Before President Trump and Russian President Vladimir Putin took questions during their news conference Monday in Helsinki, Trump alluded to an “interesting idea” Putin shared with him about how the two countries might respond to Russia’s attack on American democracy — an attack that helped Trump get elected.
“During today’s meeting, I addressed directly with President Putin the issue of Russian interference in our election,” Trump said. “[We] spent a great deal of time talking about it, and President Putin may very well want to address it, and very strongly, because he feels very strongly about it, and he has an interesting idea.”
Putin’s “idea,” which he floated during a summit that took place less than 72 hours after special counsel Robert Mueller indicted 12 Kremlin military intelligence officers for hacking Democratic targets during the 2016 campaign, is to allow Russia to interrogate American law enforcement and intelligence officials — including, presumably, the intelligence officials who helped put together Mueller’s indictment, which includes rich details about the inner workings of Russian military intelligence.
In exchange, as Putin outlined during the press conference, Russia would allow American investigators to be present while Russia questions the 12 military officials whom Mueller indicted for hacking.
“This kind of effort should be a mutual one,” Putin said. “Then we would expect that the Americans would reciprocate and they would question officials including the officers of law enforcement and intelligence service of the United States whom we believe are — who have something to do with illegal actions on the territory of Russia, and we have to request the presence of our law enforcement.”
Later, Trump indicated he thinks Putin’s idea is “incredible.”
“What he did is an incredible offer — he offered to have the people work on the case, come and work with their investigators with respect to the 12 people,” Trump said. “I think thats an incredible offer.”
As Politico details, at one point during the presser, Putin “pointed specifically to the case of American Bill Browder, an investor whose anti-corruption attorney, Sergei Magnitsky, was arrested and detained in Moscow and died after being held without trial for almost a year.”
Despite Magnitsky’s reportedly violent death and the Putin regime’s alleged role in recent murders and attempted murders on foreign soil, Trump seems unconcerned about the prospect of letting Russia question American investigators who are working to shed light on the Kremlin’s attack on American democracy.
During Monday’s press conference, Trump confirmed that he trusts Putin more than he trusts his own intelligence agencies. Trump indicated he takes the autocrat’s denials of election interference at face value, despite the U.S. intelligence community’s consensus conclusion that Putin is lying.
“My people came to me, Dan Coats came to me and some others they said they think it’s Russia,” Trump said, alluding to his intelligence community’s conclusion that Russia waged a propaganda campaign on behalf of Trump during the 2016 campaign. “I have President Putin, he just said it’s not Russia. I will say this. I don’t see any reason why it would be, but I really do want to see the server.”
Reporter: Do you hold Russia accountable for anything?
Trump: We’re all to blame pic.twitter.com/nFoSS7UVCK
— POLITICO (@politico) July 16, 2018
At another point, Trump indicated that he holds the U.S. just as responsible as Russia for the Putin regime’s efforts to undermine American democracy.
“I hold both countries responsible,” Trump said. “I think the U.S. has been foolish. I think we have all been foolish.”