President Donald Trump met with Russian President Vladimir Putin today in what became a highly controversial summit held in Helsinki. Trump said he’d quizzed Putin on Russian involvement in the 2016 presidential election, and that Mr. Putin insisted that his government had no hand in influencing US party politics. Despite this, many observers were disappointed Trump did not challenge Putin on crucial issues of human rights and his clear violation of international law.
Putin has been highly criticized for his alleged involvement in the execution of several journalists who have sought to highlight his government’s atrocious record on the upholding of human rights. In addition, Russia’s illegal invasion of Crimea also failed to find itself high up on Trump’s agenda with the Russian figurehead.
Many leaders took to Twitter to express their displeasure at Trump cozying up to arguably one of the most brutal leaders on the planet. One such objector was the President of the of the Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission of the Southern Baptist Convention, Russell Moore:
Moore reminded his followers that Putin “ruthlessly persecutes those who preach the gospel of Jesus Christ,” and “murders journalists.”
Vladimir Putin ruthlessly persecutes those who preach the gospel of Jesus Christ, holds orphans hostage from waiting families for his political purposes, murders dissidents and journalists, attacks democratic institutions and nations.
Morality is not relative.
— Russell Moore (@drmoore) July 16, 2018
In an extraordinary line from Putin when quizzed about he and Trump’s diplomatic relationship, he stated: “Where did you get this idea that Trump trusts me or I trust him? He defends the interest of the US and I defend the interest of Russia. There are issues where our postures diverge, we are looking for ways to reconcile differences.”
Trump himself, when asked about Russian meddling in American diplomatic affairs, said: “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 great confidence in my intelligence people, but I will tell you that President Putin was extremely strong and powerful in his denial today.”
President Trump went on to berate the US intelligence community for dropping the ball on the Hillary Clinton email scandal, saying repeatedly “Where’s the server?”
“33,000 emails gone — just gone. I think in Russia they wouldn’t be gone so easily,” he added, to great scorn from both sides of the aisle. Trump was appearing to prefer a cold and brutal Russian dictator over his own security apparatus, and he made no apology for it.
The Trump-Putin Summit has caused some to suggest the President had committed “treason” against his own country. Former CIA Director John Brennan tweeted: “Donald Trump’s press conference performance in Helsinki rises to & exceeds the threshold of “high crimes & misdemeanors.” It was nothing short of treasonous.”
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???
— John O. Brennan (@JohnBrennan) July 16, 2018
House Speaker Paul Ryan issued a statement in response to the press conference:
“There is no question that Russia interfered in our election and continues attempts to undermine democracy here and around the world. That is not just the finding of the American intelligence community but also the House Committee on Intelligence. The president must appreciate that Russia is not our ally. There is no moral equivalence between the United States and Russia, which remains hostile to our most basic values and ideals. The United States must be focused on holding Russia accountable and putting an end to its vile attacks on democracy.”
The reaction on Twitter appeared to be almost unanimously in opposition to President Trump’s unorthodox diplomatic approach toward his Russian foe.
No negotiation is worth throwing your own people and country under the bus.
— Abby Huntsman (@HuntsmanAbby) July 16, 2018
Just several days ago, 12 Russians were indicted for attacking our democracy.
Today, America's so-called leader embarrassingly failed to stand up to the person who spearheaded the attack.
Seriously, what does Putin have on Trump that's he's so afraid?
— Nancy Pelosi (@TeamPelosi) July 16, 2018
Just saw the most depressing, disgusting, toadying, weak, moronic, lie-stuffed, and damn near traitorous public hour in the long history of the American Presidency. A dark day. 1/2
— Mike Murphy (@murphymike) July 16, 2018
Sen. John McCain called the press conference “one of the most disgraceful performances by an American President in memory” in a statement released today.
“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 continued.
“President Trump proved not only unable but unwilling to stand up to Putin. He and Putin seemed to be speaking from the same script as the president made a conscious choice to defend a tyrant against the fair questions of a free press, and to grant Putin an uncontested platform to spew propaganda and lies to the world.”