Trump Approved Press Conference Of Russian Indictments To Strengthen Hand Against Putin
President Donald Trump chose to have the indictments of 12 Russian hackers announced before his Helsinki summit with Russian President Vladimir Putin, according to a Tuesday Bloomberg report.
Trump wanted the indictments announced ahead of the Monday summit to give him leverage over Putin, a source familiar with the matter told Bloomberg on Tuesday. Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein gave Trump the option of having the indictments released before or after Helsinki, according to the report.
Rosenstein cited national security concerns to allow him to share details of grand jury proceedings with Trump.
Rosenstein announced Friday that a grand jury had indicted 12 Russian intelligence operatives for hacking and releasing Democrats’ emails during the 2016 presidential election. The hackers worked for the Main Intelligence Directorate of the Russian General Staff, or GRU, according to the indictment.
Trump also walked back an earlier statement when said in Helsinki that he didn’t “see any reason why it would be” Russia behind meddling in the 2016 presidential election. The president said he misspoke, the Chicago Tribune reported. (RELATED: Democrats React To Trump’s Press Conference: ‘Bold-Faced, Pathological Liar’)
Trump has received strong criticism from both Democrats and Republicans on his handling of Russian relations, especially during the Helsinki summit. Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer tweeted that Trump showed “another sign of weakness” against Putin on Tuesday.
If @realDonaldTrump can’t say directly to President Putin that he is wrong & we are right & our intelligence agencies are right, it’s ineffective & worse, another sign of weakness.
— Chuck Schumer (@SenSchumer) July 17, 2018
Arizona Republican Sen. John McCain also criticized Trump after his press conference with Putin, saying it “was one of the most disgraceful performances by an American president in memory” on Twitter on Tuesday.
Today’s press conference in #Helsinki was one of the most disgraceful performances by an American president in memory.
— John McCain (@SenJohnMcCain) July 16, 2018
Trump met with Putin earlier this week in a private meeting.