A defiant US President Donald Trump said Thursday he is looking forward to another meeting with Vladimir Putin, assailing media who failed to recognize the “great success” of their first summit as the “enemy of the people.”
Trump has come under bipartisan fire at home for what many saw as his unsettling embrace of the Russian strongman this week in Helsinki — and his seeming disavowal of his own intelligence agencies and their assessment that Moscow meddled in the 2016 election.
The backlash has thrust the US leader onto the defensive — leading to several days of backtracking and conflicting statements from both the president and the White House.
“The Summit with Russia was a great success, except with the real enemy of the people, the Fake News Media,” he wrote in his latest, combative tweet early Thursday.
“The Fake News Media wants so badly to see a major confrontation with Russia, even a confrontation that could lead to war,” Trump said. “They are pushing so recklessly hard and hate the fact that I’ll probably have a good relationship with Putin.
“I look forward to our second meeting so that we can start implementing some of the many things discussed,” he continued.
Trump listed these as “stopping terrorism, security for Israel, nuclear proliferation, cyber attacks, trade, Ukraine, Middle East peace, North Korea and more.”
“There are many answers, some easy and some hard, to these problems… but they can ALL be solved!” he said.
According to opinion polls published on Thursday, a large majority of Americans disapproved of Trump’s handling of the summit — but members of his Republican party approved by a wide margin.
While just one third of Americans approved of Trump’s handling of the Putin summit, that number rose to 68 percent among Republicans, according to a CBS poll. Another poll, by Axios/Survey Monkey, showed Republican support at 79 percent — compared to 40 percent of respondents overall.
Among those Republicans expressing concern on Thursday was Senator Lindsey Graham, a prominent voice on foreign policy in the party.
Trump wasn’t “prepared as well as he should have been” for the meeting, Graham told reporters, adding that it is “imperative that he understand that he is misjudging Putin.”
– ‘Pathetic, worthless people’ –
In Moscow, Putin slammed Trump’s domestic opponents as “pathetic, worthless people” who were willing to sacrifice Russian-US ties to their own ambitions.
In a toughly-worded speech to Russian diplomats, Putin said US-Russia ties were by “some parameters” worse than during the Cold War
“We see that there are forces in the US that are easily ready to sacrifice Russian-American relations for their own ambitions,” Putin said. “We see that there are forces in the US that put their narrow party interests higher than national ones.”
Going into Monday’s meeting in Helsinki, Trump said he wanted to improve relations with Russia, which he characterized as being the worst they have ever been.
But he stunned both allies and enemies by appearing to take the Russian leader’s word over that of US intelligence that Moscow did not interfere in the 2016 presidential election.
In one of a series of conflicting statements since his return to Washington, Trump insisted Wednesday that he told Putin that the United States would not tolerate meddling in its elections.
“I let him know we can’t have this, we’re not going to have it, and that’s the way it’s going to be,” Trump said in an interview with CBS.
Asked if he held Putin personally responsible for the meddling, Trump said “I would, because he’s in charge of the country, just like I consider myself to be responsible for things that happen in this country.”
Trump said he had been “very strong on the fact that we can’t have meddling, we can’t have any of that.”
In Moscow on Thursday, Putin said Russia was still open to building a good relationship with the United States.
“We need a new positive agenda, aimed at working together and finding common ground,” he said, adding it would take time to see a genuine improvement in ties.
“It would be naive to think that problems that have been accumulating for years would be solved in a matter of hours.”
Democratic lawmakers, meanwhile, are pushing for Congress to subpoena Trump’s summit interpreter to find out what transpired during his private meeting with Putin.
The two leaders held two hours of closed-door talks with no one else present but the interpreters.