Local Administration officials had thought that Monday’s summit between President Trump and Russian President Vladimir Putin would end up in a different way, which would be without a freewheeling 46-minute news conference in which Trump attacked his own FBI on foreign soil and warmly praised archrival Russia.
Staffers provided, Trump with some 100 pages of briefing materials aimed at laying out a tough posture toward Putin, but the president ignored most of it, according to one-person familiar with the discussions, who spoke on the condition of anonymity to disclose internal deliberations. Trump’s remarks were “very much counter to the plan,” the person said. This account of the days leading up to Trump’s Helsinki summit is based on interviews with more than a half-dozen White House officials, advisers, and diplomats, most of whom requested anonymity to reveal internal discussions.
“I think that the United States has been foolish,” Trump said at one point, referring to tensions with Russia. “I think we’ve all been fooled. We should’ve had this dialogue a long time ago; a long time, frankly, before I got to the office. Everyone around Trump” was urging him to take a firm stance with Putin, according to a second person familiar with the preparations”.
“The president has been more reluctant than most to weigh into the idea that Russia did it and they’re still doing it,” said Sen. Lindsey O. Graham. “He felt that would undermine his own election”.
The official said, “The president spent much of the weekend “growling,” in the words of one White House official, over the Justice Department’s indictment Friday of 12 Russian intelligence officials for interfering in the 2016 election. He fretted that the release of the indictments just before the meeting could hurt him politically”.
A senior White House official said, “he had numerous sessions with senior administration officials preparing for the summit in addition to briefing materials”.