There has been a barrage of criticism in the US after President Donald Trump defended Russia over claims of interference in the 2016 elections.
At a summit with Russian President Vladimir Putin in Finland, Mr Trump contradicted US intelligence agencies, saying Russia had no reason to meddle.
Ahead of the meeting, staffers provided Trump with some 100 pages of briefing materials aimed at laying out a tough posture toward Putin, but the president ignored most of it, according to one person familiar with the discussions, who spoke on the condition of anonymity to disclose internal deliberations. Trump’s remarks were “very much counter to the plan,” the person said.
The top Republican in Congress, House Speaker Paul Ryan, said Mr Trump must see that “Russia is not our ally”.
Republican Senator John McCain said it was a “disgraceful performance”.
The US and Russian presidents held nearly two hours of closed-door talks in the Finnish capital Helsinki on Monday. In this meeting Mr Putin denied the interference claim, following which Trump attacked his own FBI on foreign soil and warmly praised archival Russia.
Trump’s performance alongside Putin in the Finnish capital seemed like a tour through his most controversial conspiracy theories, tweets and off-the-cuff musings on Russia — except he did it all while abroad, standing just feet from Putin, the leader of one of America’s greatest geopolitical foes.
Mr Trump also blamed poor relations with Russia on past US administrations rather than Russian actions.
In an interview with Fox News, Mr Putin said it was “utterly ridiculous” that some people thought Russia could have influenced the US elections.
He said US-Russian relations should not be “held hostage” to an internal political struggle in America.
And Mr Putin accused the UK of making “ungrounded accusations” against Moscow over the recent poisoning of ex-Soviet spy Sergei Skripal and three other people with the “novichok” nerve agent.
So far as Trump boarded Air Force One and flew back to Washington D.C, late on Monday evening, he and his team have struggled to quell the outcry and is expected to face some tough questioning from US media and politicians to explain his comments.
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