President Donald Trump approved the decision to announce the Russian hacking indictments prior to his Vladimir Putin meeting because he thought it would give him the upper hand during the talks, sources say.
Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein went to Trump last week and offered to hold off announcing the charges until after he had met with Putin in Helsinki on Monday, Bloomberg reports.
But Trump gave the go-ahead to announce the charges against the 12 Russian intelligence officers accused of hacking Hillary Clinton’s 2016 presidential campaign and the Democratic Party.
Trump had hoped the indictment would strengthen his hand during the summit, according to the White House sources.
President Donald Trump approved the decision to announce the Russian hacking indictments prior to his Vladimir Putin meeting because he thought it would give him the upper hand
Instead, the US president stunned the world by shying away from criticizing the Russian leader for Moscow’s actions to undermine the election and cast doubt on US intelligence agencies.
Faced with outrage at home, Trump on Tuesday sought to end 27 hours of bipartisan recrimination by delivering a rare admission of error, saying he misspoke during his press conference with Putin.
Trump said he accepted the intelligence community’s assessment that Russia had meddled in the election, and offered a rambling explanation of his assertion that he could not see ‘any reason’ why Russia would interfere.
‘In a key sentence in my remarks, I said the word ‘would’ instead of ‘wouldn’t’,’ Trump said, speaking at the White House ahead of a meeting with Republican lawmakers.
‘The sentence should have been, ‘I don’t see any reason why it wouldn’t be Russia.’ Sort of a double negative,’ he added, repeating the laborious clarification several times.
But while Trump expressed his ‘full faith and support for America’s great intelligence agencies,’ he insisted that ‘Russia’s actions had no impact at all on the outcome of the election.’
He again floated the idea that ‘other people’ could be involved.
Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein (above on Friday) went to Trump last week and offered to hold off announcing the charges until after he had met with Putin in Helsinki on Monday
Later on Tuesday, Trump again contended that his Helsinki summit was a ‘great success’ and blamed what he called ‘the Fake News Media’ for contrary views.
The 29-page indictment against the 12 Russian intelligence officers was announced on Friday – just days before Trump’s meeting with Putin.
Democratic leaders immediately called for Trump to cancel the scheduled meeting with the Russian president, but the White House said the summit would go ahead.
The indictment accuses members of the Russian military intelligence agency known as the GRU of carrying out ‘large-scale cyber operations’ to steal Clinton campaign and Democratic Party documents and emails.
‘There’s no allegation in this indictment that any American citizen committed a crime,’ Rosenstein said in announcing the charges at a press conference in Washington.
He added that although ‘conspirators corresponded with several Americans during the course of the conspiracy through the internet,’ the indictment did not allege that Americans knew they were in contact with Russian intelligence officers.
Rosenstein said he briefed Trump about the indictment before Friday’s announcement and that the timing was determined by ‘the facts, the evidence, and the law.’