. relationship with Russia, not Europe.

He concluded: “I didn’t expect Donald Trump to say or do anything dramatically different than what he said and did.”

David Herszenhorn contributed to this report.

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POLITICO Playbook Power Briefing: Everything you need to know about Trump and Putin’s joint appearance

CNN’S ANDERSON COOPER on PRESIDENT DONALD TRUMP’S performance during a joint press conference with RUSSIAN PRESIDENT VLADIMIR PUTIN: “You have been watching, perhaps, one of the most disgraceful performances by an American president at a summit in front of a Russian leader, certainly that I’ve ever seen.”

TRUMP’S WORLDVIEW, as enumerated over the past week or so: The European Union is a foe of the U.S. NATO needs serious repair, because the U.S. military’s long-standing partners are taking advantage of America. And PUTIN is a competitor — that’s a compliment, he said — who would have no reason to involve himself in America’s affairs.

PUTIN on whether he wanted TRUMP to win the election: “Yes, I did. Yes, I did. Because he talked about bringing the U.S.-Russia relationship back to normal.”

WILL REPUBLICANS SPEAK OUT? Yes, of course some will, but not most. Why? Myriad reasons, and it’s not really that neat and easy to assign one motivation to hundreds of Republicans. But Trump can truly do no wrong with a large segment of the Republican base. So, in a political system where a primary challenge is your principal political hurdle, you don’t want to be on the wrong side of the popular president. Many, though, will seethe privately, for whatever that’s worth.

ON MEDDLING … AP’S JONATHAN LEMIRE got the last question: “Who do you believe,” the U.S. intelligence community or Russia? And can you warn Putin to not meddle again?

TRUMP: “All I can do is ask the question. My people came to me, Dan Coats came to me and some others. They said they think it’s Russia. I have President Putin. He just said it’s not Russia. I will say this. I don’t see any reason why it would be. … I have confidence in both parties.”

— THIS IS BASICALLY equating Putin’s word to that of Director of National Intelligence Dan Coats. It is another instance of Trump contradicting what has universally been agreed upon in the U.S. intel community — that Russia did interfere in the 2016 election.

— WHAT WILL COATS DO? Will he stay in the administration? How about U.S. ambassador to Russia Jon Huntsman?

PUTIN SAID Russia did not interfere in the 2016 elections. “I had to reiterate things I said several times … the Russian state has never interfered and is not going to interfere in internal affairs such as the election process.”

PUTIN ON THE SUMMIT: “I think we can call it a success and a very fruitful round of negotiations. … The current tension, the tense atmosphere have no solid reason behind it. The Cold War is a thing of the past. The era of acute ideological confrontation of the two countries is a thing of the remote past, is a vestige of the past. The situation and the world changed dramatically. Today both Russia and the United States face a whole new set of challenges.”

TRUMP: “Our relationship has never been worse than it is now; however that changed as of about four hours ago. I really believe that.”

TWO MEDIA QUESTIONS FOR EACH SIDE … Russia chose Interfax and RT. The Trump administration chose the AP’s Lemire and Reuters’ Jeff Mason.

MASON asked Trump if he holds Russia accountable for election meddling and the deterioration of the relationship. TRUMP said: “I hold both countries responsible. … I think we’re all to blame. … I think we have both made some mistakes.”

PUTIN: “Can you name a single fact that would definitely prove collusion? It’s nonsense.”

— WILL PUTIN EXTRADITE THE 12 RUSSIANS INDICTED? “I will look into it. So far I can say the following: We have an existing agreement within the United States and Russian Federation … that dates back to 1999: the mutual assistance on criminal cases. This treaty is in full effect.”

TRUMP said the Mueller probe “has had a negative impact upon the relationship of the two largest nuclear powers in the world.”

EARLY GOP REACTION … Sen. Ben Sasse (R-Neb.): “This is bizarre and flat-out wrong. The United States is not to blame. America wants a good relationship with the Russian people but Vladimir Putin and his thugs are responsible for Soviet-style aggression. When the President plays these moral equivalence games, he gives Putin a propaganda win he desperately needs.”

— Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.): “Missed opportunity by President Trump to firmly hold Russia accountable for 2016 meddling and deliver a strong warning regarding future elections. This answer by President Trump will be seen by Russia as a sign of weakness and create far more problems than it solves. … It is imperative that Congress hold hearings on the extent and scope of any cooperation with Russia in Syria regarding Iran’s presence. … Finally, if it were me, I’d check the soccer ball for listening devices and never allow it in the White House.”

— Sen. Jeff Flake (R-Ariz.): “I never thought I would see the day when our American President would stand on the stage with the Russian President and place blame on the United States for Russian aggression. This is shameful.”

— Rep. Adam Kinzinger (R-Ill.): “The American people deserve the truth, & to disregard the legitimacy of our intelligence officials is a disservice to the men & women who serve this country. It’s time to wake up & face reality. #Putin is not our friend; he’s an enemy to our freedom.”

— Rep. Elise Stefanik (R-N.Y.): “Russia has a track record of meddling in elections – not only ours in 2016, but around the world. I support the Mueller investigation in getting to the apolitical truth.”

FORMER CIA DIRECTOR JOHN BRENNAN (@JohnBrennan): “Donald Trump’s press conference performance in Helsinki rises to & exceeds the threshold of ‘high crimes & misdemeanors.’ It was nothing short of treasonous. Not only were Trump’s comments imbecilic, he is wholly in the pocket of Putin. Republican Patriots: Where are you???”

THE ONE-ON-ONE MEETING between Trump and Putin lasted about two hours, per our colleague and pooler Annie Karni.

THE SPRAY … Mark Stone (@Stone_SkyNews): “Very awkward body language… but @realDonaldTrump did offer Vladimir Putin a wink. @SkyNews”. 12-second video

Happy Monday. THE REST OF TRUMP’S WEEK … THE PRESIDENT is flying back to D.C. today. Annie Karni noted in a pool report that he was speaking with Sean Hannity and Tucker Carlson right after the Putin presser. Tuesday: The president will have lunch with VP Mike Pence. Wednesday: The president will hold a Cabinet meeting and he’ll have lunch with Secretary of State Mike Pompeo. Thursday: The president will host a “a pledge to the American Worker event” and he’ll sign an executive order.

BULLETIN … AP at 12:59 p.m.: “SAN DIEGO (AP) – Judge temporarily halts deportation of families who were recently reunited after being separated by Trump administration.”

SPOTTED — House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi dining last night at Le Diplomate. … Rob Porter this morning on a 7 a.m. American Airlines Boston to D.C. shuttle.

COMING SOON: “PLAYBOOK ON THE ROAD” is back and we’re kicking it off with an exclusive recess party. Join us for food and drinks at Summerfest 2018 on July 25 featuring music by The Shadowboxers. Learn more

BREAKING — “FCC sends Sinclair mega-deal to likely doom,” by Margaret Harding McGill: “FCC Chairman Ajit Pai announced Monday he has ‘serious concerns’ about Sinclair Broadcast Group’s acquisition of Tribune Media, saying he would send the transaction through a lengthy administrative process often viewed as a deal-killer.”

INCUMBENTS WHO GOT OUTRAISED (not a comprehensive list, just examples we thought were interesting) …

— TEXAS GOP REP. JOHN CARTER got walloped by MJ Hegar in his deep red district. Carter raised $266,889 and has $537,561 on hand. Hegar raised $1.1 million and has $867,266 on hand.

— NRCC CHAIRMAN STEVE STIVERS (R-Ohio) raised $484,242 and has a healthy $2.4 million on hand. His Democratic opponent, Rick Neal, raised $921,910 and has $503,151 on hand. Neal gave his own campaign $250,000.

— NEW JERSEY GOP REP. LEONARD LANCE raised $301,267 and has $1.1 million on hand. His Democratic opponent, Tom Malinowski, raised $1 million and has $1.6 million on hand.

54 GOP INCUMBENTS were outraised, per National Journal’s Ally Mutnick.

SCOTUS WATCH — “Manchin invites constituents to send comments on Kavanaugh,” by West Virginia MetroNews’ Alex Thomas:

AL-MONITOR: “Price tag for Trump’s $250,000 Jerusalem embassy is in – at $21.5 million” detailing the successful bid

TRADE WARS — ADAM BEHSUDI: “China files WTO dispute against $200B U.S. tariff list”: “China announced on Monday that it would mount a World Trade Organization challenge against the Trump administration’s proposal to hit $200 billion worth of Chinese imports with a new round of tariffs, according to a one-line release the Ministry of Commerce posted to its website.

“Beijing has already filed a separate request for consultations, the first step in a WTO dispute, against an initial round of tariff action the U.S. has taken against China under Section 301 of the Trade Act of 1974.”

— “U.S. launches 5 WTO cases against retaliatory tariffs,” by Doug Palmer: “The Trump administration on Monday formally challenged tariffs imposed by China, the European Union, Canada, Mexico and Turkey on more than $20 billion of U.S. exports in retaliation for steel and aluminum duties imposed by President Donald Trump in the name of national security.”

— “China Cozies Up to EU as Trade Spat With U.S. Escalates,” by WSJ’s Eva Dou in Beijing: “At an annual summit on Monday, China gave EU leaders much of what they were looking for. Both sides committed to setting up a working group to look at a WTO revamp, made headway in reaching an investment treaty and pledged to cooperate on enforcing the Paris accord on climate change. …

“Even so, EU leaders are mindful that the bloc shares many of Washington’s criticisms of China’s policies they see as discriminating against foreign companies.”

GARRETT GRAFF in WIRED: “What Robert Mueller Knows—and 9 Areas He’ll Pursue Next”: “Mueller’s four buckets of indictments—stretching from the IRA’s information operations to the Russian intelligence active cyber attacks to the Kremlin-backed business deals of Paul Manafort to the 2016 Trump campaign contacts of George Papadopoulos and Michael Flynn—appear to outline the possible four corners of a conspiracy that stretches from the Kremlin to Trump Tower, one that involves Putin-friendly oligarchs, the Russian military, and senior level campaign and transition officials whose motives weren’t necessarily ‘America first.’

“What lies in between those four corners is presumably what Mueller and Rosenstein know—and we can expect that the next round of indictments to begin to connect those dots, particularly in regard to the role of Americans who participated, wittingly or unwittingly, in the attacks.

“Rosenstein has been careful to point out that neither the indictments aimed at the GRU—Russia’s main intelligence arm—nor the IRA allege the involvement of Americans, yet those words seem carefully chosen to stave off President Trump’s immediate outrage while preserving the possibility that future indictments will very much target Americans.”

ON THE WORLD STAGE — “Trump fist-bumped Turkish leader Erdogan, said he ‘does things the right way,’” by CBS News’ David Morgan: “Ian Bremmer, president of the Eurasia Group … [said about events that happened during the NATO summit:] ‘Trump was very frustrated; he wasn’t getting commitments from other leaders to spend more. Many of them said, ‘Well, we have to ask our parliaments. We have a process; we can’t just tell you we’re going to spend more, we have a legal process.’ Trump turns around to the Turkish president, Recep Erdogan, and says, ‘Except for Erdogan over here. He does things the right way,’ and then actually fist-bumps the Turkish president.’”

IRAN UPDATE — “Mnuchin says U.S. will consider some waivers on Iran sanctions,” by Reuters’ Lesley Wroughton: “The United States wants to avoid disrupting global oil markets as it reimposes sanctions against Tehran and in certain cases will consider waivers for countries which need more time to wind down their oil imports from Iran, U.S. Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin said. …

“Mnuchin said he would meet with counterparts from developed and developing countries on the sidelines of a G20 finance ministers’ meeting in Buenos Aires on July 19-22. U.S. sanctions against Iran are likely to be raised in his talks.”

PLAYBOOK METRO SECTION — “In MLB All-Star week, Metro workers empower leaders to strike,” by WaPo’s Faiz Siddiqui: “Thousands of workers from Metro’s largest union voted Sunday to authorize a potential transit strike, a risky move that would be the culmination of an extended labor dispute and could grind the region’s transportation network to a halt. …

“Union leaders would not say whether they will launch a strike now that they have been authorized to do so.”

YIKES — “Plutonium is missing, but the government says nothing,” by the Center for Public Integrity’s Patrick Malone and R. Jeffrey Smith: “Two security experts from the Department of Energy’s Idaho National Laboratory drove to San Antonio, Texas, in March 2017 with a sensitive mission: to retrieve dangerous nuclear materials from a nonprofit research lab there. …

“But when they stopped at a Marriott hotel just off Highway 410, in a high-crime neighborhood filled with temp agencies and ranch homes, they left those sensors on the back seat of their rented Ford Expedition. When they awoke the next morning, the window had been smashed and the special valises holding these sensors and nuclear materials had vanished.

“More than a year later, state and federal officials don’t know where the plutonium – one of the most valuable and dangerous substances on earth – is. Nor has the cesium been recovered.”

2018 WATCH — WAPO’S JENNA JOHNSON in Atlanta: “With Trump in the White House, candidates who sound like him hit the campaign trail”: “In races across the country … Republican candidates — and some Democrats — also are branding their opponents with unflattering nicknames, tweeting in all caps, refusing to apologize for things that politicians once apologized for, being proudly politically incorrect, circulating false information, calling their hometown newspapers ‘fake news,’ releasing damaging information about their opponents and generating controversy to get headlines, even unflattering ones. …

“But it’s unclear if the tactics will work for many candidates other than Trump, who had a cachet with his voters unmatched by most seeking office.”

TOP-ED — “Can White Women Help Build a Progressive Future?” by Julie Kohler, SVP at Democracy Alliance, in The Nation: “Women of color have long formed the progressive base, but as November nears, a question looms: How will white women vote? Will greater numbers of white women finally become part of a more enduring progressive majority? Or will old, structural pulls, including white women’s economic dependence on and personal relationships with, white men, maintain the status quo?”

YOU ARE INVITED: ANNA, host of the WOMEN RULE podcast, is moderating a TECHNET panel conversation tomorrow morning at AJAX (1011 4th St. NW) about the importance of supporting female entrepreneurship.

Speakers include: Linda Moore of TechNet, Sen. Amy Klobuchar (D-Minn.), Tracy Van Grack of Revolution, Gazelle Hashemian of WE Capital/Blue Flower, Alexandra Givens of Georgetown Law and Bobby Franklin of NVCA. Doors open at 8 a.m. Register to attend up for the Women Rule podcast

FOR YOUR RADAR — “Puerto Ricans return to power grid, but fear for long term,” by AP’s Danica Coto in Adjuntas: “Lights are slowly coming on for the more than 950 homes and businesses across Puerto Rico that remain without power in hard-to-reach areas. … More than 52,000 power poles have been installed and thousands of miles of cable secured, with some 180 generators still providing power at key locations. But Gov. Ricardo Rossello warns that there is no backup system yet in case the power goes out again, which it did for up to 47,000 customers when the remnants of what was once Tropical Storm Beryl lashed Puerto Rico with rain and wind in early July.

“A further complication is the lack of leadership at Puerto Rico’s Electric Power Authority, which has seen four directors since Maria, the most recent one lasting only a day in the job.

The turnover comes as federal and local officials try to strengthen the power grid in the middle of a new hurricane season and as Puerto Rico’s government prepares to privatize the generation of electricity and award concessions for transmission and distribution.”

AFTERNOON READ — DAVID REMNICK in The New Yorker, “Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez’s Historic Win and the Future of the Democratic Party”: “Ocasio-Cortez keeps to a minimum her denunciations of Trump, as if the critique went almost without saying. She is more voluble about her view of capitalism. ‘I do think we are in a crisis of late-stage capitalism, where people are working sixty, eighty hours a week and they can’t feed their families,’ she said. ‘There is a lot that is economically dystopic in this country. So that’s why people are open to change.’

“But what first appealed to her about the Democratic Socialists of America had less to do with theory or ideology than with the simple fact that she kept seeing members at rallies for every cause she cares about, from the Hurricane Maria rescue effort to Black Lives Matter. She defines her politics as a struggle for ‘social, economic, and racial dignity.’”

MEDIAWATCH — Shelley Venus will be Facebook’s video lead for news partnerships, working on Facebook Watch news shows, which began Monday ( She previously was global head of video at HuffPost.

TRANSITIONS — Tim Tarpley will be the VP of government affairs at the Petroleum Equipment and Services Association. He most recently was chief of staff to Rep. Ted Poe (R-Texas) and is also a Mac Thornberry alum. … Vanessa Valdivia started Monday as communications director for Sen. Martin Heinrich’s (D-N.M.) reelection campaign. She was previously his press secretary in Washington. …

… Nicole Foltz started on Monday as senior director of federal government affairs at Abbott. She most recently was counsel for floor operations for Speaker Paul Ryan.

AT THE DNC … Sam Cornale is being promoted to deputy CEO, where he’ll serve as the organization’s second in command. Michael Tyler is being promoted to the role of chief of staff to DNC Chair Tom Perez.

ENGAGED – Rebecca Nelson, a magazine writer for GQ, The Washington Post Magazine, Elle and other outlets, got engaged to Stanley Kay, news director at Sports Illustrated. “We’re both Northwestern grads, but actually met while interning at Washingtonian in the summer of 2013. We got together in early 2015 and did long distance for two years while he lived in New York and I was in D.C. He proposed on a hike at Mt. Rainier at a viewpoint with a gorgeous panorama of the mountain and the surrounding Cascades.” Instapics

— Anna Epstein, VP at the Black Rock Group and a Carly Fiorina and RNC alum, got engaged to Aaron Steeg, a summer associate at Winston & Strawn in NYC. Instapic

SPOTTED — Bill Nye the Science Guy at the African American History Museum, wearing a navy blazer and a bow tie.

WELCOME TO THE WORLD – OBAMA ALUMNI — Aaron Ament, president of the National Student Legal Defense Network and a former Obama appointee at the Department of Education, and Allison Bormel, a former Obama USAID appointee who just got her masters of public affairs at UC Berkeley, welcomed Lilah Brooke Ament. “The family is doing great and even made it to New Jersey this past weekend for Allison’s brother’s wedding.” Pic

— Bill McMorris, staff writer at the Washington Free Beacon, and Theresa McMorris, HR manager at Motorola Solutions, on Thursday night welcomed their fourth daughter, Azelie Clare McMorris, “90 minutes shy of her sister’s second birthday. Baby is healthy and Theresa is recovering beautifully.” Pic

— Emily Garnett, an attorney at Brownstein Hyatt Farber Schreck, and Alec Garnett, a Colorado state representative (HD-2) and alum of Rep. Ed Perlmutter (D-Colo.) and former Rep. Jonathan Adler (D-N.J.), recently welcomed Adella Scott Garnett, who came in at 8lbs 2 oz and was 20.5 inches long. Pics

WEEKEND WEDDING — Heba Abdelaal, legislative aide for Sen. John Boozman (R-Ark.), married Joseph Rulli, a saxophone player in the U.S. Air Force Academy Band. Pics

BONUS BIRTHDAY: Lindley Kratovil, chief of staff to Rep. Elise Stefanik (R-N.Y.) (h/t Emily Schillinger)

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Full text: Trump and Putin’s press conference, transcribed

RUSSIAN PRESIDENT VLADIMIR PUTIN: Distinguished Mr. President, ladies and gentlemen, negotiations with the president of the United States, Donald Trump, took place in a frank and business-like atmosphere. I think we can call it a success and a very fruitful round of negotiations. We carefully analyze the current status the present and the future of Russia and U.S. relationship [and] key issues of the global agenda. It’s quite clear to everyone that the bilateral relationship are going through a complicated stage. Yet those impediments, the current tension, the tense atmosphere essentially have no solid reason behind it. The Cold War is a thing of past. The era of acute ideological confrontation of the two countries is a thing of remote past, is a visage of the past. The situation of the world changed dramatically.

Today, both Russia and the United States face a whole new set of challenges. Those include a dangerous maladjustment of mechanisms for maintaining international security and stability, regional crises, the creeping threat of terrorism and trans-national crime. It’s the snowballing problems in the economy, environmental risks and other sets of challenges. We can only cope with these challenges if we join the ranks and work together. Hopefully, we will reach this understanding with our American partners. Today’s negotiations reflected our joint wish, our joint wish with President Trump to redress this negative situation in the bilateral relationship, [and] outline the first steps for improving this relationship to restore the acceptable level of trust and going back to the previous level of direction on all mutual interest issues. As major nuclear powers, we bear special responsibility for maintaining international security.

[Inaudible} vital, and we mentioned this during the negotiations, it’s crucial that we fine-tune the dialogue on strategic stability and global security and nonproliferation of weapons of mass destruction. We submitted [to] our American colleagues a note with a number of specific suggestions. We believe it necessary to work together further to interact on the disarmament agenda, military and technical cooperation. This includes the extension of the strategic offensive arms limitation treaty. It’s a dangerous situation with the global American and missile defense system. It’s the implementation issue with the INF treaty. And of course the agenda of nonplacement of weapons in space. We favor the continued cooperation in counterterrorism and maintaining cybersecurity. I’d like to point out specifically that our special services are cooperating quite successfully together. The most recent example is their operational operation within the recently concluded world football cup. In general, the contacts among special services should be put to a system-wide basis should be brought to systemic framework. I reminded President Trump about suggestion to re-establish the working group on antiterrorism. We also mentioned the plethora of regional crises, not always that our postures dovetail exactly. And yet the overlapping and mutual interests abound. We have to look for points of contact and interact closer in a variety of international forum. Clearly, we mentioned the regional crisis, for instance, Syria. As far as Syria is concerned, the task of establishing peace and reconciliation in this country could be the first showcase example of the successful joint work. Russia and the United States apparently can proactively take leadership on this issue and organize the interaction to overcome humanitarian crisis and help Syrian refugees to go back to their homes. In order to accomplish this level of successful cooperation in Syria, we have all the required components. Let me remind you of that. Both Russian and American military have acquired useful experience of coordination of their action, established the operational channels of communication which permitted [us] to avoid dangerous incidents and unintentional collisions in the air and in the ground. Also crushing terrorists in the southwest of Syria, the south of Syria should be brought to the full compliance with the treaty of 1974 about separation of forces, about separation of forces of Israel and Syria. This will bring peace to Golan Heights. And bring more peaceful relationship between Syria and Israel and also to provide security to the state of Israel. Mr. President paid special attention to the issue during today’s negotiations and I would like to confirm that Russia is interested in this development and this will act accordingly. Thus far, we will make a step toward creating a lasting peace in compliance with the respective resolutions of [the U.N.] Security Council, for instance the Resolution 338. We’re glad that the Korean Peninsula issue is starting to resolve. To a great extent, it was possible thanks to the personal engagement of President Trump, who opted for dialogue instead of confrontation. We also mentioned our concern about the withdrawal of the United States from the JCPOA. Well, the U.S. — Our U.S. counterparts are aware of our posture. Thanks to the Iranian nuclear deal, Iran began [to be the] most controlled country in the world, it’s submitted to the control of IAEA, it effectively ensures peaceful nature of Iranian nuclear program and strengthens the non-proliferation regime. While we discussed the internal Ukrainian crisis, we paid special attention to the bona fide implementation of Minsk agreement by Kiev. The United States could be more decisive in nudging the Ukrainian leadership and encourage it to work in this. We paid more attention to economic ties and economic operations. It’s clear that both countries, businesses of both countries are interested in this. American delegation was one of the largest delegations in the St. Petersburg Economic Forum. It featured over 500 representatives from American businesses. We agreed, me and President Trump, we agreed to create high level working group that would bring together captains of Russian and American business. After all, entrepreneurs and businessmen know better how to articulate this successful business cooperation. Let them think and make their proposals and suggestions in this regard.

Once again, President Trump mentioned issue of so-called interference of Russia with the American elections. I had to reiterate things I said several times, including during our personal contacts, that the Russian state has never interfered and is not going to interfere in internal American affairs, including election process. Any specific material, if such things arise, we are ready to analyze together. For instance, we can analyze them through the joint working group on cybersecurity, the establishment of which we discussed during our previous contacts.

Clearly, it’s past time we restore our cooperation in the cultural area, in the humanitarian area. As far as I think you know that recently we hosted the American congressmen delegation. Now it’s perceived and portrayed almost as historic event, although it should have been just a current affair, just business as usual. In this regard, we mentioned this proposal to the president.

We have to think about practicalities [inaudible]. But also about the rational, the logic of it. We have to engage experts on bilateral relationship who know history and background of our relationship. The idea is to create an expert council that would include political scientists, prominent diplomats and former military experts in both countries who would look for points of contact between the two countries. That would look for ways on putting the relationship on the trajectory of growth. In general, we are glad with the outcome of our first full-scale meeting because previously we only had a chance to talk briefly on international forum. We had a good conversation with President Trump and I hope that we start to understand each other better. I’m grateful to Donald for it. Clearly, there are some challenges left, when we were not able to clear all the backlog. But I think that we made a first important step in this direction. In conclusion, I want to point out that this atmosphere of cooperation is something that we are especially grateful for to our Finnish hosts. We’re grateful for Finnish people and Finnish leadership for what they’ve done. I know that we have caused some inconvenience to Finland. We apologize for it. Thank you for your attention.

PRESIDENT DONALD TRUMP: Thank you very much. Thank you. I have just concluded a meeting with President Putin on a wide range of critical issues for both of our countries. We had direct, open, deeply productive dialogue. Went very well. Before I begin, I want to thank the President [Sauli] Niinistö of Finland for graciously hosting today’s summit. President Putin and I were saying how lovely it was and what a great job they did. I also want to congratulate Russia and President Putin for having done such an excellent job in hosting the World Cup. It was really one of the best ever. Your team also did very well. It was a great job. I’m here today to continue the proud tradition of bold American diplomacy. From the earliest days of our republic, American leaders have understand that diplomacy and engagement is preferable to conflict and hostility. A productive dialogue is not only good for the United States and good for Russia, but it is good for the world. The disagreements between our two countries are well-known. President Putin and I discussed them at length today. But if we’re going to solve many of the problems facing our world, then we’re going to have to find ways to cooperate in pursuit of shared interests. Too often in both recent past and long ago we have seen the consequences when diplomacy is left on the table. We have also seen the benefits of cooperation. In the last century, our nations fought alongside one another in the Second World War. Even during the tensions of the Cold War, when the world looked much different than it does today, the United States and Russia were able to maintain a strong dialogue.

Our relationship has never been worse than it is now. However, that changed as of about four hours ago. I really believe that. Nothing would be easier politically that to refuse to meet, to refuse to engage. But that would not accomplish anything. As president, I cannot make decisions on foreign policy in a futile effort to appease partisan critics or the media or Democrats who want to do nothing but resist and obstruct. Constructive dialogue between the United States and Russia affords the opportunity to open new pathways toward peace and stability in our world. I would rather take a political risk in pursuit of peace than to risk peace in pursuit of politics. As president, I will always put what is best for America and what is best for the American people.

During today’s meeting, I addressed directly with President Putin the issue of Russian interference in our elections. I felt this was a message best delivered in person. Spent a great deal of time talking about it. And President Putin may very well want to address it and very strongly, because he feels strongly about it and he has an interesting idea. We also discussed one of the most critical challenges facing humanity, nuclear proliferation. I provided an update on my meeting last month with Chairman Kim on the denuclearization of North Korea. After today, I am very sure that President Putin and Russia want very much to end that problem. Going to work with us, and I appreciate that commitment. The president and I also discussed the scourge of radical Islamic terrorism both Russia and the United States have suffered. Horrific terrorist attacks, and we have agreed to maintain open communication between our security agencies to protect our citizens from this global menace. Last year, we told Russia about a planned attack in St. Petersburg. They were able to stop it cold. They found them. They stopped them. There was no doubt about it. I appreciated President Putin’s phone call afterwards to thank me.

I also emphasized the importance of placing pressure on Iran to halt its nuclear ambitions and to stop its campaign of violence throughout the area, throughout the Middle East. As we discussed at length, the crisis in Syria is a complex one. Cooperation between our two countries has the potential to save hundreds of thousands of lives. I also made clear that the United States will not allow Iran to benefit from our successful campaign against ISIS. We have just about eradicated ISIS in the area. We also agreed that representatives from our national security councils will meet to follow up on all of the issues we addressed today and to continue the progress we have started right here in Helsinki.

Today’s meeting is only the beginning of a longer process. But we have taken the first steps toward a brighter future and one with a strong dialogue and a lot of thought. Our expectations are grounded in realism, but our hopes are grounded in America’s desire for friendship, cooperation and peace. I think I can speak on behalf of Russia when I say that also. President Putin, I want to thank you again for joining me for these important discussions and for advancing open dialogue between Russia and the United States. Our meeting carries on a long tradition of diplomacy between Russia, the United States, for the greater good of all. This was a very constructive day. This was a very constructive few hours that we spent together. It’s in the interest of both of our countries to continue our conversation. And we have agreed to do so. I’m sure we will be meeting again in the future, often, and hopefully, we will solve every one of the problems that we discussed today. Again, President Putin, thank you very much.

TRANSLATOR: The journalists would have chance to ask two questions — two sets of question each. First the Russian journalist will ask a question. Please give your affiliation.

QUESTION: Good afternoon. I have a question to President Trump. During your recent European tour, you mentioned that the implementation of the Nordstream 2 gas pipeline, it makes Europe hostage of Russia. You suggested that you could free Europe from this by supplying American LNG — this cold winter actually showed the current model, current mechanism of supply of fuel to Europe is quite viable. At the same time, as far as I know, U.S. Had to buy even Russian gas for Boston. I have a question. The implementation of your idea has a political tinge to it or is this practical one? Because there will be a gap formed in the supply and demand mechanism and first it’s the consuming countries who will fall into this gap. The second question, before the meeting with President Putin, you called him an adversary, a rival. And yet you expressed hope you will be able to bring this relationship to a new level. Did you manage to do this?

TRUMP: Actually I called him a competitor and a good competitor he is. I think the word competitor is a compliment. I think that we will be competing when you talk about the pipeline. I’m not sure necessarily that it’s in the best interests of Germany or not. That was a decision that they made. We will be competing. As you know, the United States is now — or soon will be, but I think it is right now, the largest in the oil and gas world. We’re going to be selling LNG and we’ll have to be competing with the pipeline. I think we will compete successfully. There’s a little advantage locationally. I wish them luck. I discussed with Angela Merkel in pretty strong tones. I also know where they’re all coming from. They have a very close source. So we will see how that all works out. We have lots of sources now. The United States is much different than it was a number of years ago when we weren’t able to extract what we can extract today. Today, we’re No. 1 in the world at that. I think we will be out there competing very strongly. Thank you very much.

PUTIN: If I may, I throw in some two cents. We talked to Mr. President, including this subject as well. We are aware of the stance of President Trump. I think that we as major oil and gas power and the United States is a major gas and oil power as well, we can work together on regulation of international markets because neither of us is actually interested in plummeting of the prices. The consumers will suffer as well. The consumers in the United States will suffer as well. The shale gas production will suffer. Because beyond a certain price bracket, it’s no longer profitable to produce gas. Nor we are interested in driving prices up, because it will drain live juices from all other sectors of the economy. We do have space for cooperation here, as a first thing. Then about the Nordstream 2. Mr. President voices his concerns about the possibility of disappearance of transit through Ukraine. I reassured Mr. President that Russia stands ready to maintain this transit. Moreover, we stand ready to extend this transit contract that’s about to expire next year, in case, if the dispute between the economic entities — dispute will be settled in Stockholm arbitration court.

QUESTION: Thank you. Mr. President, you tweeted this morning that it’s U.S. foolishness, stupidity and the Mueller probe that is responsible for the decline in U.S. relations with Russia. Do you hold Russia at all accountable for anything in particular? If so, what would you consider them that they are responsible for?

TRUMP: Yes I do. I hold both countries responsible. I think the United States has been foolish. I think we have all been foolish. We should have had this dialogue a long time ago, a long time, frankly, before I got to office. I think we’re all to blame. I think that the United States now has stepped forward along with Russia. We’re getting together and we have a chance to do some great things, whether it’s nuclear proliferation in terms of stopping, we have to do it. Ultimately, that’s probably the most important thing that we can be working on.

But I do feel that we have both made some mistakes. I think that the probe is a disaster for our country. I think it’s kept us apart. It’s kept us separated. There was no collusion at all. Everybody knows it. People are being brought out to the fore. So far, that I know, virtually, none of it related to the campaign. They will have to try really hard to find something that did relate to the campaign. That was a clean campaign. I beat Hillary Clinton easily and, frankly, we beat her and I’m not even saying from the standpoint, we won that race. It’s a shame there could even be a little bit of a cloud over it. People know that. People understand it. The main thing — we discussed this also — is zero collusion. It has had a negative impact upon the relationship of the two largest nuclear powers in the world. We have 90 percent of nuclear power between the two countries. It’s ridiculous. It’s ridiculous what’s going on with the probe.

QUESTION: For President Putin if I could follow up as well. Why should Americans and why should President Trump believe your statement that Russia did not intervene in the 2016 election given the evidence that U.S. Intelligence agencies have provided? Will you consider extraditing the 12 Russian officials that were indicted last week by a U.S. grand jury.

TRUMP: I’m going to let the president answer the second part of that question. As you know, the concept of that came up perhaps a little before, but it came out as a reason why the Democrats lost an election, which frankly, they should have been able to win, because the Electoral College is much more advantageous for Democrats, as you know, than it is to Republicans. We won the Electoral College by a lot. 306 to 223 I believe. That was a well-fought battle. We did a great job. Frankly, I’m going to let the president speak to the second part of your question. Just to say it one time again, and I say it all the time, there was no collusion. I didn’t know the president. There was nobody to collude with. There was no collusion with the campaign. Every time you hear all of these 12 and 14 — it’s stuff that has nothing to do — and frankly, they admit, these are not people involved in the campaign. But to the average reader out there, they are saying, maybe that does. It doesn’t. Even the people involved, some perhaps told mis-stories. In one case the FBI said there was no lie. There was no lie. Somebody else said there was. We ran a brilliant campaign. That’s why I’m president. Thank you.

PUTIN: As to who is to be believed, who is not to be believed, you can trust no one. Where did you get this idea that President Trump trusts me or I trust him? He defends the interests of the United States of America. I do defend the interests of the Russian Federation. We do have interests that are common. We are looking for points of contact. There are issues where our postures diverge and we are looking for ways to reconcile our differences, how to make our effort more meaningful. We should not proceed from the immediate political interests that guide certain political powers in our countries. We should be guided by facts. Could you name a single fact of that would definitively prove the collusion? This is utter nonsense. Just like the president recently mentioned, yes, the public at large in the United States had a certain perceived opinion of the candidates during the campaign. But there’s nothing particularly extraordinary about it. That’s usual thing. President Trump, when he was a candidate, he mentioned the need to restore the Russia-U.S. relationship and it’s clear that certain parts of American society felt sympathetic about it and different people could express their sympathy in different ways. But isn’t that natural? Isn’t it natural to be sympathetic towards a person who is willing to restore the relationship with our country, who wants to work with us? We heard the accusations about it [inaudible]. As far as I know, this company hired American lawyers and the accusations doesn’t — doesn’t have a fighting chance in the American courts. There’s no evidence when it comes to the actual facts. We have to be guided by facts, not by rumors.

Let’s get back to the issue of this 12 alleged intelligence officers of Russia. I don’t know the full extent of the situation. But President Trump mentioned this issue. I will look into it. So far, I can say the following. Things that [are] off the top of my head. We have an existing agreement between the United States of America and the Russian Federation, an existing treaty that dates back to 1999. The mutual assistance on criminal cases. This treaty is in full affect. It works quite efficiently. On average, we initiate about 100, 150 criminal cases upon request from foreign states. For instance, the last year, there was one extradition case upon the request sent by the United States. This treaty has specific legal procedures we can offer. The appropriate commission headed by special attorney Mueller, he can use this as a solid foundation and send a formal and official request to us so that we would interrogate, hold questioning of this individuals who he believes are privy to some crimes. Our enforcement are perfectly able to do this questioning and send the appropriate materials to the United States. Moreover, we can meet you halfway. We can make another step. We can actually permit representatives of the United States, including the members of this very commission headed by Mr. Mueller, we can let them into the country. They will be present at questioning. In this case, there’s another condition. This kind of effort should be mutual one. Then we would expect that the Americans would reciprocate. They would question officials, including the officers of law enforcement and intelligence services of the United States whom we believe — who have something to do with illegal actions on the territory of Russia. And we have to request the presence of our law enforcement. For instance, we can bring up the — Mr. Browder in this particular case. Business associates of Mr. Browder have earned over $1.5 billion in Russia. They never paid any taxes. Neither in Russia nor in the United States. And yet, the money escape the country. They were transferred to the United States. They sent huge amount of money, $400 million as a contribution to the campaign of Hillary Clinton. That’s their personal case. It might have been legal, the contribution itself. The way the money was earned was illegal. We have a solid reason to believe that some intelligence officers, guided these transactions. So we have an interest of questioning them. That could be a first step. We can extend it. Options abound. They all can be found in an appropriate legal framework.

QUESTION: Did you direct any of your officials to help him do that?

PUTIN: Yes, I did. Yes, I did. Because he talked about bringing the S.S./Russia relationship back to normal.

PUTIN: I think there can be three questions from the Russian pool. You have the floor.

QUESTION: Thank you so much. Good evening in everyone. [Inaudible] Mr. President, would you please go into the details of possibly any specific arrangements for the U.S. to work together with Russia in Syria, if any of these arrangements were made today or discussed? My question to President Putin in Russian. Since we brought up the issue of football several times, I ask — I use the football language. Mr. Pompeo mentioned that when we talk about Syrian cooperation, the ball is in the Syrian court. Mr. Putin, in Russian court, is it true? How would you use this fact of having the ball?

TRUMP: I guess I will answer the first part of the question. We have worked with Israel long and hard for many years, many decades. I think we have never — never has any one country been closer than we are. President Putin also is helping Israel. We both spoke with Bibi Netanyahu. They would like to do certain things with respect to Syria, having to do with the safety of Israel. In that respect, we absolutely would like to work in order to help Israel. Israel will be working with us. So both countries would work jointly. I think that when you look at all of the progress that’s been made in certain sections with the eradication of ISIS, about 98 percent, 99 percent there, and other things that have taken place that we have done and that, frankly, Russia has helped us with in certain respects. But I think that working with Israel is a great thing. Creating safety for Israel is something that both President Putin and I would like to see very much. One little thing I might add to that is the helping of people. Helping of people. Because you have such horrible — if you see — I’ve seen reports and I’ve seen pictures. I’ve seen just about everything. If we can do something to help the people of Syria get back into some form of shelter and on a humanitarian basis. That’s what the word was, really a humanitarian basis. I think both of us would be interested in doing that. We will do that. Thank you very much.

QUESTION: For now, no specific agreements, for instance, between the militaries?

TRUMP: Our militaries do get along. Our militaries have gotten along probably better than our political leaders for years. Our militaries do get along very well. They do coordinate in Syria and other places. Thank you.

PUTIN: We did mention this. We mentioned the humanitarian track of this issue. Yesterday, I discussed this with French President Mr. Macron and we reached an agreement that together with European countries, including France, we will step up this effort. On our behalf, we will provide military cargo aircraft to deliver humanitarian cargo. I brought up this issue with President Trump. I think there’s plenty of things to look into. The crucial thing is that huge amount of refugees are in Turkey, in Lebanon, in Jordan, in the states that border or are adjacent to Syria. If we help them, the migratory pressure upon the European states will drop, be decreased many-fold. I believe it’s crucial from any point of view, from humanitarian point of view, from the point of view of helping people, helping the refugees. And in general, I agree, I concur with President Trump, our military cooperate quite successfully together. They do get along. I hope they will be able to do so in future. We will keep working in the [inaudible] Russia, Turkey and Iran, which I informed President Trump of. But we do stand ready to link this effort to the so-called small group of states so that the process would be a broader one, a multidimensional one. We will maximize our fighting chance to gather ultimate success on the issue of Syria. Speaking about the — having the ball in our court in Syria, President Trump has just mentioned that we have successfully concluded the world football cup. Speaking of the football, actually, Mr. President, I will give this ball to you and now the ball is in your court. All the more the United States will host the World Cup in 2026.

TRUMP: That’s right. Thank you very much. We do host it. We hope we do as good a job. That’s very nice. That will go to my son Barron. We have no question. In fact, Melania, here you go.

SARAH HUCKABEE SANDERS: Final question from the United States will go to Jonathan Lamier from the AP.

QUESTION: Thank you. A question for each president. President Trump, you first. Just now President Putin denied having anything to do with the election interference in 2016. Every U.S. intelligence agency has concluded that Russia did. My first question for you, sir, is who do you believe? My second question is would you now with the whole world watching tell President Putin, would you denounce what happened in 2016 and would you warn him to never do it again?

TRUMP: So let me just say that we have two thoughts. You have groups that are wondering why the FBI never took the server, why haven’t they taken the server. Why was the FBI told to leave the office of the Democratic National Committee. I’ve been wondering that. I’ve been asking that for months and months and I’ve been tweeting it out and calling it out on social media. Where is the server? I want to know. Where is the server, and what is the server saying? With that being said, all I can do is ask the question. My people came to me, Dan Coats came to me and some others and said they think it’s Russia. I have President Putin, he just said it’s not Russia. I will say this. I don’t see any reason why it would be, but I really do want to see the server. But I have — I have confidence in both parties. I really believe that this will probably go on for a while, but I don’t think it can go on without finding out what happened to the server. What happened to the servers of the Pakistani gentleman that worked on the DNC? Where are those servers? They’re missing. Where are they? What happened to Hillary Clinton’s emails? 33,000 emails gone, just gone. I think in Russia they wouldn’t be gone so easily. I think it’s a disgrace that we can’t get Hillary Clinton’s 33,000 emails. So I have great confidence in my intelligence people, but I will tell you that President Putin was extremely strong and powerful in his denial today. And what he did is an incredible offer. He offered to have the people working on the case come and work with their investigators with respect to the 12 people. I think that’s an incredible offer. OK? Thank you.

PUTIN: I’d like to add something to this. After all, I was an intelligence officer myself. And I do know how dossiers are made up. Just a second. That’s the first thing. Now the second thing. I believe that Russia is a democratic state and I hope you’re not denying this right to your own country, you’re not denying that United States is democracy. Do you believe the United States is a democracy? And if so, if it is a democratic state, then the final conclusion in this kind of dispute can only be delivered by a trial, by the court, not by the executive, by the law enforcement. For instance, the Concord company that is brought up is being accused, it’s being accused of interference, but this company does not constitute the Russian state. It does not represent the Russian state. I brought several examples before. Well, you have a lot of individuals in the United States take George Soros, for instance, with multibillion capitals, but it doesn’t make him — his position — his posture the posture of the United States. No, it does not. It’s the same case. There is the issue of trying a case in the court and the final — the final say is for the court to deliver. We are now talking about the private individuals and not about particular states and as far as the most recent allegations is concerned about the Russian intelligence officers, we do have an intergovernmental treaty. Please do send us the request. We will analyze it properly and we’ll send a formal response. As I said, we can extend this cooperation, but we should do it on a reciprocal basis because we would await our Russian counterparts to provide us access to the persons of interests for us, who we believe can have something to do with intelligence service. Let’s discuss the specific issues and not use the Russia and the U.S. relationship as a loose change for this internal political struggle.

QUESTION: A question for President Putin, thank you. Two questions for you, sir. Can you tell me what President Trump may have indicated to you about officially recognizing Crimea as part of Russia? And secondly, sir, do you — does the Russian government have any compromising material on President Trump or his family?

PUTIN: President Trump — well, the posture of President Trump on Crimea is well known and he stands firmly by it. He continues to maintain that it was illegal to annex it. Our viewpoint is different. We held a referendum in strict compliance with the U.N. Charter and international legislation. For us this issue [inaudible] — and now to the compromising material. Yeah, I did hear these rumors that these allegedly collected compromising material on Mr. Trump when he was visiting Moscow. Distinguished colleague, let me tell you this, when President Trump was in Moscow back then, I didn’t even know that he was in Moscow. I treat President Trump with utmost respect, but back then when he was a private individual, a businessman, nobody informed me that he was in Moscow. Let’s take St. Petersburg Economic Forum, for instance. There were over 500 American businessmen, high-ranking, high-level ones. I don’t even remember the last names of each and every one. Do you think that we try to collect compromising material on each and every single one of them? Well, it’s difficult to imagine [inaudible] on a bigger scale of this. Please disregard these issues and don’t think about this anymore again.

TRUMP: And I have to say if they had it, it would have been out long ago. And if anybody watched Peter Strzok testify over the last couple of days, and I was in Brussels watching it, it was a disgrace to the FBI. It was a disgrace to our country. And you would say that was a total witch hunt. Thank you very much, everybody. Thank you.

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Trump publicly sides with Putin on election interference

President Donald Trump on Monday publicly sided with Russian President Vladimir Putin over his own intelligence agencies, refusing to condemn the Kremlin for interference in the 2016 election and saying that “I don’t see any reason” why Russia would have hacked Democratic computer servers.

Trump’s remarkable statements, during a joint news conference in Helsinki, Finland, after holding a two-hour one-on-one meeting with Putin, came after special counsel Robert Mueller indicted 12 Russians on Friday over allegations of involvement in the state-ordered election-interference operation.

Trump repeatedly attacked the FBI, praised Putin as a “good competitor,” refused to say Russia was accountable for any aspects of fraying U.S.-Russia relations, and attacked Mueller’s inquiry as “a disaster for our country.”

Putin, for his part, denied that Russia interfered in the U.S election, though he declared that he did want Trump to win the 2016 presidential election.

“Yes, I did,” Putin said. “Yes I did.”

While Trump seemed ready to take Putin’s word over that of his own intelligence chiefs on the question of Russian election meddling, Director of National Intelligence Dan Coats was quick to counter the U.S. president, issuing a statement that the U.S. intelligence community has “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.”

The president’s remarks towards Putin and Russia, as well as the overall congenial tone, drew a swift rebuke not just from Democrats but also from Republicans, including some in GOP leadership who have otherwise been allies and defenders of Trump. In a statement issued Monday, House Speaker Paul Ryan said that “the president must appreciate that Russia is not our ally” and that “there is no moral equivalence between the United States and Russia, which remains hostile to our most basic values and ideals.”

Senate Foreign Relations Committee Chairman Bob Corker, who had expressed reservations about the Helsinki summit and has clashed regularly and loudly with Trump, told reporters Monday that “I did not think this was a good moment for our country” and that “the president’s comments made us look as a nation more like a pushover.” Of Putin, Corker said “I would guess he’s having caviar right now.”

Throughout the 45-minute news conference, Trump made his admiration of Putin clear.

“Our relationship has never been worse than it is now; however, that changed as of about four hours ago, I really believe that,” Trump declared. “Today’s meeting is only the beginning of a longer process. But we have taken the first steps toward a brighter future.”

Trump was directly asked at one point whether he believed the U.S. intelligence agencies, which concluded Russia carried out the hacking of Democratic servers to help Trump, or Putin, who has said it did not. Trump acknowledged that his own intelligence chiefs “think it’s Russia.”

“I have President Putin, he just said it’s not Russia,” Trump went on. “I will say this: I don’t see any reason why it would be. But I really do want to see the server. But I have confidence in both parties.”

The news conference left observers gobsmacked, as Trump — who delights in flaying opponents and perceived opponents, and has made a habit of attacking American allies — refused to say a single negative word about Russia and used the international stage to praise the country’s strongman leader and attack American institutions.

“Donald Trump’s press conference performance in Helsinki rises to & exceeds the threshold of ‘high crimes & misdemeanors,’” former CIA director John Brennan wrote on Twitter. “It was nothing short of treasonous. Not only were Trump’s comments imbecilic, he is wholly in the pocket of Putin. Republican Patriots: Where are you???”

Republican Sen. Jeff Flake called the appearance “shameful.” Former GOP Sen. Chuck Hagel, who served as secretary of defense under former President Barack Obama, told CNN that “President Trump failed America today. He failed America, our interests, in every way.”

Perhaps the harshest criticism came from Sen. John McCain, the chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee who has been among the GOP’s most open critics of the president. McCain, a POW during the Vietnam War whom Trump once suggested was not a war hero because he had been captured, called the president’s meeting in Helsinki “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,” McCain, who has been away from the Senate for months as he undergoes cancer treatment, said in a statement. “No prior president has ever abased himself more abjectly before a tyrant.”

In a flurry of posts to Twitter, Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer questioned “what could possibly cause @realDonaldTrump to put the interests of Russia over those of the United States” and suggested that the president’s performance on Monday would fuel speculation that the Kremlin is in possession of compromising information regarding Trump.

“Millions of Americans will continue to wonder if the only possible explanation for this dangerous behavior is the possibility that President Putin holds damaging information over President Trump,” Schumer wrote online, seemingly alluding to a salacious but unverified dossier of intelligence compiled by a former British intelligence agent, who alleged that the Kremlin possesses video footage of the president engaging in lewd acts with prostitutes in a Moscow hotel room.

After he departed Helsinki, Trump appeared to try to shore up the intelligence community, after publicly refusing to back their assessment. “As I said today and many times before, ‘I have GREAT confidence in MY intelligence people.'” Trump tweeted. “However, I also recognize that in order to build a brighter future, we cannot exclusively focus on the past – as the world’s two largest nuclear powers, we must get along!”

Coming just days after Trump castigated NATO allies in Belgium and called the European Union a “foe,” the summit with Putin offered the clearest display yet of Trump’s eagerness to forge a bond with a country that is clashing with the U.S. and its allies on issues that span the globe.

Asked at one point if he held Russia accountable for any aspects of the charged relations between the two countries, Trump demurred.

“I hold both countries responsible,” he said. “I think that the United States has been foolish, I think that we’ve all been foolish.”

He quickly turned his ire on the special counsel probe and declared that he ran a “clean campaign” in defeating Hillary Clinton and that there was “zero collusion” between his campaign and Russia.

When Putin was then asked by a reporter why Americans should trust his denials, Trump jumped in to again say that “there was no collusion.”

“You can trust no one,” Putin said, before falsely declaring that “there’s no evidence” that Russia was involved in the interference.

Hours after Trump’s news conference had concluded, and in the thick of the uproar it created in the the U.S. and beyond, the Justice Department announced it had charged Maria Butina, a 29-year-old Russian citizen living in Washington, with conspiracy to act as an agent of the Kremlin without registering as such.

In a statement, the Justice Department said Butina was arrested Sunday and appeared in court Monday. Charges against her were announced by the U.S. attorney for the District of Columbia — not Mueller’s office — in conjunction with the assistant attorney general for national security and the FBI’s assistant director in charge of the bureau’s Washington field office.

Trump and Putin met at the Presidential Palace in Helsinki, at first appearing tense and subdued and initially forgoing a handshake as they appeared together before sitting down for the highly anticipated one-on-one meeting.

“I think we have great opportunities together as two countries that, frankly, we have not been getting along very well for the last number of years,” Trump said as he sat beside Putin before an array of Russian and American flags prior to their one-on-one meeting. “But I think we will end up having an extraordinary relationship. I hope so.”

The president then repeated what has become something of a mantra as he pursues warmer relations with Moscow: “Getting along with Russia is a good thing, not a bad thing.”

Putin, in his own remarks, said that he looked forward to a discussion “about our bilateral relationship and problem points in the world.”

Trump made no mention in his opening remarks of Russia’s election interference, nor of other areas where the country has been seen as an aggressor, such as Ukraine, Syria and Britain.

The summit came at an extraordinary moment, just days after Mueller indicted 12 Russians for their roles in hacking Democratic Party computer systems as part of the interference campaign.

Those indictments were just the latest in Mueller’s inquiry, which Trump continues to dismiss as a “witch hunt.” Mueller has so far brought indictments against 32 people, including Trump’s former campaign manager Paul Manafort, who is in jail after having his bail revoked over allegations that he sought to tamper with witnesses, and Trump’s former national security adviser Michael Flynn, who pleaded guilty to lying to the FBI.

The investigation has not yet determined whether Trump’s campaign colluded with Russia in the interference effort, something that Trump has repeatedly denied. Moscow is also on the defensive over allegations that it was involved in nerve-agent poisonings in England targeting a former KGB agent that have left at least one British civilian dead.

There also remain the issues of the Syrian civil war, where Putin has backed the President Bashar Al Assad as his government has carried out atrocities against civilians, and Ukraine, where Russia-backed rebels continue to resist the government in Kiev.

Trump in the past has been wary of challenging Putin on Russian aggression abroad, including the annexation of Crimea from Ukraine, and has repeatedly stressed his desire for a warm relationship with Moscow.

Before Trump had breakfast with Finland President Sauli Niinistö, on Monday, reporters asked him what he would say to Putin. “We’ll do just fine,” Trump responded.

Hours before the day’s events, the president took to Twitter to blame the United States and the investigation of Russian interference — not the interference itself — for chilly relations between Washington and Moscow. It was an extraordinary attack from an American president on both his predecessor and American institutions upholding domestic law and order.

“Our relationship with Russia has NEVER been worse thanks to many years of U.S. foolishness and stupidity and now, the Rigged Witch Hunt!” Trump tweeted, deploying his favorite derogatory nickname for Mueller’s sprawling investigation.

That move — to blame the United States for poor relations, and to attack the investigation of election interference but not the interference itself — was welcomed by Russia.

Moments before Putin and Trump sat down to meet, the Russian Foreign Ministry tweeted out Trump’s pronouncement with a simple addition: “We agree.”

The declaration of American “foolishness and stupidity” was not Trump’s only pre-meeting message.

“President Obama thought that Crooked Hillary was going to win the election, so when he was informed by the FBI about Russian Meddling, he said it couldn’t happen, was no big deal, & did NOTHING about it. When I won it became a big deal and the Rigged Witch Hunt headed by Strzok!” the president wrote earlier in the morning, referring to Agent Peter Strzok, who has come under criticism for personal texts he sent that were critical of Trump.

The broadsides were nothing new for the president, who has long railed against the investigation and questioned the intelligence community’s conclusion that Russia interfered in the 2016 election to aid his chances of winning.

The president has repeated Putin’s claim that Moscow had nothing to do with the hacking, after past meetings with the Russian leader. The Helsinki summit will be their first formal one-on-one gathering and comes after Trump caused controversy last week at a NATO summit and in meetings in Britain.

The president rehashed the NATO summit on Twitter on Monday, declaring it a success even after he spent much of the gathering berating allies for not spending enough on defense.

“Received many calls from leaders of NATO countries thanking me for helping to bring them together and to get them focused on financial obligations, both present & future,” Trump tweeted. “We had a truly great Summit that was inaccurately covered by much of the media. NATO is now strong & rich!”

Louis Nelson contributed to this report.

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Putin: I wanted Trump to win the election

Russian President Vladimir Putin said Monday he wanted President Donald Trump to win the 2016 election because he believed Trump’s policies would be more friendly to the Kremlin.

“Yes, I did. Yes, I did. Because he talked about bringing the U.S.-Russia relationship back to normal,” Putin said, standing alongside Trump at a joint news conference.

Putin was asked whether he directed any of his officials to help Trump’s presidential campaign, but Putin appeared to sidestep that part of the question.

The news conference — which came as the pair met at a much-anticipated summit in Helsinki — followed a closed-door meeting that lasted two hours, where they said they addressed issues including Syria, denuclearization and diplomatic relations.

And although Putin said he was rooting for Trump, the American president in the past denied that was the case. Trump previously said Putin would have preferred to see his 2016 opponent, Hillary Clinton, in the White House — saying that was partly because Trump planned to ramp up military spending more than Clinton would have.

“There are many things that I do that are the exact opposite of what he would want. So what I keep hearing about that he would have rather had Trump, I think ‘probably not,’ because when I want a strong military, you know, she wouldn’t have spent the money on military,” Trump said in July 2017.

Putin’s comments in Helsinki about Trump’s campaign come days after special counsel Robert Mueller offered the latest salvo in his investigation into Russian meddling in the 2016 election, indicting 12 Russian military intelligence officers accused of infiltrating Democratic Party computer servers.

At the joint news conference, Putin denied any evidence that Russia was behind election meddling, while Trump tried to switch gears to a familiar refrain from the 2016 campaign: Clinton’s private email server.

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Why Trump won’t cancel the Putin summit

President Donald Trump’s meeting with Russian President Vladimir Putin has all the makings of a political disaster.

Millions of Americans believe Putin has some sinister influence over Trump. The Justice Department just indicted a dozen Russian military hackers for meddling in the 2016 election. Commentators and congressmen are demanding that Trump cancel Monday’s sit-down.

And yet the howls of outrage seem to have made Trump only dig in deeper. To some of the president’s allies, the politics of seeing Putin could actually be a positive, at least within Trump’s hard-core base, which polls show has been warming up to the Russian leader and which largely writes off questions about Trump’s Russia ties as fake news.

That attitude was on clear display Saturday on Fox News, when Trump’s top media ally, Sean Hannity — who flew to Helsinki on his private jet last week — made the on-air case for why Trump’s critics are mistaken to believe the canny former KGB man will play Trump for a mark.

“Everyone in the media, they’re getting it all wrong,” Hannity explained. “He is going to be blunt, brutally honest, just like he was at NATO this week.” Hannity cited Trump’s June meeting with Kim Jong Un, which he said “critic after critic” had denounced in advance, but which Hannity cast as a success that prompted a halt in North Korea’s missile tests.

And as for that damning Friday indictment from special counsel Robert Mueller? “The timing to me was dubious,” Hannity said, suggesting that the truly outrageous meddling was that of the Justice Department in Trump’s diplomacy.

Trump also cast the media as the enemy in Sunday tweets as he departed for Helsinki, complaining that no matter how many concessions he might get from Putin — including being “given the great city of Moscow” — he would never win due credit.

“Much of the news media is indeed the enemy of the people,” he wrote. (It is unclear whether Trump understood that he was echoing a favorite expression of the Soviet dictator Josef Stalin.)

There’s good reason to think Trump’s base is buying it. Mueller’s poll numbers have plunged among Republicans in recent months. Meanwhile, in an extraordinary development, Putin’s GOP popularity has risen over the past two years since Trump began recasting the Russian leader as a potential U.S. ally who somehow keeps getting wrongly accused of nefarious acts.

Republican voters, after all, revile North Korean leader Kim Jong Un. But Trump managed to spin his taboo Singapore summit with the dictator into an epic spectacle, one that nuclear experts called a farce but left GOP partisans talking Nobel Prize. That Trump seemed to defy a near-unanimous media consensus only added to the satisfaction.

“What his base looks at is a guy who is putting America’s interest first,” said Trump’s former chief White House strategist, Steve Bannon.

Bannon said that hard-core Republicans are receptive to Trump’s message that Russia can be a U.S. partner, citing the pragmatic alliance between Washington and Moscow against Nazi Germany.

“The base has so many veterans in it,” Bannon said. “They do realize we would have never won World War II without the Russians as allies. This is basic. The Russians are the ones that really broke the back of the German army.”

Bannon, who himself has been a sharp critic of Putin in the past, added: “We don’t need more enemies. We have enough issues in the world with things like Iran and China and Korea.”

Some Trump allies also believe that the cost of several more days of wall-to-wall speculation about whether Trump is somehow under Putin’s malign influence will be at least partly balanced by images of the president on the global stage, talking nuclear arms and the Middle East with a top world leader.

That’s a look for which every past president has been eager. Another former White House official, Andrew Surabian, compared Monday’s tete-a-tete to President Ronald Reagan’s historic meetings with former Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev. Those two men also sat down together without notetakers or other senior officials in the room, just as Trump and Putin will, to the particular dismay of many Democrats and foreign policy experts who insist Trump will get played.

Conservatives, Surabian said, “are much more open to the idea of dialogue with bad actors than they might have been a decade ago. Unlike with [former President Barack] Obama, no conservative looks at Trump and sees weakness or worries that he’s going to be apologizing for America. When they see Trump, just as they did with Reagan before him, they see strength, which in the long run gives the president more latitude with the base to negotiate with adversaries.”

Meanwhile Putin himself is growing more popular among conservatives. About 25 percent of Republicans and Republican-leaning independents said they held a favorable view of the Russian leader, compared to just 9 percent of Democrats, according to a survey by the Pew Research Center. That’s not exactly a GOP love affair with the Russian, but it’s more than double Putin’s standing from 2015. Other recent polling has shown Putin’s favorability even higher among Republicans.

But even if Trump’s base applauds his defiant diplomacy, it still brings major risks. With his approval rating anchored around 42 percent, according to recent polls, Trump has failed to capitalize on his support in a way that could ensure his reelection. A large chunk of the electorate interprets his flattery of Putin as evidence that he is beholden to the Russian and willing to put U.S. interests at risk.

That’s particularly true in the wake of a Mueller indictment that described in clinical detail how a group of Russian military intelligence officers spent months infiltrating and stealing data from the Democratic Party and even state election computer servers in 2016.

“The indictments put tremendous pressure on the meeting,” said Tom Donilon, a national security adviser to Obama. “The White House should be preparing the actions that the U.S. is going to take against the Russian government for the actions set forth in the indictments and not having the president sit down with Putin only to hear the same old false denials.”

Donilon added: “If the president has the meeting and continues to give Putin a pass, he will have pitted himself against the entirety of the U.S. intelligence and law enforcement services.”

It’s not clear whether Trump’s base takes seriously anything Mueller produces. On Saturday, Hannity scoffed that the timing of the indictment was “just to get the name Russia in the [media] mix” before the Putin summit, and noted for good measure that the hacking had occurred on Obama’s watch.

Trump himself has shown little concern about the latest revelations, maintaining his bullish tone about dealing with Putin.

“I think we could probably get along very well,” he told British television host Piers Morgan aboard Air Force One on Friday. “Somebody said, ‘Are you friends or enemies?’ I said, ‘Well, it’s too early to say but right now,’” Trump said, adding: “[T]o get along with Russia and China and all of these other places … that’s a good thing, not a bad thing. That’s a really good thing.”

Experts remained confused about what Trump’s goal is when he says he wants to start a dialogue and “get along” with Putin.

“It’s never been too clear what that means,” said Stephen Sestanovich, a senior fellow at the Council on Foreign Relations. “Does he mean just ignoring differences? Does he mean resolving or overcoming them in a way that’s advantageous for the U.S., or that’s advantageous to Russia?”

Hannity, for his part, is untroubled by such questions. The occasion of the summit itself, he said, is “a real win,” and a chance for “adult conversation and open dialogue.”

“There’s no downside here,” he declared, before abruptly changing the subject to Hillary Clinton’s emails.

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Trump-Putin summit mystery: What about Snowden?

As President Donald Trump prepares to meet Vladimir Putin on Monday, lawmakers from both parties want him to demand that the Russian president hand over 12 hackers newly indicted for sabotaging the 2016 election. That’s unlikely, especially since Trump mostly shrugs off talk of Russian election meddling.

But Putin is also harboring another hacker wanted by the U.S. — one whose guilt Trump has never questioned: Edward Snowden.

As a candidate, Trump “guarantee[d]” he would bring home the infamous National Security Agency whistleblower. As president, however, he has shown no desire to confront Putin about Snowden.

Why not? Experts and former U.S. officials say that passions have cooled over the fugitive who rocked the intelligence community five years ago last month. More recent hacking scandals have overshadowed his actions. And Trump himself has become a harsh critic of U.S. surveillance programs, which he claims without evidence the Obama administration wrongly used against him.

Even so, some experts think handing over Snowden would be an easy way for Putin to do Trump a favor — giving the president a victory that would especially please intelligence and national security officials angry he hasn’t done more to counter Russian election meddling. Before Trump was sworn in in January 2017, former Deputy CIA Director Michael Morell wrote that handing over Snowden would be “the perfect inauguration gift” from Putin to Trump.

“If Trump wants this as a victory then I don’t see why Putin wouldn’t give it to him,” said Geoffrey Stone, a University of Chicago Law School professor who served on a foreign intelligence surveillance panel created by President Barack Obama shortly after Snowden’s leaks. “If Putin wants to either do a favor for Trump or make Trump look good, and if Trump wants this, it would be an easy thing for Putin to do,” Stone said.

“You can almost see the picture of Snowden in handcuffs being dragged into Air Force One,” he added.

Snowden sought refuge in Moscow in mid-2013 after publicly releasing troves of top-secret NSA files he stole while he was a private contractor. He has called himself a whistleblower exposing surveillance abuses, but many current and former U.S. officials consider him a traitor or worse.

Trump is among them: “Snowden is a spy who has caused great damage to the U.S. A spy in the old days, when our country was respected and strong, would be executed,” he declared on Twitter in April 2014.

As a 2016 candidate, Trump said he could get Snowden back from the Russians, who granted him political asylum. Promising to befriend Putin and repair U.S.-Russian relations, Trump insisted that the Russian leader — who he said had no respect for Obama — would “never” keep someone like Snowden if Trump were president.

“Look … if I’m president, Putin says [to Snowden], ‘Hey, boom, you’re gone.’ I guarantee you this,” Trump said in July 2015.

Since then, it appears Snowden has fallen off Trump’s to-do list. And some believe the Russian president likes keeping him under his wing, even at a time when he wants to strike deals with Trump.

“I don’t think it’s high on Trump’s agenda, and, actually, I don’t think Putin has a big interest in extraditing him,” said Kenneth Roth, executive director of Human Rights Watch and a leading defender of Snowden’s “heroic” leaks.

Snowden remains in hiding in Russia with his partner, Lindsay Mills, mostly keeping a low profile. Just last month, however, Mills shared a rare photo of Snowden on her Instagram account, at what appears to be a restaurant overlooking the Moscow skyline.

Snowden himself addressed the possibility of extradition in May, in a podcast interview with The Intercept.

“Donald Trump is going to be coming out to Russia, you know, whenever he can,” Snowden told journalist Mehdi Hasan, before Monday’s meeting in Helsinki had been announced.

“It seems clear there is no one in this world he loves more than the Russian president. Will he try to make some kind of deal? Maybe,” he added. “Can I do anything about it? No.”

Trump is not the only top U.S. official to have called for Snowden’s return and execution. As a member of Congress in 2016, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo echoed Trump’s opinion. “He should be brought back from Russia and given due process, and I think the proper outcome would be that he would be given a death sentence,” Pompeo told C-SPAN in February of that year.

Snowden’s ACLU lawyer Ben Wizner declined to comment for this article.

Following the beginning of his June 2013 leaks, Snowden commanded world headlines for months. But even as top lawmakers demanded the extradition of 25 Russians who have now been indicted by the Justice Department for 2016 election interference, Snowden went unmentioned.

“These individuals must be brought to the United States so that they can stand trial, and you should demand that Mr. Putin hand them over,” eight senior Democratic senators, including the ranking Democrat on the Senate Intelligence Committee, wrote in a Saturday letter to Trump that did not mention the former NSA contractor.

If Putin were to send Snowden back to the United States, he’d await trial in a prison cell. The espionage charges against him carry decades of jail time and bar him from using a whistleblower defense in trial. Former U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder told Russia in 2013 the U.S. would not seek the death penalty for Snowden, as a way to prevent Russia from granting the former contractor political asylum. Holder told Russia the charges against Snowden did not carry a death penalty and that the government would not pursue the death penalty even if he were charged with additional crimes that carry a death penalty. But it’s not clear whether Trump’s Justice Department would agree.

Even some of Snowden’s fiercest critics suggest that Helsinki is not the place to discuss his fate, especially if Trump and Putin will be confronting substantive policy issues like the Middle East.

“If the effort is to frame up a solution to Syria, then he shouldn’t come up. If it is more of a ceremonial meeting, then it would be appropriate for the topic to be on the agenda,” said Republican Mike Rogers, who served as chairman of the House Intelligence Committee at the time of Snowden’s leaks.

Rogers has denounced Snowden as a traitor who put American lives at risk — even once saying, without specific evidence, that he should face murder charges. But he suggested that Moscow itself, where some believe Snowden’s freedom is limited, is a kind of prison for him.

“He is absolutely miserable in a very controlled environment in Russia. May be the best punishment,” Rogers told POLITICO in an email.

Matthew Waxman, director of the National Security Law Program at Columbia Law School and a former senior George W. Bush administration official, said he doesn’t expect Snowden to come up at Monday’s summit.

But it’s impossible to be sure, he added — especially given the Trumpian spectacle Snowden’s return would involve.

“Trump is unpredictable, and he seems sometimes to care more about the showmanship of deals than their substance,” he said.

Waxman added that Putin “will have studied Trump’s psychology carefully” and could offer up Snowden if he thought it would help him win other agreements from his American counterpart.

At the time of the leaks, Trump said it would be “pathetic” if the United States took years to get Snowden back on American soil. And in other interviews, Trump blamed the slow pace of extradition on Obama’s tense relationship with Putin.

“He hates Obama. He doesn’t respect Obama. Obama doesn’t like him either. But he has no respect for Obama. Has a hatred for Obama,” Trump said.

But where Putin sits now, Snowden might be more useful inside Russia than out. Some critics say Snowden has been notably quiet overall about Russia’s authoritarian practices, even as he castigates the Trump administration, U.S. intelligence agencies and many American technology companies on a Twitter account with 3.8 million followers.

“Snowden represents a rare case of somebody who is seeking Russia rather than fleeing Putin’s autocratic rule,” Roth said. “That’s a way to make his own autocratic rule seem less bad. … He’s much more valuable from Putin’s perspective in highlighting the U.S. government’s mass invasion of privacy.”

Snowden insists he does not not turn a blind eye to abuses within Russia for his own safety. Asked by The Intercept about the possibility of his extradition, he said: “[W]ould I sell out my principles to make that less likely? No.” And he did recently criticize “ballot stuffing” in Russia’s March presidential election, which installed Putin for another six-year term, raising fresh speculation that whatever alliance he might have with Putin’s government is cracking.

“Demand justice; demand laws and courts that matter. Take your future back,” Snowden added.

Roth said he doubts that conservative Republicans care much about Snowden any longer, diminishing Trump’s interest in him.

“I have no doubt Trump would like to get Snowden,” Roth said. “I’m not sure this is an issue that plays with his base. … I don’t see him really going to bat on this issue.”

One reason some doubt that Putin would send Snowden back to the U.S. is that Russia last year extended his asylum until 2020. Russian officials maintain they cannot remove him against his will.

“President Putin addressed the issue some years ago,” Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov said in an interview last month. “He said this is for Edward Snowden to decide.”

Lavrov added that Putin has “never” discussed Snowden with the Trump administration.

“We respect his rights as an individual,” Lavrov said. “I don’t know why people would start asking this particular question in relation to the summit. Edward Snowden is the master of his own destiny.”

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Trump's strange Putin fascination

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U.S. ambassador: Trump-Putin meeting ‘isn’t a summit’

President Donald Trump’s highly anticipated meeting on Monday in Helsinki with Russian President Vladimir Putin is just that — only a meeting, the U.S. ambassador to Russia said Sunday.

“It isn’t a summit. I’ve heard it called a summit. This is a meeting,” Jon Huntsman said on NBC’s “Meet the Press.

“In fact, it’s the first meeting between the two presidents,” Huntsman added. “They’ve had some pull-asides, one at the G-20 in Hamburg and the other at the APEC Ministerial in Da Nang, Vietnam, but this is really the first time for both presidents to actually sit across the table and have a conversation.”

Unlike previous presidential summits — such as Ronald Reagan’s visit to China in 1984, Huntsman said — Trump and Putin’s get-together in Helsinki will not feature a state dinner, a joint statement or any predetermined policy deliverables.

“You don’t know what’s going to come out of this meeting, but what it will be is the first opportunity for these presidents to actually sit down across a table, alone and then with their teams, to talk about everything from meddling in the election, to areas where we have some shared interests,” Huntsman said.

Huntsman also said recent developments in special counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation of Russian interference in the 2016 presidential election, including the Friday indictment of 12 Russian military officials for hacking the Democratic National Committee, will be a part of Monday’s talks.

“That now makes probably almost 30 Russians who have been rolled up by the Mueller indictment. That investigation continues,” Huntsman said. “The bigger picture is we need to hold the Russians accountable for what they did, their malign activity throughout Europe as well. That’s a part of the conversation that needs to take place.”

But Huntsman wouldn’t say whether Trump would push Putin for the extradition of the dozen Russian military officers to stand trial in the United States.

“I don’t know if he’ll make the ask, but it may be part of the agenda. It may be part of their bilateral meeting together. We’ll have to see,” Huntsman said, adding that the FBI office and the U.S. Embassy in Moscow would work to advance that goal.

“That doesn’t necessarily mean that the Russians are going to follow through with it,” Huntsman cautioned. “But we’ll see if those steps will be taken.”

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Trump tells CBS' Glor that the EU is a global foe

OH MY … Sacha Baron Cohen’s new Showtime show, “Who is America?” is going to get lots of attention in D.C. Here’s a clip from Twitter of various Republicans — including Reps. Joe Wilson (R-S.C.) and Dana Rohrabacher (R-Calif.) and Trent Lott — seemingly endorsing putting guns in the hands of kids. Two-minute clip The show premieres at 10 p.m. tonight.

PRESIDENT DONALD TRUMP to CBS’ JEFF GLOR in SCOTLAND: GLOR: “What’s your goal from the Putin meeting?” TRUMP: “I’ll let you know after the meeting. I have absolutely — it was mutually agreed. Let’s have a meeting. I think it’s a good thing to meet. I do believe in meetings. I believe that having a meeting with Chairman Kim was a good thing. I think having meetings with the president of China was a very good thing. I believe it’s really good.

“So having meetings with Russia, China, North Korea — I believe in it. Nothing bad’s gonna come out of it. And maybe some good will come out of it. But I go in with low expectations. I’m not going in with high expectations. I can’t tell you what’s going to happen. But I can tell you what I’ll be asking for and we’ll see if something comes of it.”

GLOR: “The Russians who were indicted. Would you ask Putin to send them here?” TRUMP: “Well I might. I hadn’t thought of that. But again — this was during the Obama administration. They were doing whatever it was during the Obama administration. And I heard that they were trying — or people were trying to hack into the RNC too, the Republican National Committee, but we had much better defenses.

“I’d been told that by a number of people. We had much better defenses, so they couldn’t. I think the DNC should be ashamed of themselves for allowing themselves to be hacked. They had bad defenses and they were able to be hacked. But I heard they were trying to hack the Republicans too, but — and this may be wrong — but they had much stronger defenses.”

— TRUMP SAYS THE E.U. IS AMERICA’S FOE. GLOR: “Who is your biggest competitor? Your biggest foe globally right now?”

TRUMP: “Well I think we have a lot of foes. I think the European Union is a foe, what they do to us in trade. Now you wouldn’t think of the European Union but they’re a foe. Russia is foe in certain respects. China is a foe economically, certainly they are a foe. But that doesn’t mean they are bad. It doesn’t mean anything. It means that they are competitive. They want to do well and we want to do well.”

GLOR is also interviewing Trump at the White House Wednesday when he returns from the summit.

— NBC’S CHUCK TODD spoke with U.S. AMBASSADOR TO RUSSIA JON HUNTSMAN on NBC’S “MEET THE PRESS”: TODD: “Let me start with a simple question. Is this summit still on? And if so, why?” HUNTSMAN: “Well, listen, it isn’t a summit. I’ve heard it called a summit. This is a meeting. In fact, it’s the first meeting between the two presidents. They’ve had some pull-asides, one at the G20 in Hamburg and the other at the APEC Ministerial in Da Nang, Viet Nam, but this is really the first time for both presidents to actually sit across the table and have a conversation.

“And I hope it’s a detailed conversation about where we might be able to find some overlapping and shared interests. This has not happened before, so there’s a lot in our agenda that’s been built over now many years of a relationship that is terrible fraught. So, yes, it will happen, and it should happen.”

TODD: “Two things, will the president ask Putin to extradite the 12 Russian military officers? And have you formally requested that the Russian government do this? We don’t have an extradition treaty, so we have to make a formal request. Have you already begun that paperwork?”

HUNTSMAN: “Well, the F.B.I. office and the embassy no doubt will work on that. I can’t disclose any details in that regard. Requests can be made. That doesn’t necessarily mean that the Russians are going to follow through with it. But we’ll see if those steps will be taken. I can’t make any announcement right here with you.”

TODD: “Is the president going to make the ask or not?” HUNTSMAN: “I don’t know if he’ll make the ask, but it may be part of the agenda. It may be part of their bilateral meeting together. We’ll have to see. It just came onto the agenda last Friday, so it’s something that’s brand new.”

HUNTSMAN to FOX NEWS’ CHRIS WALLACE on FOX NEWS SUNDAY: WALLACE: “Do you have any doubt that the GRU, Russian military intelligence, conducted these operations?”

HUNTSMAN: “You are asking me personally? Having access to information that may be other people don’t have access to. Those who have followed this issue closely, there’s very little doubt in my mind about what we are seeing.

“The investigation was rolled up almost 30 Russians in total. The process and investigation are playing out and that’s part of holding Russia accountable and responsible for election meddling and malign activity. It’s part of getting through our relationship. This is part of it.

“But let me tell you something else. We’ve got to at some point quit looking in the rearview mirror. We have to be informed by what we’ve been through and use that to educate us as we go forward.”

— JONATHAN KARL talked with JOHN BOLTON on ABC’S “THIS WEEK” about whether Trump should ask Putin to extradite the 12 Russians indicted on Friday. BOLTON: “I think it’s pretty silly for the president to demand something that he can’t get legally. … For the president to demand something that isn’t going to happen, puts the president in a weak position and I think the president has made it very clear he intends to approach this discussion from a position of strength.” NYT’s Mark Landler and Julie Hirschfeld Davis detail larger trend of the disconnect between Trump and his top aides

— SEN. RAND PAUL (R-KY.) on with JAKE TAPPER for CNN’S “STATE OF THE UNION” via Quint Forgey: “Sen. Rand Paul on Sunday sought to justify Russia’s interference in America’s 2016 presidential race, claiming that all countries meddle in foreign elections. ‘I think really we mistake our response if we think it’s about accountability from the Russians. They’re another country, they’re going to spy on us,’ Paul said. … ‘We’re going to do the same.’

“‘We all do it. What we need to do is make sure our electoral process is protected,’ Paul said. ‘They’re not going to admit it in the same way we’re not going to admit we were involved in the Ukrainian elections or the Russian elections.’”

CNN POLITICS on their Twitter feed (@CNNpolitics): “CNN’s Jake Tapper explains that State of the Union invited and confirmed national security adviser John Bolton to come on the show, but the White House canceled Bolton’s appearance #CNNSOTU”

TRUMP spoke with PIERS MORGAN aboard Air Force One before flying from London to Glasgow. MORGAN: “The skeptic in me would say: ‘What is the incentive for America to do a great deal with the United Kingdom?”

TRUMP: “‘We would make a great deal with the United Kingdom because they have product that we like. I mean they have a lot of great product. They make phenomenal things, you know, and you have different names — you can say ‘England’, you can say ‘UK’, you can say ‘United Kingdom’ so many different — you know you have, you have so many different names – Great Britain. I always say: ‘Which one do you prefer? Great Britain? You understand what I’m saying?”

MORGAN: “You know Great Britain and the United Kingdom aren’t exactly the same thing?”

TRUMP: “Right, yeah. You know I know, but a lot of people don’t know that. But you have lots of different names. The fact is you make great product, you make great things. Even your farm product is so fantastic.”

— @costareports: “Ahead of Putin meeting and following DOJ indictment, Pres. Trump said ‘I can’t tell you that,’ when asked by @piersmorgan if Putin is a dictator. ‘I assume he probably is. But I could name others also. Look, if we can get along with Russia that’s a good thing,’ Trump said.”

Good Sunday morning. The World Cup final between France and Croatia is at 11 a.m. on Fox. THE PRESIDENT was playing golf this morning before leaving for Helsinki, according to pooler Katie Rogers of the New York Times.

BBC — “Theresa May: Trump told me to sue the EU”: “The U.S. president said on Friday at a joint press conference he had given her a suggestion – but she had found it too ‘brutal’. Asked by the BBC’s Andrew Marr what it was he had said, she replied: ‘He told me I should sue the EU — not go into negotiations.’ … Mrs. May laughed off the president’s legal action suggestion, saying she would carry on with negotiations, but added: ‘Interestingly, what the president also said at that press conference was ‘don’t walk away’. ‘Don’t walk away from those negotiations because then you’ll be stuck. So I want us to be able to sit down to negotiate the best deal for Britain.’”

ABOUT TRUMP’S TURNBERRY GETAWAY — ANNIE KARNI in Glasgow: “President Donald Trump did not let the pressure of his high-stakes meeting with Russian President Vladimir Putin stand in the way of his typical Saturday routine: Tweeting followed by golf on a Trump-branded course. …

“But it was the latest sign of Trump bending the presidency to fit the old lifestyle he misses — even down to sticking with his own [Twitter] account — rather than being shaped by the demands of the office he occupies. During the course of his trip, Trump has conducted himself more like his pre-presidential self than ever before, while traveling. …

“At a black tie dinner on Wednesday night at Blenheim Palace, he made sure that the dinner included some familiar faces from home, among the Brits — including Newsmax CEO Chris Ruddy, a longtime Mar-a-Lago member and Trump friend, Wall Street billionaire Stephen Schwarzman and BlackRock CEO Larry Fink.”

POTUS ABROAD — “‘The arrogant American’: Trump avoids mixing with the public on trips to Britain, other foreign countries,” by WaPo’s David Nakamura: “President Barack Obama had just wrapped up a meeting with British Prime Minister David Cameron when they took a detour, visiting a school in South London where they rolled up their sleeves and engaged a pair of students in a table tennis doubles match. The version of ping-pong diplomacy in 2011 didn’t result in a victory at the table — Obama later said the students ‘whipped us.’ But the informal photo op served a political purpose — presenting the two leaders as close partners in touch with the day-to-day lives of ordinary Britons.

“Such cultural moments have long been a staple of foreign trips for U.S. presidents determined to promote America’s democratic values and openness to the world. George W. Bush shared fish and chips with Tony Blair at the Dun Cow pub in 2003, and Bill Clinton went sightseeing and dined with Blair at a local restaurant in 1997. Not so much for President Trump, who has pursued a radically different approach on his trips abroad, including to Britain over the past week.

“Hewing to a formal itinerary limited to working sessions with Prime Minister Theresa May and a tea ceremony with Queen Elizabeth II, Trump has studiously avoided interacting with the public at large. Aides have said the schedule was intentionally designed to keep the president far away from the mass protests in London that greeted his arrival.”

RUSSIA WATCH — “Just Sitting Down With Trump, Putin Comes Out Ahead,” by NYT’s Andrew Higgins and Neil MacFarquhar in Moscow: “When President Vladimir V. Putin of Russia sits down with President Trump in Helsinki, Finland, on Monday for a meeting he has long wanted, he will already have accomplished virtually everything he could reasonably hope for.

“All he really needs to make his meeting with Mr. Trump a success is for it to take place without any major friction — providing a symbolic end to Western efforts to isolate Russia over its actions against Ukraine in 2014, its meddling in the United States election in 2016 and other examples of what the United States Treasury Department has described as Russia’s ‘malign activity’ around the world. …

“As with any negotiation, timing is everything, and Mr. Putin has been gaining a lot of momentum lately. He will arrive in Helsinki after presiding over the final game of the World Cup soccer tournament in Moscow on Sunday, and will meet an American president who has spent the last week berating his NATO allies and undercutting his host in Britain, Prime Minister Theresa May.”

— CBS’ MARGARET BRENNAN (@margbrennan): “Russian FM Lavrov on Trump-Putin mtg: ‘Yes, there will be interpreters.’ // Q: Will there be no other aides in the room? Lavrov: ‘Well, as things stand now. That is what the American side proposed and we are polite people, so we have agreed.’”

KNOWING BRETT KAVANAUGH – NYT A1, “Influential Judge, Loyal Friend, Conservative Warrior — and D.C. Insider,” by Scott Shane, Steve Eder, Rebecca R. Ruiz, Adam Liptak, Charlie Savage and Ben Protess: “[A]s with any nominee, Judge Kavanaugh and his supporters are carefully shaping his narrative for the diverse Senate and the broader American public: his mother the judge, not his father the lobbyist; his parents’ early struggles, not their second homes in the Florida Keys and on Maryland’s Eastern Shore; his service as a children’s sports coach and a Catholic volunteer, not his participation in some of the most bitter partisan fights in recent times.

“They do not let on that Judge Kavanaugh is by legacy and experience a charter member of elite Washington: His family’s government-centric social circle, his two summer jobs on Capitol Hill, his White House service, his golfing at the capital’s country clubs, his residence in one of the richest suburban enclaves in America. Nor do they note that Judge Kavanaugh’s nomination is the culmination of a 30-year conservative movement to shift the judiciary to the right.”


— AARON SCHOCK, who goes on trial for more than 20 federal crimes in January, spent another $28,511 on legal fees. He has just $73,153 on hand, and has $746,985.45 in debt to Jones Day. Jones Day represented him when he resigned from Congress. Don McGahn, now White House counsel, did some work for Schock at Jones Day.

— MJ HEGAR’s “Doors” campaign video — made by Mark Putnam — was a viral hit ( She’s also raised a pile of money. Hegar, who is running against Rep. John Carter (R-Texas), raised $1.1 million in the second quarter of 2018. She has $867,266.98 on hand. The Putnam video cost $41,118.

2020 WATCH — NYT’S ALEX BURNS and JONATHAN MARTIN: “Warren is Preparing for 2020. So Are Biden, Booker, Harris and Sanders”: “Mr. Biden, 75, is preparing to test a contrasting message this fall, with plans to campaign up to four days a week after Labor Day, people familiar with his strategy said. In his speeches so far, Mr. Biden has struck a gentler chord than Mr. Sanders and Ms. Warren, delivering paeans to bipartisanship and beckoning Democrats to rise above Mr. Trump’s demagogic taunts. … Mr. Biden’s most important step so far has been to help install a close ally, James Smith, as the Democratic nominee for governor in the early primary state of South Carolina.”

— DAVID SIDERS: “Mayors muscle into 2020 presidential race”: “No mayor has ever sprung directly from City Hall to the White House. But that historic streak stands to be tested in 2020, with at least three Democratic mayors mulling presidential campaigns: Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti, former New Orleans Mayor Mitch Landrieu and South Bend, Ind., Mayor Pete Buttigieg.

“They’re exploiting a newfound opening for politicians at the municipal level, one enabled by broader economic and cultural forces, among them the rise of the Democratic Party’s diverse and ascendant Obama coalition.”

OUCH! — “Feinstein gets progressive smackdown,” by California Playbookers Carla Marinucci and Jeremy B. White: “California Democrats, torn by infighting between moderate and progressive factions, rebuked Sen. Dianne Feinstein’s bid for a fifth term — for the second time this year.

“The state party’s executive committee voted Saturday to endorse progressive state Sen. Kevin de León in the general election, signaling what many fear will be a divisive Democrat-on-Democrat battle going toward to the fall in California, where the party hoped to put the focus on a host of crucial congressional races that could determine control of the House of Representatives.

“The endorsement delivers a lifeline to de León’s struggling campaign — and the party’s imprimatur, which is accompanied by valuable access to slate cards, email lists and voter outreach machinery that will allow him to reach an estimated 2 million Democratic voters. And he could also get an infusion of federal campaign cash shared with the party, party officials said.”

IVANKA INC. – “Hudson’s Bay Company In Canada Dumping Ivanka Trump Products,” by HuffPost’s Mary Papenfuss: “Canada’s oldest department store chain is dropping all Ivanka Trump products. Hudson’s Bay Company, founded in London in 1670, has already eliminated more than 150 items from its website, including clothing, shoes and jewelry. It will also phase all of the first daughter’s products out of its 90 stores across Canada in the fall. …

“Officials cited the poor sales performance of the product line owned by the senior White House adviser. … Hudson’s Bay, which is headquartered in Toronto, is the 40th Canadian company that has dropped Ivanka Trump’s products since the boycotts were launched, according to the founder of the movement, Shannon Coulter.”

FOR YOUR RADAR – “Western allies plan White Helmets evacuation from Syria,” by CBS News’ Kylie Atwood and Margaret Brennan: “As Syrian leader Bashar al-Assad’s regime violently assaults the southern region of Syria, an area formerly protected by the Trump administration, the members of the all-volunteer rescue organization known as the White Helmets are in danger of assassination. Once favorites to win the Nobel Peace Prize for their life-saving efforts in rebel-held territory throughout Syria’s brutal seven-year war, these rescue workers are now in need of rescuing themselves.

“CBS News has learned the question of how to extract the emergency workers was raised with President Trump in multiple conversations with allied countries on the sidelines of the NATO summit. The Netherlands, U.K., France, Canada and Germany are scrambling to find a way to save the lives of an estimated 1,000 volunteers and their family members. Around 300 of them are considered to be in imminent danger.”

BONUS GREAT WEEKEND READS, curated by Daniel Lippman, filing from Great Barrington, Massachusetts:

— “I Know What Incarceration Does to Families. It Happened to Mine,” by Michiko Kakutani in the NYT: “My mother’s family was among the 120,000 people of Japanese descent on the West Coast who were dispatched to internment camps during World War II. The faded photo of my mother, my aunt and my grandparents, standing in front of the Topaz Relocation Center barracks … used to feel like an artifact from a thankfully distant era … And yet today in America under President Trump, the news is filled with pictures and stories of families and children being held in detention centers.”

— “‘Google Was Not a Normal Place’: Brin, Page, and Mayer on the Accidental Birth of the Company that Changed Everything,” by Adam Fisher, in an excerpt of “Valley of Genius: The Uncensored History of Silicon Valley (As Told by the Hackers, Founders, and Freaks Who Made It Boom),” in Vanity Fair: “A behind-the-scenes account of the most important company on the Internet, from grad-school all-nighters, space tethers, and Burning Man to the ‘eigenvector of a matrix,’ humongous wealth, and extraordinary power.”$18 on Amazon

— “What’s the greatest book about politics? Bill Clinton, Newt Gingrich and others weigh in,” by Steve Israel in WaPo – with book picks by Nancy Pelosi, Jeb Bush, David Axelrod, David Petraeus, Sherrod Brown, Peter king, Adam Schiff, James Stavridis, Seth Moulton, Ileana Ros-Lehtinen and others:

— “Her Husband Was a Princeton Graduate Student. Then He Was Taken Prisoner in Iran,” by Laura Secor in the N.Y. Times Magazine: “Hua Qu is fighting to save her husband — one of at least seven U.S. captives in the Islamic Republic being used as pawns in a nearly 40-year secret history of hostage taking.”

— “Will Trump Be Meeting With His Counterpart — Or His Handler?” by Jonathan Chait in New York Magazine: “A plausible theory of mind-boggling collusion.”

— “How Democrats would be better off if Bill Clinton had never been president,” by Neil Swidey in The Boston Globe: “A look at the Clinton blunders that continue to damage his party today — and what might have happened if George H.W. Bush had won a second term.”

— “Should we hide the locations of Earth’s greatest trees?” by Robert Earle Howells in the San Francisco Chronicle – per’s description: “When everyone wants to photograph themselves beside the world’s biggest coastal redwoods, the trees’ roots get trampled, soil compacted, and visitors damage the objects of their affection. So can the National Park Service protect certain ancient trees by concealing them?”

— “The Fast and Furious Michael Avenatti,” by Matthew Shaer in the N.Y. Times Magazine: “In representing the porn star Stormy Daniels, the lawyer thinks he can bring down a president — one cable-news appearance at a time.”

— “Donations from candidate’s father fueled high-spending race for California’s No. 2 position,” by Tim Burger in the L.A. Times: “The spending by self-made Sacramento real estate magnate Angelo Tsakopoulos through a political action committee of the California Medical Assn. has drawn scrutiny. … Tsakopoulos gave millions to the CMA’s PAC promoting his daughter [Eleni Kounalakis, the former U.S. Ambassador to Hungary].”

— “The Extinction of the Middle Child,” by Adam Sternbergh in The Cut – per’s description: “Statistics show that a family’s ideal size has shrunk to two kids, leaving the middle child to go the way of the mastadon.”

— “How 20-Year-Old Kylie Jenner Built A $900 Million Fortune In Less Than 3 Years,” by Forbes’ Natalie Robehmed – per’s description: “Kylie Jenner’s cosmetics start-up has just seven full-time and five part-time employees. Everything is outsourced. Yet Forbes values the company at $800 million, and Jenner, who is 20, at $900 million. ‘Another year of growth will make her the youngest self-made billionaire ever,’ displacing Mark Zuckerberg, who banked his first billion at 23. ‘As ultralight startups go, Jenner’s operation is essentially air. All Jenner does to make all that money is leverage her social media following.’”

— “What Is ‘Sharp Power’?” by Christopher Walker in Democracy Journal: “Beijing and its surrogates have also scaled up their political interference in democracies, with Australia and New Zealand serving as testing grounds. Australia’s authorities have mapped out an unprecedented effort by the Chinese Communist Party to ‘infiltrate Australian political and foreign affairs circles, as well as to gain more influence over the nation’s growing Chinese population.’ Similar intrusions have come to light in New Zealand.”

— “When Rio Tinto Met China’s Iron Hand,” by Kit Chellel, Franz Wild, and David Stringer in Bloomberg Businessweek: “In 2010, four employees of the mining giant were jailed and accused of stealing commercial secrets. Today, the company is more reliant on China than ever.”

SPOTTED: Mick Mulvaney last night at Biergarten Haus on H Street … Sheriff Dave Clarke walking at Rhode Island Ave NW and 17th Street – pic

WEEKEND WEDDINGS OBAMA ALUMNI — Sean Savett, press secretary for Sen. Tammy Duckworth (D-Ill.) and an O’Malley alum, married Taylor Lustig, an Obama W.H. and Dept. of Labor alum who is now external affairs manager at Pepsi at the Standard Club in Chicago Saturday night. Pool report: “Highlights of the stunning affair included: a cocktail hour including lamb chops, a sushi station, and chicken and waffles; Sean’s Dad’s toast ending with the Philadelphia Eagles fight song; and the band rocking out until 1 a.m.” Pic announcement

SPOTTED: Kenny Thompson, Jess Wright, Ashley Allison, Yochi and Anne Dreazen, Matt Corridoni, Carlee Griffith, bridesmaid Katie Glueck, groomsmen Dan Conston and Alfred Artis, Ben Garmisa, Nichola Greenblatt, Julia Bradshaw, Evan Keller and Daniel Wolman.

— Natalie Andrews, Congress reporter for the Wall Street Journal, married Christopher Silva, the housing director at American University, in a ceremony in Logan, Utah, where they met. Pic

BIRTHWEEK (was yesterday): Ted Goodman, communications director for John James for U.S. Senate in Michigan, turned 27 (hat tip: Tori Sachs)

BIRTHDAYS: Chris LaCivita is 52 … WaPo’s Paul Kane, who was out at Saltline last night with Reid Wilson and Brad Dayspring … Gareth Rhodes … Arianna Huffington is 68 (h/t Herbie Ziskend) … Jim Merrill of New Hampshire … Jeremy Bird, founding partner and president of 270 Strategies, is 4-0 … Cecile Richards, former president of Planned Parenthood Federation of America … Penn Staples … Heather Higginbottom, COO of CARE and former Obama deputy secretary of state (h/ts Jon Haber) … Liana Balinsky-Baker of Reuters … Ariel Zirulnick of The New Tropic in Miami (h/ts Emily Stephenson) … Catherine Moeder-Brady, staff assistant at WH Office of Management and Administration … Karin Johanson … Zach Wahls … Dan Hewitt, VP at Entertainment Software Association (h/t Alex Slater) … Svetlana Legetic, co-founder of Brightest Young Things … Dr. David Lippman is 73 (h/t son Daniel) … Amanda Fernandez (h/t Ben Chang) … Alex Lasry, SVP of the Milwaukee Bucks and lead of the #Milwaukee2020 DNC Convention bid, celebrating in Connecticut with his niece who shares a bday (h/t Melanie Fonder Kaye) …

… Elliot Gerson, EVP at the Aspen Institute, is 66 … Susan McCue (h/t Tim Burger) … Elizabeth Reyes, a digital strategist at Saguaro Strategies (h/t Andy Barr) … Wallis Annenberg, president and chairman of the board of the Annenberg Foundation, is 79 … Edelman’s Ericka Perryman … Andrew Usyk … Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen (R-Fla.) is 66 … Rep. Mac Thornberry (R-Texas) is 6-0 … Rep. David Cicilline (D-R.I.) is 57 … Rep. Daniel Lipinski (D-Ill.) is 52 … Rep. Chris Stewart (R-Utah) is 58 … Dan Auger … Chad Stovall … Chris Duffner … Michael Francisco … Taylor Lindman … Seth Grossman … Bloomberg’s Jodi Schneider, now in Hong Kong … Jackie Spinner … Hilary Leighty … Jason Wheeler … Jamil Poonja … Helen Hare … Gwendolyn Ward … Allison Steil … Bekah Geffert … Campbell Roth … Marisa McAuliffe … Erica Fein … Babak Talebi is 39 … Brunswick Group partner Mark Palmer (h/t George Little) … Deb Rosen … Kandy Stroud (h/ts Teresa Vilmain)

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