Trump sees no reason to believe Russian meddling

Presidents Donald Trump and Vladimir Putin held a historic summit on Monday vowing their determination to forge a reset of troubled relations between the world’s greatest nuclear powers.

Mr. Trump, bent on forging a personal bond with the Kremlin chief despite allegations of Russian meddling in U.S. politics, went into the summit, blaming the “stupidity” of his predecessors for plunging ties to their present low.

“I think it’s a good start: very, very good start for everybody,” the U.S. leader told reporters after meeting Mr. Putin for more than two hours with just their interpreters present, and just before they were joined by their national security teams.

Mr. Putin said the talks with his U.S. counterpart were “very successful, useful.” He added that it’s a difficult period in the U.S.-Russian relationship, but the summit “reflects our desire to restore trust.”

Mr. Trump said he had raised the issue of alleged Russian meddling in U.S. elections. “We spent a great deal of time talking about it. He feels strongly about the issue and has an interesting idea,” Mr. Trump told a joint news conference with Mr. Putin. Asked if he trusted U.S. intelligence agencies which concluded that Russia interfered in the 2016 election, Mr. Trump said he had been told by his CIA chief that it was Russia, but that he saw no reason to believe it. “President Putin was extremely strong and powerful in his denial today.”

Mr. Putin denied any such interference, saying the allegations were “complete nonsense.” He said U.S. prosecutors could ask to interrogate the Russians accused of meddling in the U.S. elections. “He can send us a request to question these people he suspects,” Mr. Putin said of Robert Mueller, the former FBI Director who is looking into alleged Russian interference in the November 2016 vote.

Many in Washington were agog at Mr. Trump’s decision to sit one-on-one with Mr. Putin, a former KGB spymaster, worried about what he might bargain away after previously cosying up to the autocratic leaders of China and North Korea.

Indeed, some domestic critics wanted the Helsinki summit called off entirely after 12 Russian military agents were indicted under a long-running probe into Moscow’s alleged manipulation of the 2016 election.

But Mr. Trump, convinced his unique brand of diplomacy can make inroads with Mr. Putin, pressed ahead and looked forward to “having an extraordinary relationship” as the pair sat down to discuss everything from Syria, Ukraine and China to trade tariffs and the size of their nuclear arsenals.

Mr. Putin, basking in congratulations from Mr. Trump and other world leaders on the successful staging of the World Cup in Russia, said: “The time has come to talk in a substantive way about our relations and problem areas of the world.”

Mr. Trump added: “Frankly, we have not been getting along for the last number of years. And I really think the world wants to see us get along. We are the two great nuclear powers.”

Mr. Putin scoffed at a suggestion that Moscow had some compromising material on Mr. Trump. “It’s hard to imagine greater nonsense,” he said. “Please get this rubbish out of your heads.”

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