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Trump Declines to Back U.S. Intel Conclusion That Russia Meddled in Election

President Donald Trump and Russian President Vladimir Putin hold a joint news conference after their meeting in Helsinki, Finland, July 16, 2018. (Leonhard Foeger/Reuters)

President Trump declined to endorse the U.S. intelligence community’s conclusion that Russia interfered in the 2016 presidential election in an extraordinary press conference with Russian president Vladimir Putin on Monday.

When asked about the intelligence community’s assessment, Trump changed the subject to the Democratic National Committee’s servers and Hillary Clinton’s emails.

“Why was the FBI told to leave the office of the Democratic National Committee? I’ve been wondering that,” the president said. “What happened to Hillary Clinton’s emails? 33,000 emails gone, just gone.”

“President Putin, he just said it’s not Russia. I will say this: I don’t see any reason why it would be,” Trump said, moments after Putin reiterated Russia’s repeated claim that it had not meddled in the election.

The Justice Department on Friday indicted twelve Russian military officers for crimes related to the election, including hacking into the DNC server and stealing the login information of Clinton associates such as campaign chairman John Podesta. At the press conference Monday, Putin said that he would consider extraditing the twelve officers, but added that he did not know the details of the situation.

Trump also slammed Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s Russia probe, insisting again that there was “zero collusion” and that the probe into his campaign’s dealings with Russia has had a “negative impact” on the relationship between the two countries.

Congressmen on both sides of the aisle reacted with dismay to the press conference, calling it a “missed opportunity” to hold Russia accountable for election interference.

Senator Jeff Flake called the president’s comments “shameful.”

“I never thought I would see the day when our American President would stand on the stage with the Russian President and place blame on the United States for Russian aggression. This is shameful,” the Arizona Republican wrote on Twitter.

Democrats were harsher. Senator Elizabeth Warren said that Trump took the stage to “embarrass America, undermine our institutions, weaken our alliances, & embrace a dictator.” Senator Mark Warner said Trump’s abandonment of the intelligence community’s conclusions was a “complete disgrace.”

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