As President Donald Trump flew to Helsinki, Finland for his Monday meeting with Russian leader Vladimir Putin, Democrats in Congress demanded that Mr. Trump scrap the summit, pointing to last week’s federal indictments of a dozen Russian Intelligence officers as part of the sweeping investigation into Russian interference in the 2016 United States election.
“Donald Trump must press Putin hard on the issue of election interference,” said Senate Democratic Leader Charles Schumer on Sunday, as Democrats made clear they want tough words from the President on the Russia investigation relayed directly to the Putin.
The President’s schedule said Messrs. Trump and Putin would meet one-on-one for 90 minutes, to be followed by a working lunch with top aides.
Schumer said during those meetings, the President should formally request that Russia extradite the 12 Russian Intelligence officers indicted last Friday by a federal grand jury, on charges that they hacked computers in the Democratic National Committee and the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee, in a bid to influence the 2016 election.
The Senate’s top Democrat communicated those demands in a Sunday phone conversation with Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, who was accompanying the President to the Putin summit.
“If President Trump insists on meeting with Putin, I can’t stop him,” said Rep. Denny Heck (D-WA). “But I will insist he confront Putin at every turn for his interference in our democracy.”
On the eve of his meeting with Putin, the President wasn’t taking shots at the Russian leader, but rather, the U.S. press corps, Democrats, and the Russia investigation in general.
“Much of our news media is indeed the enemy of the people,” the President tweeted on Sunday, as he prepared to leave his golf retreat in Scotland for the flight to Finland.
Over the weekend, Mr. Trump brushed off the highly detailed indictments leveled against Russian Intelligence, blaming the success of cyber attack on the Obama 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?” the President tweeted.
Lawmakers in Congress were not only focused on the issue of election interference, but also expressing concern about what Mr. Trump might do with regards to other issues, as Democrats also publicly urged the President not to relax economic sanctions placed on Russia, after its moves to annex Crimea, and amid ongoing Russian-sponsored military action inside eastern Ukraine.
While GOP lawmakers say they want a better relationship with Moscow, they have publicly cautioned the President to be careful in negotiations with the Russian leader.
“Putin is tough, he’s smart, he’s ruthless,” said Sen. Richard Shelby (R-AL). “He’s probably going to want to get a lot, and give nothing.”
“President Trump is doing the right thing,” Sen. Rand Paul (R-KY) said Sunday about the meeting with Putin, though the Kentucky Republican made clear that, “Russia shouldn’t meddle in our elections.”
“Putin is an autocrat, he’s a thug,” said Sen. John Cornyn (R-TX) on the CBS program “Face the Nation,” as he urged the President to realize who he’s dealing with.
Others were more even more blunt, like Sen. Ben Sasse (R-NE), in this Twitter thread:
“I don’t think President Trump should be dignifying Putin with this meeting,” Sasse added.
In recent days, the President has given no indication that he will bring up the issue of election interference in 2016 by Russia, as Mr. Trump continues to deride the investigation of possible ties between Russian actions and his campaign as a ‘witch hunt’ and a ‘hoax.’
But last Friday’s indictments painted the most complete picture yet of just how active Russian Intelligence was in hacking emails and documents from Democrats, spreading those materials to Wikileaks via the fake persona “Guccifer 2.0” – who claimed to be Romanian.
When a company hired by the DNC publicly blamed Russian Intelligence for hacking efforts in June of 2016, prosecutors said the Russians simply lied.
“In response, the Conspirators created the online persona Guccifer 2.0 and falsely claimed to be a lone Romanian hacker to undermine the allegations of Russian responsibility for the intrusion.”
Among the highlights of the latest indictment by the Office of Special Counsel Robert Mueller:
+ Extremely detailed allegations against a dozen GRU (Russian Intelligence) agents for hacking into the DNC and DCCC.
+ The indictment says a candidate for Congress is 2016 contacted Guccifer 2.0 – which was really Russian Intelligence – and received ‘stolen documents’ about their election opponent.
+ Details about contacts between “Organization 1” – which is clearly Wikileaks – and Russian Intelligence, about leaking emails from John Podesta and other documents from inside the DNC and DCCC. The only response from Wikileaks has been this video:
+ Russian Intelligence not only targeted state election boards and websites, but also county election websites, in at least three states. Also, more than 100 spear phishing emails were sent to groups involved in elections in “numerous Florida counties.”
+ Russian Intelligence also obtained “analytics” developed by the Hillary Clinton campaign, by hacking into the company that ran its ‘cloud’ resources. It wasn’t clear from the indictment what was done with that inside campaign information.
You can read the latest Special Counsel indictments at this link.