Trump to Putin: ‘Please don’t meddle in US elections,’ responds positively to Kremlin invitation

US President Donald Trump told reporters the content of the discussions with Russia’s President Vladimir Putin was ‘none of your business.’ (Reuters)
Updated 28 June 2019

Trump to Putin: ‘Please don’t meddle in US elections,’ responds positively to Kremlin invitation

  • ‘Don’t meddle in the election, please’
  • Relations between the two countries have been sour for years, worsening after Russia annexed Crimea from Ukraine in 2014

OSAKA: President Donald Trump on Friday sardonically asked his Russian counterpart to please not meddle in US elections, appearing to make light of a scandal that led to an investigation of his campaign’s contact with the Kremlin during 2016 elections.

Trump and Russian President Vladimir Putin were speaking to reporters in Osaka, Japan, ahead of their first formal face-to-face meeting since a controversial high-profile summit in Helsinki last July.

Asked by a reporter whether he would raise the issue during their meeting, held on the sidelines of a Group of 20 (G20) summit, Trump said: “Yes, of course I will,” drawing a laugh from Putin.

Trump then turned to Putin to give the directive twice, as he pointed a finger at the Russian leader.

“Don’t meddle in the election, please,” Trump said.

Relations between the two countries have been sour for years, worsening after Russia annexed Crimea from Ukraine in 2014 and backed Syrian President Bashar Assad in the Syrian war.

In a recent television interview, Putin said that relations between Moscow and Washington were “getting worse and worse.”

For his part, Trump has sought better relations with Putin to tackle a host of issues, including his goal to rein in North Korea’s nuclear ambitions. On Friday, he emphasized the positive.

“It’s a great honor to be with President Putin,” he told reporters. “We have many things to discuss, including trade and including some disarmament.”

Trump and Putin had been scheduled to meet at the end of November at the last G20 in Buenos Aires, but Trump canceled the meeting as he flew to Argentina, citing Russia’s seizure of Ukrainian navy ships and sailors. The two spoke informally at the event, and at a lunch in Paris earlier that month.

In May, they had their first extensive phone conversation in months. Trump said they talked about a new accord to limit nuclear arms that could eventually include China.

“We’ve had great meetings. We’ve had a very, very good relationship,” Trump said on Friday. “And we look forward to spending some very good time together. A lot of very positive things going to come out of the relationship.”

Trump’s critics have accused him of being too friendly with Putin and castigated him for failing to publicly confront the Russian leader in Helsinki over Moscow’s meddling in the 2016 presidential election.

A US special counsel, Robert Mueller, conducted a two-year investigation into Russian interference in the 2016 US election and whether the Trump campaign colluded with Moscow.

Mueller found that Russia did meddle in the election but that the Trump campaign did not illegally conspire with Russia to influence the vote.

In a further attempt to lighten the mood, Trump sought common ground with Putin at the expense of the journalists who had gathered to catch the leaders at the outset of their meeting.

“Get rid of them. Fake news is a great term, isn’t it? You don’t have this problem in Russia but we do,” Trump said.

To which Putin responded, in English: “We also have. It’s the same.”

The Kremlin also said that Putin invited Trump to visit next year and he responded "positively."

Putin's spokesman, Dmitry Peskov, told reporters that Putin invited Trump to attend festivities marking the 75th anniversary of the World War II victory.

Peskov said Trump reacted positively to the invitation at their meeting Friday on the sidelines of the Group of 20 summit in Osaka, noting that he will wait for an official invitation. Peskov added that it will be sent shortly.

With Agencies

Republican stalwart Rooney ‘thinking’ about impeachment

Updated 2 min 58 sec ago

Republican stalwart Rooney ‘thinking’ about impeachment

WASHINGTON: President Donald Trump gave an atta-boy to Republican Rep. Francis Rooney last year on the congressman’s home turf in swing state Florida.
“I love it when he defends me,” the president said then. He might feel differently now.
The second-term Republican said publicly Friday what others in his party are not, namely that acting White House chief of staff Mick Mulvaney acknowledged a quid pro quo was at work when Trump held up US aid to Ukraine in exchange for Kyiv’s investigation of Democrats and the 2016 elections. Mulvaney later claimed his comments had been misconstrued, but Rooney said he and other Republicans heard them clearly.
“He said there’s a quid pro quo,” Rooney said of Mulvaney during a telephone interview. “I just don’t think that the power and prestige of our country is supposed to be used for political things.”
Asked whether he thinks Trump’s conduct is impeachable, Rooney replied, “I’m still thinking about it.”
Anything short of a “no” on that question, even from only one of 197 Republicans in the House, is notable amid the drive by majority Democrats to impeach Trump. The president has made clear that he does more than notice what he considers acts of disloyalty; he is fond of making examples of Republicans by threatening to sink their re-election bids and following through in a few cases.
Friday night, Trump tweeted, “REPUBLICANS MUST STICK TOGETHER AND FIGHT!” That tweet was accompanied by a video targeting Sen. Mitt Romney, R-Utah, who has been critical of Trump’s handling of Turkey’s assault on Syrian Kurds.
When Rep. Justin Amash of politically critical Michigan became the first House Republican to call for Trump’s impeachment earlier this year — and quit the party — the backlash from Trump’s orbit was swift.
But that was before revelations about Trump’s pressure on Ukraine, which made his impeachment by the end of the year a real possibility. Since the release of a rough transcript of Trump’s call with Ukraine’s president, many current and former administration officials have testified before House impeachment investigators.
Then Mulvaney spoke on Thursday. Rooney said in a telephone interview that the chief of staff’s comments marked a turning point for him from giving the president “the benefit of the doubt.” And he said GOP colleagues are newly troubled.
“They were all going around saying what the president said — that there wasn’t a quid pro quo,” Rooney said. “There were a lot of Republicans looking at that headline yesterday. I think people were concerned about it.”
Rooney said he had not received any blowback from the White House for his comments, though about half of the calls he’s getting are from constituents who are critical, including “some pretty hostile” ones from ardent Trump supporters.
Only a year ago, at a presidential rally in Estero, Trump praised Rooney as “a man who’s so great to me on television. This guy is special. He was a great businessman. Now he’s a great congressman, Francis Rooney.”
He went on: “I love him when he defends me. He’s brutal. He gets the job done, right, Francis? Thank you, man.”
Rooney, 65, is a member of the Foreign Affairs Committee, a solid member of the Republican establishment. Among the wealthiest members of the House, he won his second term last year with 62 percent of the vote. His foreign policy bona fides come in part from his service as ambassador to the Holy See under President George W. Bush.
His official biography tells the story of his longtime connection to the GOP. In 1984, the family started Rooney Holdings Inc. One of the company’s subsidiaries counts among its projects the presidential libraries for both Bush and his father, George H. W. Bush, the Dallas Cowboys and Houston Texans football stadiums, the US Capitol Visitor’s Center, the Walter Reed Army Institute for Research and the international terminal at Hartsfield-Jackson Airport in Atlanta.
Rooney has at times been a Trump critic. He was one of 13 House Republicans to join a Democratic effort early this year to stop the president from declaring a national emergency to fund his border wall with Mexico.
On Friday, Rooney was no longer one of Trump’s defenders, on television or elsewhere.
“Whatever may have been gray and unclear before is certainly clear now,” he said on CNN.