‘Time to Move Forward,’ Trump Says After Putin Denies Election Hacking – New York Times
WASHINGTON — President Trump on Sunday said he had “strongly pressed” President Vladimir V. Putin of Russia about election meddling during their first face-to-face meeting last week but did not dispute Moscow’s claim that he had accepted Mr. Putin’s denial of involvement, as he declared it “time to move forward” in a constructive United States relationship with Russia.
Mr. Trump’s account of his lengthy and closely scrutinized closed-door meeting with Mr. Putin, which came in a thread of morning Twitter posts, was his attempt to move beyond the controversy that has followed the session after Moscow characterized the election discussion as a meeting of the minds rather than a showdown between the American president and his Russian counterpart.
Mr. Trump’s tweets did little to dispel that notion, as he characterized his own position as an “opinion” and asserted that he was prepared to team with Moscow — which American intelligence agencies say meddled in the election last year, and will attempt to again — on forming an “impenetrable Cyber Security unit” to thwart future breaches.
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“I strongly pressed President Putin twice about Russian meddling in our election,” Mr. Trump said in the post. “He vehemently denied it. I’ve already given my opinion.”
“We negotiated a ceasefire in parts of Syria which will save lives,” Mr. Trump continued in another message. “Now it is time to move forward in working constructively with Russia!”
The posts served as Mr. Trump’s first public comments on the meeting after the White House declined to schedule the customary presidential news conference at the end of the Group of 20 summit meeting of major world economies in Hamburg, Germany. Mr. Trump’s meeting with Mr. Putin came on the sideline of that gathering, which ended on Saturday.
Mr. Putin, however, broke with his normal practice of not speaking to reporters and held a lengthy news conference, in which he told reporters that Mr. Trump had “agreed” with his statements about election interference.
“He raised many questions on the issue,” Mr. Putin said, according to Sputnik. “I answered all these questions, as far as I could. I think that he took it into account and agreed. Actually, you would better ask him how he found it.”
Foreign Minister Sergey V. Lavrov, the only other Russian official in the meeting — which also included Rex W. Tillerson, the secretary of state — said after the meeting that not only had Mr. Trump accepted Mr. Putin’s denial, but that he had also said the election meddling allegations had been “exaggerated” by some in the United States without proof.
In a brief question-and-answer session aboard Air Force One as Mr. Trump returned from the summit meeting on Saturday, senior officials did not address or dispute the Russian version of events.
Steven Mnuchin, the secretary of the Treasury, said three times that Mr. Trump had handled the meeting “brilliantly,” and had “made his position felt.”
“After a very substantive discussion on this, they reached an agreement that they would start a cyberunit to make sure that there was absolutely no interference whatsoever, that they would work on cybersecurity together,” Mr. Mnuchin said. “And President Trump focused the conversation on Syria and the Ukraine and North Korea.”
Mr. Trump’s handling of the meeting has become a flash point in the United States, ensuring that it will continue to be dissected as multiple investigations continue into whether the president’s campaign worked with Russia.
“Partnering with Putin on a ‘Cyber Security Unit’ is akin to partnering with Assad on a ‘Chemical Weapons Unit,’” Senator Marco Rubio, Republican of Florida, said on Twitter, alluding to President Bashar al-Assad of Syria, who has repeatedly used chemical weapons to attack his people.
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