Warner: Trump-Putin summit should be canceled

Senator Mark Warner (D-VA) calls for President Donald Trump and Russian President Vladimir Putin's summit to be canceled unless other Americans are in the room during their meeting.

Posted: Jul 15, 2018 2:09 AM
Updated: Jul 15, 2018 2:21 AM

It is tough to believe that any President other than Donald Trump would hold a summit with Russia days after special counsel Robert Mueller delivered a sensational indictment that accuses the Kremlin of a deeply penetrating attack on American democracy.

It's even less probable that another commander-in-chief would take the meeting without administering a very public dressing down of Russian President Vladimir Putin before the cameras over accusations of a staggeringly broad election-meddling operation in 2016.

Yet Trump is planning to go ahead with the talks in Helsinki on Monday despite the charges against 12 Russian intelligence officers handed down by Mueller on Friday.

And if the President's own comments during his current trip to Europe or his past behavior is any guide, he will make only a ritual complaint to a leader he has often treated as a hero.

Speaking to reporters Friday before the indictment became public, Trump pledged to raise election meddling on Monday -- almost as a favor to the press -- but gave the impression that he was unlikely to do too much to challenge Putin's certain denials.

"I don't think you'll have any 'Gee, I did it, I did it, you got me,' " Trump said in Britain.

"There won't be a Perry Mason here, I don't think. But you never know what happens, right? But I will absolutely firmly ask the question."

Expectations that Trump will take on Putin publicly over the election meddling -- as French President Emmanuel Macron did when he blasted the influence of Russian propaganda outlets last year only a few weeks into his mandate -- were also undercut by the White House's reaction to the indictment.

"The stories you heard about the 12 Russians yesterday took place during the Obama Administration, not the Trump Administration. Why didn't they do something about it, especially when it was reported that President Obama was informed by the FBI in September, before the Election?" Trump tweeted Saturday from his property in Scotland.

"These Russian individuals did their work during the Obama years. Why didn't Obama do something about it? Because he thought Crooked Hillary Clinton would win, that's why," Trump continued in another Twitter post hours later. "Had nothing to do with the Trump Administration, but Fake News doesn't want to report the truth, as usual!"

On Friday, White House spokeswoman Lindsay Walters pointed out that there was no allegation in the document unveiled by Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein that any Americans knew they were corresponding with Russians or that any US citizen had committed a crime. She also said there was no indication that the conspiracy had changed the result of the election.

"Today's charges include no allegations of knowing involvement by anyone on the campaign and no allegations that the alleged hacking affected the election result. This is consistent with what we have been saying all along," Walters said.

There was, however, a glaring absence of any condemnation of Russia's action by Trump, despite the fact that his job primarily involves the defense of American sovereignty and democracy.

Perhaps the administration will move in the coming days, for instance by sanctioning the GRU intelligence officers named in the indictment, who are highly unlikely to ever travel to the United States for a day in court.

But the administration's tepid initial reaction hardly heralds a showdown between Trump and Putin in Finland.

Such low expectations mean that a summit that was always going to be mysterious -- given the oddness of Trump's relationship with Putin and the suspicion of critics that he is beholden to the Russian leader in some way -- is now going to be deeply surreal.

Trump has chased summit too long to cancel it

Despite demands by critics to ditch the talks, Trump, who has chased a stand-alone meeting with Putin for months, simply has too much invested in the encounter to cancel it.

Secretary of State Mike Pompeo told reporters on his flight back from Mexico Friday night that Trump should proceed with the summit, saying, "I think it's very important that they meet."

"I am confident that President Trump's meeting with Vladimir Putin will put America in a better place," Pompeo said.

White House press secretary Sarah Sanders confirmed Friday evening that the summit was on -- surprising no one.

Going against the counsel of his advisers, the President has pursued a lonely quest to improve relations with Russia, and rarely criticizes Putin, despite much of the rest of his administration adopting an authentically hard line toward Russia.

The President, who spent the last week castigating NATO allies and dividing the alliance in a way that will certainly have appealed to Putin, knew about the impending indictment of 12 Russian intelligence officers before he left the United States earlier this week.

In hindsight, therefore, his comments at a news conference with British Prime Minister Theresa May suggest the indictment -- which comprehensively debunks claims by Trump supporters that there was no election meddling -- will do nothing to purge his suspicion of the Mueller probe.

"I think that we're being hurt very badly by the, I would call it, the witch hunt -- I would call it the rigged witch hunt," Trump said at Chequers, May's official country residence.

"I think that really hurts our country and it really hurts our relationship with Russia. I think that we would have a chance to have a very good relationship with Russia and a very good chance -- a very good relationship with President Putin," Trump added.

When Russia responded to Friday's indictment alleging a broad effort to hack the Hillary Clinton campaign and the Democratic National Committee as well as some state election infrastructure, it mirrored Trump's own rhetoric in a way that is unlikely to have been a coincidence.

"Washington is struggling to reanimate old 'fake news' about alleged 'Russian interference in the US presidential election in 2016,' " said a statement issued by the Russian Foreign Ministry.

"Obviously, the purpose of this bogus story is to spoil the atmosphere before the Russian-American summit," the statement said, before adding with a Machiavellian twist that instigators of the intrigue would sooner or later be held accountable for the damage they "continue to inflict on American democracy."

Putin will presumably offer a similar approach to Trump on Monday, empathizing with his complaints that the Mueller investigation, which has now laid 191 criminal charges against 32 people and three companies, is nothing but "fake news" and a "witch hunt."

That's one reason why so many of Trump's critics are worried about the summit -- which includes a one-on-one session with only interpreters present -- going ahead.

Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer called on Trump to cancel.

"Glad-handing with Vladimir Putin on the heels of these indictments would be an insult to our democracy," the New York Democrat said.

Sen. John McCain, an Arizona Republican who's a longtime Putin antagonist, said Trump should not go to Helsinki unless he is ready to show the Russian leader that "there will be a serious price to pay for his ongoing aggression towards the United States and democracies around the world."

It would not be unprecedented for a US president to cancel a summit with Putin. Barack Obama did so in 2013 after Russia granted asylum to fugitive intelligence contractor Edward Snowden. The optics of going ahead with such talks in the circumstances would have been terrible.

The White House also said at the time that there was not sufficient progress in US-Russia relations to justify a summit.

The case for canceling this summit would be that it is inappropriate for the President of the United States to grant Putin the legitimacy of a meeting on such a grand stage at a time when Washington is accusing the Kremlin of an audacious assault on the integrity of a US election.

And given the evidence of the Russian assault, the idea that an American president could trust Putin is highly improbable.

"I would not have the summit," Tom Donilon, an Obama administration national security adviser, said Friday on CNN.

"The President has never really come to grips with the entire list of active hostility against the United States by the Russian Federation directed by President Putin," Donilon said. "I would not go forward with this thing,"

But former CIA Director Michael Hayden told CNN's Jake Tapper that the summit should happen -- with one big proviso.

"This is your chance, Mr. President, you have got a document beyond speculation. ... Here we have got solid, detailed forensic evidence that the President can make use of.

"As a citizen now, I would say let's do it and then I want to watch what the President does."

Indiana Coronavirus Cases

Data is updated nightly.

Cases: 613228

Reported Deaths: 9728
CountyCasesDeaths
Marion846851338
Lake45676687
Allen32980552
Hamilton29649315
St. Joseph27531382
Elkhart24478345
Vanderburgh19610250
Tippecanoe18108141
Johnson15191295
Porter14944169
Hendricks14485250
Madison11044222
Clark10811144
Vigo10795181
Monroe9458113
Delaware9170134
LaPorte9145164
Howard8292144
Kosciusko810183
Warrick680299
Hancock6782104
Bartholomew6640100
Floyd6507110
Wayne6177162
Grant6027116
Dubois558680
Boone556468
Morgan548695
Henry511464
Marshall506984
Cass486964
Dearborn486545
Noble475659
Jackson427747
Shelby420781
Lawrence393780
Clinton375044
Gibson374459
Harrison353045
DeKalb349864
Montgomery347654
Knox336239
Miami324544
Steuben315046
Whitley311126
Wabash305851
Adams302836
Ripley300546
Putnam298950
Huntington294860
Jasper291734
White275143
Daviess271774
Jefferson266238
Decatur249583
Fayette248648
Greene242262
Posey241028
Wells236951
LaGrange230062
Scott226839
Clay224332
Randolph215248
Jennings200636
Sullivan193533
Spencer193022
Washington188023
Fountain184927
Starke176444
Jay168623
Owen167637
Fulton164830
Orange160935
Carroll159715
Rush156318
Perry155929
Vermillion149734
Franklin149333
Tipton133133
Parke13088
Pike118526
Blackford111822
Pulaski97837
Newton92021
Brown88335
Benton87110
Crawford8099
Martin74913
Warren6857
Switzerland6695
Union6297
Ohio4977
Unassigned0376

Ohio Coronavirus Cases

Data is updated nightly.

Cases: 868656

Reported Deaths: 10768
CountyCasesDeaths
Franklin102154707
Cuyahoga865201153
Hamilton64744448
Montgomery43516419
Summit35250762
Lucas31663631
Butler31268232
Stark26096443
Warren19830142
Lorain19296229
Mahoning17471339
Lake16250154
Clermont16128112
Delaware1453680
Licking13326137
Fairfield1294981
Trumbull12920317
Greene12174141
Medina11732168
Clark11058265
Wood10457158
Allen9988127
Portage9454111
Miami924473
Richland9236118
Marion7486113
Tuscarawas7440183
Columbiana7409124
Pickaway732150
Wayne7111172
Muskingum710342
Erie6221130
Ross5558100
Hancock555292
Scioto542764
Geauga515955
Darke473492
Lawrence460658
Union456928
Ashtabula456473
Sandusky439562
Mercer435089
Seneca433866
Huron432841
Auglaize424164
Shelby422522
Jefferson422469
Belmont421145
Washington394240
Athens38389
Putnam378075
Madison358129
Knox356122
Ashland349038
Fulton340443
Defiance334486
Crawford325774
Preble322737
Brown315821
Logan312132
Ottawa296543
Clinton291543
Williams280367
Highland279018
Jackson265845
Guernsey257126
Champaign253428
Fayette239530
Morrow23464
Perry233718
Holmes226774
Henry221953
Hardin215533
Coshocton206922
Van Wert203445
Gallia199826
Wyandot196751
Pike178017
Adams177715
Hocking173224
Carroll157616
Paulding145321
Noble121040
Meigs109724
Monroe102232
Harrison89921
Morgan83931
Vinton71314
Unassigned00
Fort Wayne
Cloudy
32° wxIcon
Hi: 33° Lo: 30°
Feels Like: 24°
Angola
Cloudy
30° wxIcon
Hi: 31° Lo: 28°
Feels Like: 23°
Huntington
Cloudy
31° wxIcon
Hi: 32° Lo: 30°
Feels Like: 31°
Fort Wayne
Cloudy
32° wxIcon
Hi: 33° Lo: 30°
Feels Like: 24°
Lima
Cloudy
34° wxIcon
Hi: 33° Lo: 31°
Feels Like: 26°
More Clouds than Sun Wednesday
WFFT Radar
WFFT Temperatures
WFFT National

Community Events