Trump in Putin's pocket?
For the "leader of the free world", Donald Trump, who had earlier behaved with a bull in a china shop attitude at the NATO Summit and then in the UK, it was a strange case of capitulating and surrendering at Helsinki during his summit with Russia's Vladimir Putin. In a stunning rebuke of the US intelligence community, he declined on Monday to endorse the US government's assessment that Russia interfered in the 2016 presidential election, saying he did not "see any reason why" Russia would be responsible. Instead, standing alongside Putin, he touted Russia's vigorous denial. "I will tell you that President Putin was extremely strong and powerful in his denial today," Trump said. Trump's statements amounted to an unprecedented refusal by a US president to believe his own intelligence agencies over the word of a foreign adversary and drew swift condemnation from across the partisan divide. The US intelligence community, in a report compiled by the CIA, NSA, FBI and the Office of the Director of National Intelligence, concluded with "high confidence" that Russia interfered during the 2016 presidential campaign, aiming to help Trump's election and ensuring Clinton's defeat. Trump repeatedly assailed Mueller's investigation as a "witch hunt". Putin, for his part, reiterated his denial for the public, though he did admit for the first time that he wanted Trump to win the election. It was natural for Democrats and Republicans to react sharply on Trump's comments. House Speaker Paul Ryan said "there is no question that Russia interfered in our elections" and called on Trump to recognise that Russia "is not our ally". Other Republicans were even more critical, with Senate Foreign Relations Committee Chairman Bob Corker saying Trump's comments "made us look like a pushover." John Brennan, the former CIA director and a career intelligence officer, called Trump's comments "nothing short of treasonous". "Donald Trump's conference performance in Helsinki rises to & exceeds the threshold of 'high crimes & misdemeanours,' " Brennan tweeted."It was nothing short of treasonous. Not only were Trump's comments imbecilic, he is wholly in the pocket of Putin." Yet again, Trump proclaimed in front of Putin that "there was no collusion" during the 2016 elections. Earlier, without taking up Russia's interference in Ukraine and annexing Crimea with the Russian President, Trump had repeatedly criticised the US allies, called the European Union a "foe" and criticising the Obama administration rather than Russia in the wake of the Justice Department's indictment of 12 Russian agents. Ahead of his meeting with Putin, who is alleged to be behind the assassination of journalists and political dissidents, the US President also lashed out by branding journalists as "the enemy of the people".