Breaking News -- United States
Trump and Putin find chemistry, draw criticism in first meeting
by Roberta Rampton and Jeff Mason
HAMBURG (Reuters) - In a meeting that ran longer than either side had planned, U.S. President Donald Trump and Russia's Vladimir Putin discussed alleged Russian meddling in the U.S. election on Friday but agreed to focus on better ties rather than litigating the past.
Trump, a Republican who called it an "honor" to meet with the Russian president, drew swift criticism from Democrats at home, who accused him of dismissing U.S. intelligence and giving Putin's denial, reiterated on Friday, of Russian interference too much weight.
Secretary of State Rex Tillerson told reporters at a summit of leaders of the Group of 20 major economies in Hamburg that Trump had "positive chemistry" with Putin during the meeting, which lasted some two hours and 15 minutes.
He opened their discussion by pressing Putin about "the concerns of the American people regarding Russian interference in the 2016 election" and had a robust exchange, Tillerson said.
The Russian president has denied any meddling in the U.S. democratic process last year and Moscow has asked for proof that it took place. Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said Trump accepted Putin's assertions that the allegations, backed by U.S. intelligence agencies, were false.
Tillerson said they both sought to move on.
"The presidents rightly focused on how do we move forward from what may be simply an intractable disagreement at this point," Tillerson said.
That explanation did not sit well with Democrats.
“Working to compromise the integrity of our election process cannot and should not be an area where ‘agree to disagree’ is an acceptable conclusion," said U.S. Senate Democratic leader Chuck Schumer in a statement.
On Thursday in Poland Trump gave lukewarm support to the view that Moscow interfered in the 2016 U.S. political process.
Trump promised a rapprochement with Moscow during his campaign but has been unable to deliver because his administration has been dogged by investigations into the allegations of Russian interference in the election and ties with his campaign.
Trump says his team did not collude with Russia.
Tillerson said they agreed to work on commitments of "non-interference in the affairs of the United States and our democratic process as well as those in other countries."
Andrew Weiss, a former National Security Council official responsible for Russia, said Trump had sent the wrong signal with upbeat body language and by not pushing Putin harder on alleged Russian interference in the U.S. presidential election.
"The atmospherics were chummy," said Weiss, who is now at Washington's Carnegie Endowment for International Peace think tank in Washington. "The clear push from Trump to normalize U.S.-Russian relations was on display in the meeting."
"GOING VERY WELL"
The two leaders spent a lot of time discussing Syria, and after their meeting an agreement between the United States, Russia and Jordan on a ceasefire in southwestern Syria was announced.
The face-to-face encounter was one of the most eagerly anticipated meetings between two leaders in years.
Trump and Putin spoke through translators with their respective foreign ministers present for six minutes before reporters were allowed into the room for their statements. Afterwards the reporters were ushered out and the meeting continued.
"President Putin and I have been discussing various things, and I think it's going very well," Trump told reporters, sitting alongside the Russian leader.
"We've had some very, very good talks. ... We look forward to a lot of very positive things happening for Russia, for the United States and for everybody concerned. And it's an honor to be with you."
Putin, through a translator, said: "We spoke over the phone with you several times," adding: "A phone conversation is never enough."
"I am delighted to be able to meet you personally, Mr. President," he said, noting that he hoped the meeting would yield results.
Both men sat with legs splayed. Trump listened intently as Putin spoke.
The encounter went longer than expected, and first lady Melania Trump came in at one point to urge them to conclude, Tillerson said. The two men later joined other G20 leaders at a concert. Mrs. Trump sat next to Putin at dinner.
Before the get-together, some feared the U.S. president, a political novice whose team is still developing its Russia policy, would be less prepared for the talks than Putin, a former KGB agent who has dealt with previous U.S. presidents and scores of other world leaders.
Loretta Lynch Plot Thickens As New Details Emerge Of Her Dealings With The Hillary Campaign
by Tyler Durden
Last night we asked a very simple question about why the DNC has failed to cooperate with Russia investigators by handing over their infamous email server to either the FBI or Robert Mueller's team (see: DNC Server: Most Critical Evidence To Proving "Russian Hacking" Is Being Withheld From Mueller, Why?). Afterall, if Russia did "hack the election", as we've been told 24/7 by CNN going on 8 months now, then the evidence could very well be on that server. Which prompted us to ask this very simple question:
All of which brings us back to our original question: If the DNC is in possession of actual tangible evidence that could prove once and for all that Russians hacked their servers and attempted to undermine the campaign of Hillary Clinton, why not share that evidence with investigators and enjoy the blissful vindication that its public release would provide?
We concluded by wondering whether the stonewalling from the DNC just might have something to do with this "purely coincidental' meeting between Loretta Lynch and Bill Clinton on a tarmac in Phoenix and/or Loretta Lynch's 'assurances' to members of the Clinton campaign that the FBI's investigation (or, "matter" if you prefer) of Hillary Clinton "wouldn't go too far"? Afterall, if evidence of "Russian hacking" were on that server, so to would there be evidence of Lynch's transgressions...if they existed, of course.
But we're not the only ones wondering whether there's more to the Lynch story. According to an article in the New York Post, some testimony that Lynch offered under oath before the Senate Judiciary Committee last year could come back to haunt her. In that testimony, Lynch said that she had "not spoken to anyone on either the campaign or transition or any staff members affiliated with them."
That said, and as we've reported before, that statement seems to contradict reports that Lynch personally assured members of Clinton's campaign, potentially Amanda Renteria, that the FBI's investigation "wouldn't go too far"...more from the Post:
When former Attorney General Loretta Lynch testified last year about her decision not to prosecute Hillary Clinton for mishandling classified information, she swore she never talked to “anyone” on the Clinton campaign. That categorical denial, though made in response to a series of questions about whether she spoke with Clintonworld about remaining attorney general if Hillary won the election, could come back to haunt her.
The Senate Judiciary Committee, which has launched a bipartisan investigation into Lynch for possible obstruction of justice, recently learned of the existence of a document indicating Lynch assured the political director of Clinton’s campaign she wouldn’t let FBI agents “go too far” in probing the former secretary of state.
Lynch’s lawyer says she is cooperating with committee investigators, who are seeking answers to several questions, as well as relevant documents. Among other things, they want to know if she or any of her Justice Department staff “ever communicated with Amanda Renteria,” who headed Clinton’s political operations during the campaign. Renteria, who has been identified in the document as the senior Clinton campaign aide with whom Lynch privately communicated, has also been asked to testify.
And then there is that inconvenient Comey testimony in which the former FBI director says that he was instructed by Lynch to refer to the Clinton investigation as a "matter" rather than what it actually was, an investigation.
Now, as The Post points out, there are new developments which would suggest that Comey confronted Lynch about the alleged communication with Amanda Renteria and promptly asked to leave.
And it will press her to explain the discrepancy — along with why she reportedly asked former FBI Director James Comey to leave her office when he confronted her with the document.
And then there is that meeting with Bill Clinton on that Phoenix tarmac that just happened to get noticed by a local reporter who just happened to be on scene.
Trump's 'remarkable' speech in Poland
by Michael Barone
Some observations on what Matthew Continetti rightly calls Donald Trump's "remarkable" speech in Warsaw, Poland.
(1) This was a speech filled with remarkably apt references to Polish history, a subject surely few people suspected the president came to office familiar with. There were multiple references to Pulaski and Kosciusko, the Poles who crossed the Atlantic to fight for American independence, and to the Miracle of Vistula in 1920, when the Polish army under General Pilsudski repelled a Soviet invasion.
Trump recounted Pope John Paul II's 1979 sermon before 1 million of his fellow Poles and how they responded by chanting, "We want God." "Poland is the story of a people who have never lost hope, who have never been broken, and who have never, ever forgotten who they are."
It's interesting that a president who proclaims he serves "America first" should make a point of hailing Polish nationalism. It provides credibility to Trump appointees who say that "America first" does not mean "America alone." It shows that an American nationalist can appreciate and admire another nation's nationalism.
(2) There were plenty of barbs directed at the former Soviet Union, whose downfall Vladimir Putin once called the great tragedy of the 20th century. Trump noted that in 1939 Poland was invaded "by Nazi Germany from the west and the Soviet Union from the east"; he made reference to the Katyn forest massacre of Polish leaders by the Soviets, the responsibility for which was denied for decades by Russians; he vividly and at considerable length described how the Red Army paused before Warsaw and let the Wehrmacht perpetrate a "hell on earth" massacre of Poles. During the Cold War, he said, "You stood in solidarity against oppression, against a lawless secret police, against a cruel and wicked system that impoverished your cities and your souls. And you won. Poland prevailed. Poland will always prevail."
These are not words that former KGB agent Vladimir Putin — whom some liberals still seem to regard as Trump's puppeteer — likes to hear, or memories he likes to hear evoked.
(3) More than these historic references, Putin must dislike Trump's call for Russia to "cease its destabilizing activities in Ukraine and elsewhere and its support for hostile regimes —including Syria and Iran."
And Putin must dislike also Trump's promise to secure "your access to alternative sources of energy, so Poland and its neighbors are never again held hostage to a single supplier of energy." The alternative source, of course, is liquefied natural gas plentifully provided by America's fracking revolution and being offloaded from ships in Poland's port on the Baltic Sea. The "single supplier" is Putin's Russia, which has exerted pressure on European countries by threatening to shut off (and in at least one case actually shutting off) the flow of gas in pipelines from Russia.
(4) Trump has been rightly criticized for not affirming, during his previous European trip, American support for NATO's Article V requiring members to come to the defense of other members in the event of attack. In Warsaw he stated forthrightly and ungrudgingly, "We stand firmly behind Article V, the mutual defense commitment." He hailed Poland for sending its highly competent troops to Afghanistan and Iraq, for spending the required 2 percent of GDP on defense and for its plans to increase that commitment, he patted himself on the back for successfully pressing other NATO members to meet that goal.
(5) "Our defense is not just a commitment of money; it is a commitment of will," he said. "The fundamental question of our time is whether the West has the will to survive." That most of Europe does not is the thesis of British author Douglas Murray's excellent and disturbing new book, The Strange Death of Europe: Islam, Identity, Immigration; Trump argues (and I think Murray would agree) that Poland has been an exception to this dangerous trend. It has barred Muslim immigration and refugee influxes (and, not coincidentally, has not suffered the attacks of Islamic terrorists so common in Britain, France, Belgium and Germany). Trump implicitly endorsed this policy, saying that America "will always welcome new citizens who share our values and love our people, [but] our borders will always to closed to terrorism and extremism of any kind."
This is a rebuke, without mentioning any names, of German Chancellor Angela Merkel's unilateral decision to welcome 1 million unvetted "refugees" to her country and to other European Union members who have accepted the Schengen Treaty, ending border controls. Trump's praise of Poland for its long-standing "commitment of will" is an implicit rebuke of those European countries, which arguably lack such commitment, a rebuke that brings to mind Donald Rumsfeld's 2003 contrast of "Old Europe" and "New Europe," when France and Germany refused to support American efforts in Iraq and nations like Poland and the Baltic states did. "Our citizens did not win freedom together, did not survive horrors together, did not face evil together, only to lose our freedom to a lack of pride and confidence in our values." And unlike his two predecessors, he said out loud that "We are fighting hard against radical Islamic terrorism, and we will prevail."
(6) Trump announced that the United States will sell the most advanced Patriot missile defense systems to Poland. This is a reversal of the policy of the Obama administration, which in 2009 abruptly abandoned the American commitment to station missile defense batteries in Poland and the Czech Republic — a decision that so irritated the Polish government of the time that its president reportedly refused to accept a midnight telephone call from then-Secretary of State Hillary Clinton announcing the decision.
(7) There were echoes of two historic presidential speeches delivered in Berlin: Ronald Reagan's call in 1987 for Mikhail Gorbachev to tear down the Berlin wall and John F. Kennedy's challenge in 1962 to those who saw no moral difference between the West and the Soviet Union. "If we do not have strong families and strong values, then we will be weak and we will not survive. If anyone forgets the critical importance of these things, let them come to a country that never has. Let them come to Poland. And let them come here, to Warsaw, and learn the story of the Warsaw Uprising."
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