Donald Trump is no longer the only person claiming his disastrous Helsinki meeting was a triumph. Speaking to Russian diplomats in Moscow Thursday, President Vladimir Putin called the secretive sit-down with his U.S. counterpart “successful overall,” claiming it had “led to useful agreements.”
The Russian autocrat also parroted Trump in suggesting media coverage of the Monday event, where the leaders spent more than two hours in a room with only translators present, had been unfair, and cited unspecified “forces” in the U.S. that were working to undermine any improvement in U.S.-Russian relations.
“We see that in the U.S. there are forces ready to sacrifice Russian-American relations for their own domestic political ambitions,” Putin said in the speech aired on state TV, adding: "Let's see how things develop, given that certain forces in America are trying to belittle, disavow the results of the Helsinki meeting.”
Trump has also criticized claims that his meeting with Putin was a failure, diagnosing his detractors with “Trump Derangement Syndrome” and calling them "haters."
Putin did not elaborate on what “useful agreements” had been reached, but many Russia-watchers are concerned that Trump may have made some vital geopolitical concession during the secret talks.
Trump continued his ongoing war with U.S. media Thursday over the Helsinki summit:
Trump has been lashed with criticism, including from members of his own party and across Fox News, after accepting Putin’s denial of election meddling during their Monday joint press conference, despite the evidence of his own intelligence agencies.
Trump tried a complete walkback a day later, claiming he misspoke, before stumbling into another crisis Wednesday when he appeared to say he believed Russia was no longer conducting cyber operations against the United States, again contradicting high-ranking American intelligence officials.
This time he let his press secretary explain what he really meant:
In an interview with CBS Wednesday, Trump claimed he scolded Putin about election meddling during their meeting, saying, “We can’t have this, we’re not going to have it, and that’s the way it’s going to be.”
Yet according to the New York Times, Trump was briefed about Russian interference in the 2016 election two weeks before his inauguration.
The newspaper reports that Trump was shown highly classified intelligence — including emails and text messages — that detailed how Putin had ordered the complex campaigns to sway the outcome of the 2016 vote.
The briefing took place on Jan. 6, 2017. According to those in the room, the president was “grudgingly convinced” of the material’s authenticity.
Trump has since painted any suggestion that Russia interfered as an attempt to discredit his presidency, while labeling the investigation by FBI special counsel Robert Mueller into possible collusion between his campaign and Moscow, a “total witch hunt.”
FBI Director Christopher Wray made clear Thursday that Russia continues to attack the U.S., telling the Aspen Security Forum: "My view has not changed, which is that Russia attempted to interfere with the last election and that it continues to engage in malign influence operations to this day."
Cover image: Russia's President Vladimir Putin smiles during a joint press conference with US President after a meeting at the Presidential Palace in Helsinki, on July 16, 2018. (YURI KADOBNOV/AFP/Getty Images)