Trouble in Helsinki

Posted by on Jul 25, 2018 in United States, World

On July 16, Donald Trump met with Russian president Vladimir Putin in Helsinki, the capital of Finland. The two hours of closed-door talks between the two leaders was followed by a news conference, which turned out to be one of the most troubling moments of Trump’s presidency so far. Here, btw takes a look at what happened at the Helsinki summit and why the American reaction to it was so strong.

Why A Summit?

Many American leaders felt that Trump shouldn’t be meeting with Putin at all. This is because a week earlier, twelve Russian military intelligence agents were indicted for hacking the 2016 presidential campaign in order to tilt the vote in favor of Trump. But the summit took place anyway, with both Trump and Putin agreeing that it was a very productive conversation.

What Went Wrong?

Many Americans didn’t like seeing Trump shaking hands with the same man who authorized his military agents to interfere in free U.S. elections. The controversy grew after Trump said in the news conference after the summit that, despite what U.S. intelligence agencies have found to be true, Russia did not interfere in the election. Putin agreed.

This, in essence, was the American president siding with the Russian leader against his own U.S. intelligence agencies, which has never happened before.

What Was the Reaction?

Perhaps at no other point so far in Trump’s presidency has the reaction against him been so strong from both Democrats and Republicans. Republican leaders such as House Speaker Paul Ryan, Senator John McCain, and Senator Lindsey Graham of the Senate Armed Services Committee all came forward with harshly-worded statements, openly criticizing the president. These critics reiterated that, despite what Trump seems to think, the United States and Russia are not allies, and that Moscow most certainly interfered in the 2016 election.

Democrats had an even stronger response. Some members of the opposing party called for impeachment, and even referring to the president’s words as possible treason against the United States.

How Did Trump Respond?

When faced with intense criticism from both sides of the political aisle, Trump quickly backpedaled–although it’s possible that his response actually made the situation worse. Trump (as he has done many times in the past) lashed out at liberals and the media with accusations of “fake news.” Trump also reiterated that he had beaten Hillary Clinton squarely in the 2016 presidential election, which made many Americans continue to fear that Trump is more concerned about insisting on his own victory than he is about the issue of Russian interference.

In a formal statement, Trump said that while he believes American intelligence agencies that interference in the election did occur, it could have as easily been any other country who did it, not necessarily Russia.

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What Do You Think? In your opinion, why is it such a serious offense for Trump to disagree with U.S. intelligence agencies?