Trump sets expectations low for summit with Putin
Glasgow, Scotland – President Donald Trump has arrived in Finland for his closely watched summit with Russian President Vladimir Putin.
Trump landed in the capital city, Helsinki, late Sunday. He planned no public appearances until Monday, when he heads to the Presidential Palace for breakfast with Finnish President Sauli Niinisto. Trump and Putin meet later Monday at the palace.
The president flew in from Scotland, where he and his wife, Melania, spent the weekend at a golf resort he owns there.
Trump heads into the summit with little clear agenda other than to strengthen his personal rapport with Putin, which he thinks is crucial to improving relations between Washington and Moscow.
Finland has a long legacy of hosting U.S.-Soviet and U.S.-Russian summits because of its geographic location and perceived neutrality.
Trump says he “hadn’t thought” about asking Putin to extradite the dozen Russian military intelligence officers indicted this past week in Washington on charges related to the hacking of Democratic targets in the 2016 U.S. presidential election, but says “certainly I’ll be asking about it.”
He also blamed the Democratic National Committee for “allowing themselves to be hacked.”
The U.S. has no extradition treaty with Moscow and can’t compel Russia to hand over citizens, and a provision in Russia’s constitution prohibits extraditing its citizens to foreign countries.
In the interview with CBS News, Trump says he’s going into the meeting in Finland with “low expectations. I’m not going with high expectations.”
The president taped the interview Saturday in Scotland. CBS News released excerpts on Sunday, hours before Trump was set to fly to Helsinki, where he will meet with Putin.
Trump says such sessions are beneficial. He cited his historic meeting with North Korean leader Kim Jong Un in June as “a good thing” and says “having meetings with Russia, China, North Korea, I believe in it.”
“Nothing bad is going to come out of it (Helsinki), and maybe some good will come out,” he said.
Trump and Putin have met twice before, during international summits last year in Germany and Vietnam. But Jon Huntsman, the U.S. ambassador to Russia, says Monday’s meeting “is really the first time for both presidents to actually sit across the table and have a conversation and I hope it’s a detailed conversation about where we might be able to find some overlapping and shared interests.”
Trump has said he will raise the issue of Russian election meddling with Putin, in addition to Syria, Ukraine, nuclear proliferation and other topics.
Congressional Democrats and at least one Republican have called on the president to pull out of the meeting unless he is willing to make Russian election-meddling a top issue for the summit. Huntsman said the meeting will go on, arguing that some international issues can’t be solved with Russian engagement.
“Right now, there’s no trust in the relationship and, because of that, problem-solving is practically impossible,” Huntsman said. “So this is an attempt to see if we can defuse and take some of the drama and quite frankly some of the danger out of the relationship right now.”
“The collective blood pressure between the United States and Russia is off-the-charts high so it’s a good thing these presidents are getting together,” he added.
Sen. Rand Paul, R-Ky., suggested that Trump not even bother to press Putin on election meddling because “he’s not going to admit that he did it.” Instead, Paul said Trump and other U.S. officials should focus on safeguarding upcoming elections from interference.
Huntsman was interviewed on NBC’s “Meet the Press” and Paul appeared on CNN’s “State of the Union.”
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