WASHINGTON – US President Donald Trump said on Tuesday that his controversial meeting with Russian President Vladimir Putin was even better than the annual NATO summit in Brussels, at which he demanded a greater contribution to defense funding by America’s allies.
“While I had a great meeting with NATO, raising vast amounts of money, I had an even better meeting with Vladimir Putin of Russia,” Trump said on his Twitter account.
“Sadly, it is not being reported that way – the Fake News is going Crazy!” he added with his usual disparaging reference to media that criticize his government.
The president’s tweets came after receiving massive criticism in the United States, even from his own Republican Party, for his questionable meeting with Putin this Monday in Helsinki.
In a joint press release with Putin, Trump put in doubt the conclusions of US intelligence services that the Kremlin had interfered in the 2016 presidential election to benefit him and undermine the chances of his Democratic rival, Hillary Clinton.
For several months the CIA and FBI intelligence agencies have said they have proof that Russia tried to interfere in the election, though they dismiss the possibility that it could have influenced the final result, which showed Trump defeating Clinton and taking over the White House.
Despite those reports, Trump told a press conference Tuesday that he didn’t see “any reason” why Russia would have wanted to meddle in the American electoral process, and said that “President Putin was extremely strong and powerful in his denial” and had convinced him of his innocence during their summit in Helsinki.
Trump’s support of Putin has set off an endless wave of condemnation in the US, including that of former CIA directors Michael Hayden and John Brennan, and House of Representatives Speaker Paul Ryan.