Upon returning from the G-20 summit, President Donald Trump on Sunday promptly posted a series of tweets on his meeting with Russian President Vladimir Putin that both contradicted his top diplomat and sparked criticism from his fellow Republicans.
According to Trump, the two leaders brought up collaborating on “an impenetrable Cyber Security unit” ― an idea drew immediate mockery, given Russia’s cyberattacks against the U.S. in last year’s election.
Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.) tweeted that “partnering with Putin on a ‘Cyber Security Unit’ is akin to partnering with [Syria’s President Bashar] Assad on a ‘Chemical Weapons Unit.'”
On CNN’s “State of the Union,” United Nations Ambassador Nikki Haley said that “we can’t trust Russia, and we won’t ever trust Russia.”
And Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) on NBC’s “Meet the Press” said of the possible cyber collaboration with Russia: “It’s not the dumbest idea I’ve ever heard, but it’s pretty close.”
In his tweetstorm, Trump also said he “strongly pressed” Putin on Russian interference in the 2016 election, which ignores that he has frequently cast doubt on the issue. Indeed, in one of his tweets he vaguely said, “I’ve already given my opinion,” without elaborating on what that is.
Even as Trump pledged to “move forward in working constructively with Russia,” he continued to re-litigate past issues that arose from that nation’s meddling in last year’s U.S. campaign. He again took aim at the Democratic National Committee, whose emails were hacked by the Russians, and criticized former President Barack Obama for not doing enough to stop Russia’s efforts to influence last year’s election.
He also assailed the media as he continued to downplay the consensus reached by U.S. intelligence agencies that Russia intervened in the election last year.
Media outlets recently clarified their reporting to note that only four of the 17 U.S. intelligence agencies signed onto a January report expressing “high confidence” in confirming Russia’s interference. But that is because those four agencies ― the FBI, CIA, the National Security Agency and the Office of the Director of National Intelligence (DNI) ― had the purview to examine the issue.
As PolitiFact has noted, the DNI oversees all 17 intelligence agencies, so while not every agency independently confirmed the findings, it does not change the consensus that Russia intervened, contrary to Trump’s view.
Trump also said in one of his tweets that he and Putin did not discuss the issue of sanctions against Russia. That contradicted Secretary of State Rex Tillerson, who said that they did when he briefed reporters on Friday about the meeting.
Many details of Friday’s meeting were difficult to confirm, as only Trump, Putin, Tillerson, Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov, and two translators were present. Some of the initial reports on it came from Russian state-owned media.